There are some places you often hear of but never really think you’ll go there because, its too far out and out of your way, but you never can get it out of your head. Every time you read about it, it sounds like a dream. That was my impression of Heston Blumenthal’s Hinds Head, a place that I resigned myself to always hearing about but never really able to dine there. For one, its in Bray, I live in Sussex and I work in London…nowhere near accessible for me.
Until a recent work function took me there. Now I’ll admit, pubs are not my thing, I’ve only ever been to five pubs in all my years living in the UK. They are dingy and loud and chaotic and yakkity yak yak…too much going on all at once. However, Hinds Head is something a little different; its housed in a 15th century building that once belonged to a landlady who entertained royalty; apparently Prince Phillip held his stag do there before getting married to Queen Elizabeth II…oh to have been a fly on that wall. It still maintains the traditional pub setting but also leaves room for a different dining experience. Its old and charming, in parts rickety and higgledy piggledy, high ceilings, low beams. Its very upstairs downstairs in a sense.
The food is really good, you know good food when you look around you and everyone, foreign and local has cleared their plate. I am more a fan of oriental dishes, spicy dishes, but good food, whatever the origin, is good food. And this is really good food. I had fish for the main, I hardly ever have fish in restaurants because most places tend to get it wrong, but this was worth every single scrape of it. A few of my friends had the beef option, and they too enjoyed their meal. The wine was splendid, upon arrival they talked us through the options even if we had pre-ordered bottles, just in case we wanted to make a change. The sides were excellent, sometimes a side of chips is more than just a side of chips, you know so those triple cooked chips Heston, I get it. I can’t be arsed to do it at home but I get it. Dessert didn’t let me down either, as you know, dessert is my favourite food group, I had ice-cream and treacle tart. The combination made for the richest and sweetest thing in history without over powering my palette. I think I did a little happy dance in my seat. My mate and I split puddings so I was able to enjoy some of his quaking pudding (as he did my treacle tart and ice-cream), I’d never heard about this pudding until dining at Hinds Head, its an Elizabethan staple apparently on the brink of extinction. I’m having it next time I go to Hinds Head. It is served on a wooden board…its a bit of a bother considering its a wobbler, but that’s the only bee in my bonnet. It was still delicious.
What stood out even more than the food for me was the level of service, care and attention by the staff. We were a team of twenty, and each and everyone of us was taken care of from the most demanding to the particular, nothing was too big or small and they were ever so, SO polite. Yes ma’am, certainly ma’am, not a problem…their timing in service was perfect, they made sure we didn’t even have to ask for anything; they topped up glasses without being nudged, brought more fresh bread before the serving was depleted, they even went as far as offering me an alternative starter when they realised I didn’t order one. Now that’s how you do it.
Hinds Head, I’d go there again and again, make a day trip if I have to. What an utterly lovely experience.
Hinds Head Bray;High Street, Bray, West Berkshire SL6 2AB 01628 626 151