The Hinds Head ūüĎćūüĎćūüĎć

We¬†slowly¬†strolled¬†2.5¬†miles¬†(4¬†km)¬†from¬†The¬†Oakley¬†Court¬†Hotel¬†to¬†the¬†little¬†–¬†I¬†mean¬†teeny,¬†itsy¬†bitzy¬†–¬†village¬†of¬†Bray¬†where¬†quite¬†surprisingly several of the most highly rated UK¬†restaurants¬†call home.¬†¬†If¬†you¬†sneezed¬†while¬†driving¬†down¬†Windsor¬†Road,¬†you¬†easily¬†could¬†miss¬†the¬†village.¬†¬†To¬†use¬†such¬†terms as¬†“adorable”¬†or¬†“quaint”¬†would¬†not¬†be¬†inappropriate¬†when¬†describing¬†the¬†village¬†and¬†The¬†Hinds¬†Head,¬†which¬†is¬†the¬†famed¬†Chef¬†Heston¬†Blumenthal’s “gastro-pub‚Ä̂Ķ.our first after more than 30 years of ‚Äúpub-grub‚ÄĚ experiences around the world.

AMBIENCE

–¬†location:¬†¬†Bumf%#k¬†nowhere,¬†but¬†an¬†adorable¬†hamlet just¬†outside¬†of¬†Windsor.

–¬†character¬†and¬†atmosphere:¬†¬†Exceedingly¬†friendly¬†with¬†a¬†faint, but discernible, touch¬†of the professional.

–¬†style¬†and¬†comfort:¬†¬†Feels,¬†smells,¬†looks¬†like¬†and¬†most¬†definitely¬†is¬†a¬†pub!

–¬†table¬†and¬†glassware:¬†¬†Basic

–¬†other¬†guests:¬†¬†Local,¬†casual.¬†Lucky¬†us¬†to¬†get¬†a¬†table¬†by¬†the¬†two¬†year¬†old,¬†whose¬†parents¬†think¬†it¬†is¬†cute¬†for¬†their¬†“pet”¬†to¬†throw¬†things¬†at¬†other¬†guests.¬†¬†Please¬†understand we truly¬†love¬†children,¬†but we prefer¬†them¬†lightly¬†salted¬†and¬†seared¬†as¬†opposed¬†to¬†fresh!

–¬†ambience¬†rating¬†(1¬†to¬†5¬†thumbs¬†up/down): ¬†

SERVICE

–¬†reception:¬†¬†Top-notch!¬†¬†Excellent.¬†They¬†specifically¬†prepared¬†a¬†menu¬†to¬†address¬†our dietary¬†preferences.

–¬†floor¬†staff¬†(knowledge¬†and¬†presentation¬†of¬†food,¬†attention¬†to¬†details¬†and¬†awareness¬†of¬†guests):¬†¬†Perfect¬†to¬†start.¬†One¬†waitress¬†was¬†a¬†bit¬†confused¬†by¬†the¬†beer¬†selection,¬†but¬†she¬†handled¬†it¬†well,¬†learned¬†quickly¬†from¬†the¬†barman¬†and¬†returned¬†with¬†a¬†PhD¬†explanation¬†of¬†the¬†several¬†hops¬†on¬†offer.¬†¬†When¬†we¬†asked¬†for¬†the¬†bill,¬†we¬†noticed¬†they¬†did¬†not¬†charge¬†for¬†three¬†dishes,¬†which¬†was¬†obvious¬†given¬†we¬†“only”¬†had¬†eight .¬†We¬†pointed¬†out¬†the¬†error¬†to¬†the¬†exceedingly¬†embarrassed¬†waitress.¬†She¬†“kindly”,¬†politely¬†and¬†thankfully¬†corrected¬†the¬†¬£55 error.¬†¬†I¬†imagine¬†many¬†people¬†would¬†have¬†accepted¬†the¬†advantageous¬†error¬†and¬†whistled¬†while¬†walking – nay running – away. ¬†Sadly, we are different than most. ¬†We¬†had¬†to¬†wait¬†ten¬†minutes¬†for¬†them¬†to¬†correct¬†the¬†error,¬†which¬†was¬†annoying.

–¬†sommelier,¬†maitre’d,¬†chef,¬†manager:¬†¬†¬†¬†I¬†would¬†have¬†expected¬†the¬†manager¬†to¬†¬†visit¬†and¬†apologize¬†for¬†the¬†billing¬†error,¬†but¬†this did not transpire.

–¬†service¬†rating¬†(1¬†to¬†5¬†thumbs¬†up/down): ¬† despite¬†the¬†beer¬†and¬†bill¬†errors.¬†¬†The¬†service¬†staff¬†are¬†excellent.¬†¬†This¬†is¬†particularly¬†true¬†when¬†one¬†thinks¬†of¬†the¬†usual¬†standard¬†of¬†service¬†in¬†a¬†pub.

FOOD

–¬†bread:¬†Good¬†and¬†rustic.

–¬†ingredients:¬†¬†Excellent.¬†¬†No¬†skimping¬†here!

