MY PUB

My Pub: the Hinds Head, Bray, Berkshire

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Progressive attitude: the Hinds Head is part of the Heston Blumenthal group
Progressive attitude: the Hinds Head is part of the Heston Blumenthal group

Related tags Food Hinds head Gastropub Pubco + head office Multi-site pub operators

When the Heston Blumenthal group operates a pub, you know the food is going to be something else.

And the Hinds Head is certainly a place that attracts foodies - but its drinks offer is equally as strong.

The Berkshire site is always in the mix when it comes to industry awards and was a finalist in the Great British Pub Awards last year in the Best Pub for Food ​category and, as executive chef Peter Gray tells The Morning Advertiser​, it also won the Michelin Pub of the Year award. 

The pub

The Hinds Head is part of Heston Blumenthal’s unique group, based in the beautiful village of Bray, Berkshire, just yards away from his world renowned three-Michelin starred restaurant The Fat Duck.

The Hinds Head was purchased by Heston in 2004, named the Michelin Pub Guide's ‘Pub of the Year’ in 2011 and went on to gain its Michelin star in 2013, we are proud to have held this ever since.

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Fish and chips

Dating from the 1500s, we are a ‘proper pub’ and that has always been important to our ethos, oak beams set the scene and personality, offering our guests comfort and character with a great mix of space; nooks to nestle in and room to meet up with a crowd.

Relaxed dining areas have been created that reflect the fact that we are still a pub, full of exposed beams (especially by the bar) with banquettes in the West Room to take in larger groups for dining.

Upstairs, the Royal Lounge provides a quieter and more intimate area, this is a space that captures the character of its historical setting, with comfy seating, where you can expect to find some quirky décor.

We also offer a very special private dining area called ‘The Vicar’s Room’, where our guests can enjoy an atmospheric experience, here the tall, vaulted ceiling, bespoke handcrafted lighting and centre piece table seating up to 22 guests takes you right back in time, this space is regularly booked for special events, meetings and feasting events.

Facts ’n’ stats

Pub name:​ The Hinds Head

Address: ​High Street, Bray, Berkshire, SL6 2AB

Owner and significant staff:​ Group owner Heston Blumenthal, executive chef Peter Gray, front of house Ellen Romero and head chef Edoardo Brambilla 

Wet:dry split:​ 40:60

Website:​ www.hindsheadbray.com

Outside, our recently constructed terrace at the front of the pub has been well used in summer months, for drinking and dining. Over the festive period, we entertained our guests with carols, which was a huge success.

The publican​ 

The front of house is lead by Ellen Romero, who is hugely popular with our locals. Ellen's role sees her juggling all manner of things from the bar through to the restaurant – and always with a smile on her face. She has been involved in hospitality for many years and joined us three years ago.

Ellen has seamlessly slotted into her role here managing the team alongside executive chef Peter Gray, who has been at the helm for over 10 years overseeing the overall management and kitchens alongside Edoardo – our head chef. ​​​​​​​​​Edoardo, or ‘Eddy’, has been with us for more than nine years, progressing through the ranks. Eddie, known for his positivity and genuinely warm personality, is not only a terrific chef, he brings kindness to the kitchen and a real family feel to the team.

I'm the executive chef and have a hands-on approach. I make sure I wish each member of the team a good morning and also like to set the bar high. I'm usually on hand to help anyone when needed.

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Peter Gray and the famed triple-cooked chips

I promote a culture within the team that reflects the highest principals we strive for.

Ellen and I are a closely knit team, driven by Heston’s DNA, immersed from the get-go, from the food served to all other operations, Heston’s influence is evident. The intention has always been for this pub to be managed as part of the Bray community and we work hard to make it so.

The trade​ 

We are very aware that we sit right in the centre of a community. The village of Bray is important to us so managing our space has been key. We have a very specific bar area where diners can enjoy a relaxing drink before sitting down to eat and locals have made claim to their own spaces.

We work hard to be inclusive, welcoming those who just want to pop in for a lunchtime or evening drink and balance this with our fine-dining offer and bar menu. Our aim is always to blend the formal and less formal so everyone feels at home – whatever the occasion.

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The West Room

We are seen as a destination pub. Our Michelin fish and chips is a big draw so we attract a diverse range of ages and also overseas guests who absolutely love the traditional elements, which certainly adds to our culture.

We are also family orientated, especially on Sunday lunchtimes. Packs are available for our young guests to entertain themselves and their families while they are here.

Dogs are also very welcome to bring their humans here and we do have regulars who know where the biscuits are.

