the hinds head
Admittedly it doesn’t take much persuasion to get me to dine out, but the arrival of overseas visitors usually ups the restaurant visits considerably. Painful on the wallet yes, but it does give me an excuse to return to places slightly further afield that I have long been meaning to. In September I took a visiting friend from Singapore to The Sportsman in Whitstable for a leisurely weekday lunch, and more recently we drove up to Bray to Hinds Head with B’s out-of-town sister in tow.
Our lunch at Heston Blumenthal‘s pub (a hop, skip and jump from his acclaimed restaurant) was scheduled on a Saturday at the end on a particularly wet week, but thankfully the day in question was dry and only partially overcast, yet appropriately chilly to warrant some hearty pub fare. Having skipped breakfast, we got straight down to ordering, throwing in a couple of Quail Scotch Eggs (served with mustard mayonnaise) to start as they have never failed to delight in the past.
A crisp crunchy breaded outer cocooning juicy flavoursome sausage meat, and delicate silky quail egg oozing gooey barely-cooked yolks. For B it was the perfect proportion of meat to egg, but personally I prefer the full-size version with a higher yolk to sausage ratio – like the impecable venison number served at Harwood Arms.
The Salad of Raw Scottish Beef with Radicchio and Horseradish was essentially carpaccio topped with a shredded leaves dressed in an odd curry-spiked mustard vinaigrette. It was woefully unbalanced – the sharp vinaigrette overwhelmed the delicate flavour of wafer-thin cuts of beef and a sprinkle of of parmesan further confused preceedings.
B has a knack of picking better off the menu than me and today was no exception. His South Coast Crab on Toast was beautifully fresh and light, with a simple but inspired twist of refreshing diced cucumber folded through the crab mixture. The Pea and Ham Soup B’s sister chose was as it says on the tin and she seemed satisfied enough with it.
As I ducked to enter the pub earlier I had spotted some lovely bowler hat-shaped pies and wanted one for my main. But as everyone on the table also wanted to order the pie I opted for the Grilled Lobster, Tarragon Butter, Triple Cooked Chips and Caeser Salad, for variety’s sake. Unfortunately the side salad was a sad soggy pile of over-dressed wilted greens, but the shellfish itself, glistening with herb butter, was juicy, sweet and tender. The famous triple cooked chips were also fabulous, with an insanely crunchy exterior and a soft fluffy middle.
Delicious as the lobster was, it seemed I missed the mark again not ordering the Chicken, Ham and Leek Pie with Mustard Sauce. There’s not much I don’t like encased in puff pastry and served with a creamy sauce, and this dome shaped pie, stuffed full of chunky chicken and ham, was right up my street. Luckily B was willing to split his with me, and I was more than happy to part with half a lobster in return.
I was counting on the gorgeous Treacle Tart with Milk Ice Cream being on the menu but disappointingly it was not; that threw me for a loop as I had set my heart on it days before the lunch. While I ummed and ahed B decided on the traditional Quaking Pudding that the Hind’s Head is well-known for – a recipe which took Heston 50 tries to perfect.
The wobbly cinnamon and nutmeg-scented pudding swayed gently back and worth as it was set down and tasted of pure comfort. The tart granny smith slivers provided a pleasant contrast to the milky custard.
I settled on a perfectly good Bakewell Tart (that I shared with B’s sister), which came with a pretty spiral of Yoghurt Ice Cream crowned with nuts and drizzled with jam. It would have been even nicer with a few sips of tea, but the pot we ordered failed to appear in tandem as we had requested – the only real blip service-wise during our meal.
This was my third (and B’s fourth) visit to Hinds Head, and although the food and service unquestionably remains of a high standard, it lost a little of it’s shine for me on this visit. With several gastropubs of similar calibre within London, there’s no compelling reason to venture all the way out here. Bray is quite lovely though, so if you happen to be in the picturesque village (perhaps to dine at Fat Duck or Waterside Inn) then I would recommend it as venue for Sunday lunch.
The Hinds Head
Bray SL6 2AB
t. 01628 626151