–¬†presentation:¬†Very¬†simple,¬†but¬†fully¬†descriptive,¬†explanations¬†from¬†the¬†staff.

–¬†creativity:¬†¬†Triple-cooked¬†chips,¬†ie¬†boiled/refrigerated,¬†deep¬†fried/refrigerated¬†and¬†then¬†deep-fried¬†before¬†serving,¬†was¬†very¬†clever….albeit¬†nonsensical¬†in¬†terms¬†of¬†taste. ¬†Several other dishes reek of Blumenthal‚Äôs legendary ability to create.

–¬†taste:¬†¬†A¬†lot¬†of¬†full,¬†but¬†occasionally¬†competing,¬†flavors.

–¬†smell:¬†Good.

–¬†execution:¬†¬†Very¬†good.¬†¬†These¬†are¬†not¬†cooks¬†in¬†a¬†pub,¬†but¬†chefs¬†out¬†of¬†place.

–¬†food¬†rating¬†(1¬†to¬†5¬†thumbs¬†up/down)

75A3687B-FC86-4883-B011-AC255414719D*  Scotch Egg: Delicate, but fairly typical pub food.

*¬†¬†Triple-Cooked¬†Chips:¬†Good.¬†Famous¬†according¬†to¬†the¬†staff???¬†¬†They¬†were¬†very¬†good,¬†but¬†not¬†special¬†and¬†far¬†from¬†deserving¬†the¬†title¬†of¬†“famous”.¬†¬†Please…

*  Hash of Snails: Chargrilled bread with mustard sauce of fennel topped by a bed of snails.  Although the snails were of little interest, the dish was full of nice flavors, including the fabulous fennel, which was a spectacular touch.

*  Devils on Horseback: Bread soaked in something sweet and wrapped by bacon.  Bread and bacon?  How could it be bad?  Having said that, one would be hard-put to call it much more than a nice brunch dish.

1948E980-4550-40A4-AC52-6D9DE535D993*  Pea and Mint Soup: Very nice and delicate, but a bit too minty. Simply stated, the peas lost a battle against what was an out-of-balance mouthful of monstrous mint.  The peas were nice and crunchy as opposed to mushy, which was a winner.

*  Shepherds Pie: Stunning preparation, full yet soft flavors, aAAA69DF4-5CDE-4D72-9566-78E4F4D31BAF winning example of how typical pub food can be elevated to top-notch cuisine.

*  Soused Cornish Mackerel with Grapefruit, Radish and Spring Leaves: A very nicely presented dish with very good flavors.  Another winner!

  • ¬†Earl Grey Buttered¬†Carrots:¬†Outstanding¬†carrots,¬†which¬†sadly¬†suffered¬†under¬†far¬†too¬†much¬†butter.¬†¬†We¬†almost¬†wiped¬†off¬†the¬†butter,¬†but¬†thought¬†better.¬†¬†The¬†flavor¬†of¬†the¬†carrots¬†shone¬†through¬†despite¬†the¬†butter. ¬†We equally did not taste any Earl Grey.

WINE

–¬†selection:¬†¬†At¬†best,¬†abbreviated.¬†¬†Simply¬†stated,¬†we¬†did¬†not¬†think¬†it¬†worthy¬†of¬†our¬†quota so we skipped.

–¬†variety:¬†¬†Many¬†countries¬†represented,¬†but¬†hardly¬†impressive vintages.¬†¬†It¬†appeared¬†very¬†price-sensitive for an audience more pub-oriented.

–¬†value:¬†¬†Priced¬†for¬†value-conscious¬†people¬†who¬†want¬†alcohol.¬†We noticed¬†“labels”,¬†ie¬†big¬†name¬†wines,¬†were¬†relatively¬†expensive.

–¬†Beer:¬†¬†We did¬†not¬†notice¬†and¬†certainly¬†were not¬†offered¬†beer¬†on¬†tap.¬†¬†Really?

18530DDB-DEAB-429C-8A8E-8A63F496DF34*¬†¬†St¬†Stefanus¬†Blond,¬†7%,¬†Belgium:¬†It¬†was¬†fresh¬†and¬†fruity¬†and¬†even¬†indicated¬†a¬†“cellar¬†release¬†Nov¬†2012”.¬†¬†Interesting…

*  Innis & Gunn, Smoking Gun, 7.4%, UK:  Heavy barrel flavor.

–¬†wine¬†rating¬†(1¬†to¬†5¬†thumbs¬†up/down)
, but beer pushes to . Not a place for someone keen on wine!

MISC

–¬†type¬†of¬†cuisine:¬†¬†“Gastro-pub”¬†aka¬†sophisticated¬†pub¬†grub.

–¬†dress¬†code: ¬†Underwear¬†optional

–¬†overall¬†rating¬†(1¬†to¬†5¬†thumbs¬†up/down)

Menu/Price

The Hinds Head 
Chef Heston Blumenthal
High Street, Bray, Berkshire SL6 2A
United Kingdom

www.hindsheadbray.com

GastroNaughties’¬†Restaurants in UK and Dublin

GastroNaughties’ Restaurant Ratings Criteria