Forget the foams, the ipods, the shells, the smoke and mirrors… The Hind’s Head is run by Heston Blumenthal but it serves traditional pub grub. Located in the same village as The Fat Duck about 45 minutes drive from London, the village itself is picture perfect. There were even swirling snowflakes when we pulled up to the pub’s car park.
Chicken, guinea fowl and mushroom pie
The pub looks like it has been transported, packed in cotton wool, from a couple of hundred years ago. It is 400 years old and it seems like nothing has changed in that time. The beams sag, the fires burn merrily, there are charming signs on the low door ways that say “duck or grouse”. Because it is a pub rather than a gastro temple you can order beers to your table with no feeling of shame or perhaps a reasonably priced glass of Cotes du Rhone (£4.25).
The menu is a succinct page but manages to have me dithering with indecision for a while as I want everything on it. To start scotch eggs (£2.95 each) served with a mustard mayonnaise. The eggs are made with quails eggs rather than hens eggs so have a thicker layer of pork around them. Each one is like a perfect individual fried breakfast all wrapped up in a layer of breadcrumbs but on reflection I probably prefer the hen’s egg version at the Coach and Horses
Inside the scotch egg
The chicken, guinea fowl and mushroom pie (£16.50) looks like a top hat, proud but a little forlorn standing on a large round plate. All the elements are there, soft buttery pastry, smoky tender meat and a little jug of light gravy to add some moisture. I couldn’t resist also sampling Blumenthal’s famous triple cooked chips (£3.25) which were wonderfully crisp and crackly on the outside then all velvety inside.
Triple cooked chips
A special of roast sirloin beef (£18.95) was cooked to a perfect state of blush pink and served with an enormous yorkshire pudding, vegetables and crunchy potatoes that seemed to have had the same triple-cooking treatment as the chips.
The door to the Hind’s Head is low so there is a warning sign to duck (or grouse!)
The desserts menu could have contained some more warm puddings given the weather and time of year as I was forced to order the same dessert as MTV boyfriend (something I hate doing!). Complaints aside, the apple and blackberry crumble (£6.95) was just about perfect, served in an individual cast iron dish on a thick wooden board the juices of the berries stained and flavoured the apples to create the perfect wintery dish. Thumbs up as well for the good quality vanilla ice-cream that accompanied the dish and the gesture of tiny mince pies to accompany our coffees at the end of the meal.
Food of this quality is not the sort you find at your average country boozer and the only down side is that the prices reflect that fact. Still, The Hind’s Head offers an easier way to experience the Blumenthal magic than remortgaging your house to eat at The Fat Duck. It serves good, solid honest food which also evidences some of Blumenthal’s fantastic attention to detail. Yes, it’s not The Fat Duck but that is the point really.
Crumbles all round to finish
Details: The Hind’s Head
, The High Street, Bray, Maidenhead, Berkshire, England SL6 2AB (Ph 01628 626151).
Damage: Pricey £80 for two and we only had one glass of wine.
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my reviews of some other country gastro pubs like the Angel Inn
in the Lakes District and The Bull and Butcher
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