A visit to Heston-town; The Hinds Head

Eighteen months ago, I said “wouldn’t it be lovely to come to The Hinds Head for a pub lunch on a cold winter’s day?”

I was right.

Photo: http://www.hindsheadbray.com

At the time I didn’t know how much of a reality that would be. We were in Bray having a drink before lunch at The Fat Duck. We were still living in Sydney.

A year and a half later we’ve been through our first- and second London snow. We’ve figured out the tubes and what to do when they’re on strike. And on a cold and dreary day, we couldn’t think of anything nicer to do than head out of central London to Heston-town for lunch.

The village of Bray is currently home to three of Heston’s restaurants (after he took over The Crown down the road in 2010). That’s a lot of heavy culinary lifting for a small town 10 minutes from Maidenhead.

While The Fat Duck is the jewel in the crown of the town, the Hinds Head feels like the heart. It’s been here since the 15th Century and has been a local drinking house for more than 400 of those years. It carries a bit of history with it-  apparently it was host to Prince Phillip’s stag night before his marriage to the Queen in 1947. Oh to be a fly on that wall.

These days, it’s where people go for a great meal.

We start with the classic devils on horseback- prunes wrapped in streaky bacon and scotch eggs. Both of which are dishes I never thought I’d see beyond the stained pages of my grandmother’s Women’s Weekly dinner party cookbook from the 1970’s.

Here they’ve been saved from culinary purgatory. The prunes in the centre of the devils are stickily sweet, and the streaky bacon cuts a nice contrast. Meanwhile beneath the crumbs and the mince of the scotch egg there’s a gooey quail egg.  Chalk that up as a win.

Most of the starters fall between £6 and £10.  We opt for a shared main serving of Brixham mussels, with white wine, garlic butter and white wine. At  £13.95 it’s a hearty serving, in a special domed canister with a mesh divider. It looks a like a filter on storm water drain, but in reality, it’s a very clever design feature that allows bread easy access to the garlic studded juices gathered at the bottom.

A main size serving of roasted pork belly is served with a silken butternut squash puree and a huddle of sautéed spinach.  It’s warming, rustic pub food, done with finesse. The exterior of the pork crackles while the inside is as gooey as the sentiments on a  Valentines card. 

The jus is sticky and the serving size is sensible. It’s exactly what you’d hoped it would be. No bells and whistles, just great produce cooked beautifully.

Meanwhile a smoked chicken pie comes in a pithivier style. It looks like a little puffed top hat. This serving is delicate and ladylike. The puff pastry rustles and sighs. the inside is creamy and soft.

To the side is an adorable little jug of gravy. It cries out for some green beans and spuds on the sides to make it into more of a meal. Also at £15.95 it’s one of the more expensive pies I’ve eaten in a while. But some cold days just call out for a chicken pie, and sometimes, it’s a feeling you just can’t fight.

Dessert is the classic choice of chocolate for The Hungry One- a dense piece of tart, thick with a ganache filling and sweetened by a perfect quenelle of vanilla ice cream on the side, freckled with vanilla seeds.

For those like me who can’t quite choose between the sweets path and the British cheese plate, there was the perfect mid path.  Two Banbury cakes, like more pliable Eccles cakes, puffed high with doughy pastry and studded with currants.  A small dish of potted stilton on the side is the answer to the question of ‘can there be any more fat in cheese?’ Why yes, yes there can- particularly if you combine an English blue with some organic butter.

It’s evilly good.

This is the reserved side to Heston’s cooking. Inadvertently we chose some of the more conservative menu items. If we’d gone for the trifle dessert we may have been eating dried olive tapenade alongside our jelly and cream. If we’d had the fish pie we’d have found the top adorned with sea inspired  foam and some mock sand.

If someone was after a more affordable taste of Heston’s wizardry than a booking at the Fat Duck, it might pay to ask the waitstaff for some additional guidance.

As for us, we were perfectly happy- tucked in at a window table downstairs, just near the fire and with a view of the bar.

None of us bashed our heads on the low slung beams on the way in or out. We drank just enough to be merry.

And we ate very very well.

You can’t ask much more from a lunch in the country, can you?

The Hinds Head
(01628) 626151

The High St Bray
Maidenhead, SL6 1

Hinds Head on Urbanspoon

  1. ooh it all sounds delicious and that mussel tray though not attractive is genius! We should all be served our mussels like that!

  2. The more I think about my meal at The Hind's Head the more I think it was pretty perfect. Like you though I thought some vegies or sides with the chicken pie would not have gone astray! I just stole the sides that came with my husband's roast beef.

  3. Thanks so much for stopping by! So interesting to hear what other people thought of it…For us, on the day it was pretty darn perfect- though I think the weather had a huge amount to do with it- it was just one of those stinging miserable ones where all you want to do is huddle inside and drink lots of gutsy red wine….

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