Pub Review - Hind's Head, Bray, Berkshire

By Mark Taylor

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Village pub Heston blumenthal Butter

Anybody who has experienced Heston Blumenthal's innovative cooking at his three Michelin-starred restaurant in Bray may have wondered whether he would turn the village pub into a watered down version of the Fat Duck...

Hind's Head, Bray, Berkshire

Anybody who has experienced Heston Blumenthal's innovative cooking at his three Michelin-starred restaurant in Bray may have wondered whether he would turn the village pub into a watered-down version of the Fat Duck,where his off-the-wall creations include smoked bacon and egg ice cream and snail porridge.The locals needn't have worried, for Blumenthal has transformed the Hind's Head into one of the most perfect gastro pubs imaginable. For a start,the 17th-century building has a stunning interior - oak panelling, parquet flooring and real fires - and, more importantly, it's been kept very much as a pub, so people can pop in for a pint and a sandwich in the bar, or enjoy three courses with a bottle of wine in the more restauranty dining room.

Blumenthal and his head chef, Dominic Chapman (ex-Fat Duck and Kensington Place),have kept the menu sensibly short, with the emphasis on the sort of seasonal traditional British dishes which rarely appear on pub menus these days, and the dishes I sampled or spotted on other tables were very much the real deal.

From the six starters, which range from pea and ham soup (£4.95) to Colchester Rock oysters (£9), I chose the potted shrimps with watercress and bread (£7.50). It was served at room temperature - which brought out the flavours - in a small white ramekin with the requisite lid of hard, clarified butter on top, and accompanied by a cluster of watercress drizzled with a restrained glug of fruity olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. The bread consisted of four triangles of thin, home-made granary bread.

A main course of oxtail and kidney pudding (£14) was a masterpiece. The wobbly dome of suet pastry had a tantalising dribble of thin gravy on top, but when the fork pierced the pastry, a flood of rich gravy poured out on to the plate.Inside, the large chunks of oxtail and kidney had all the tender hallmarks of very slow cooking. It was served with a small white bowl of well seasoned buttered cabbage.

From the short list of four desserts, the treacle tart (£4.50) was the best I have ever tasted, with the shortest, crispest, thinnest pastry I've seen. The filling wasn't overly sweet and had an almost lemon tart-like consistency. Any richness was balanced by a stunning scoop of iced milk.Blumenthal and his team make running a gastro pub look almost too easy, but they have done it in a measured, intelligent way. The food is as good as you'll find in a British pub in 2005 and it'll become a benchmark for the gastro pubs that follow.

PubChef Rating (out of 10)

Ambience 9, Value for money 9,

Flavour factor 10, Overall Impression 10

BEERS: Greene King IPA and two other real ales.

MAIN COURSES: From £9.50 to £15.50.

WINES ON LIST: 24 reds, 22 whites, two rosés, six Champagnes, 12 by the glass,including Dona Paula Chardonnay (Argentina)and Redbank Long Paddock Shiraz Cabernet (Australia).

ANOTHER THING: The Queen entertained a coach-full of European royalty at the pub in 1963 to celebrate the engagement of her sister, Princess Margaret, to Lord Snowdon.

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