The Hinds Head 👍👍👍
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”….our first after more than 30 years of “pub-grub” experiences around the world.
– 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):
– 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.
– 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’s 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)
* 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.
* 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, a 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.
– 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?
* 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!
– type of cuisine: “Gastro-pub” aka sophisticated pub grub.
– dress code: Underwear optional
– overall rating (1 to 5 thumbs up/down)
The Hinds Head
Chef Heston Blumenthal
High Street, Bray, Berkshire SL6 2A
GastroNaughties’ Restaurants in UK and Dublin