The team

We are very connected as a team, committed to consistency, reading our guests needs and delivering exceptional service. From our people to our food, we love a bit of theatre, both front of house and in the kitchen. We like to think we add the flavour and a touch of innovation to proceedings, reflecting the venue’s colourful lineage as well as Heston Blumenthal’s fascination with Britain's gastronomic history.

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The bar

We are proud to say our retention is high. We have three strong, long-term chefs (with more than 30 years' joint service). Our kitchen team is 100% focused on alignment and great communication. Work can be quite complex and demanding but our key driver is to inspire. Daily briefings pick up on the vital communications between our kitchen and front-of-house teams.

All we do evolves around our respect for each other and the values we set. It's all about creating a positive atmosphere among the team and an engaging workplace. As a business, we love to grow our own and take great pride in seeing those that we train move on to to higher levels within the group or outside and while it's sad to see a person leave, we know they will take so much with them.

The drink

At the bar, we listen to our locals, and support local suppliers both in our beer and wine offer. We work hard to be inclusive, welcoming those who just want to pop in for a lunchtime or evening drink and balance this with our fine-dining offer and bar menu.

barman and ruby spritz non alcoholic cocktail
Non-alcoholic Ruby Spritz

We have devised a wine list that is designed for easy drinking in the bar and to support our menu, wines offered by the glass have been curated to give people the opportunity to try wines that, in many instances, come direct from suppliers and may not be easily found on UK shelves.

The team is actively encouraged to take interest in our wines. Our culture-focused on enrichment and knowledge professional training is offered for anyone in the team who would like to advance their understanding. The team recently visited our supplier, 100 Hills in Henley-on-Thames, for tastings and training.

We conduct immersive daily training on our wines and other drinks offers, including soft options. Front-of-house Ellen has also implemented a wine map briefing that has built confidence and knowledge across the team and has significantly benefited our customers.

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The private dining Vicar's Room

We love to feature weekly and seasonal cocktails to add some pizzazz to proceedings, these have proved very popular. Often featured on our social platforms, we aim to drive interaction and votes for favourites to come in and try.

Our policy is to see how we can pair a drink with the menu, opening people’s minds to things they may not have tried – from a smoked whiskey to cider, it’s all part of our experiential offer.

The food

Our pub like the dishes we serve is traditionally British with an historic twist. Food here is fuelled by our imagination.

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Guinea fowl and duck en croute (left) and oxtail (right)

We are proud to offer a full seasonal menu and bar snacks alongside our classics, where our renowned triple-cooked chips sit alongside foundation dishes such as the Oxtail & Kidney Pudding and Quaking Pudding, which are firm favourites.

What's on the menu?

Sample dishes

Starters

Lapsang Souchong Tea Smoked Salmon, Sour Cream, Butter, Pickled Cucumber, Soda Bread - £18

Confit Pumpkin Tart, Salt & Vinegar Pistachios, Baked Tunworth & Cumberland Sauce *(v) - £17

Crab Soup & Sandwich, Cornish White & Brown Crab Meat, Tomato Fondue, Fennel Salad - £22

Pea & Ham Soup, Ham Hock, Mint Oil - £15

Mains

Heston’s Oxtail & Kidney Pudding, Oxtail Sauce - £36

Fish & Chips: Battered Day Boat Cornish Fish, Heston's Triple Cooked Chips, Minted Peas, Chippy Dip - £29

Winter Tart, Cauliflower Royale, Pickled Shallots, Brussel Sprouts, Curry Velouté (v) - £33

Bavette Steak, served with Heston’s Triple Cooked Chips & a choice of Béarnaise, Bone Marrow or Reform Sauce - £36

Cost and flexibility is also taken into account. As a Michelin-stared pub, the expectation is high. Our staff are trained not to apply pressure and we do our best to adapt to people’s needs. If people want to pick and choose through the menu then our friendly approach ensures there is a comfortable solution.

A weekly ‘special set menu’ was introduced in 2023 and now features for three days during the week: on Wednesday Tuesday and Friday there are dishes from our a la carte menu. Created as a ‘set rate’ menu, this has been a great channel to introduce dining to a more diverse audience at a reduced cost. The initiative has helped people understand just how relaxed we are at the Hinds Head.

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Sunday roast

Bar snacks have been designed to appeal to those who just want to graze. Small plate servings are also something we will accommodate if people request this.

Our menu is very seasonally focused, with much of the planning based on the long-term relationships we have forged with suppliers, who we try to keep as local as possible. Quality is paramount and our providers are integral in ensuring we are able to deliver a premium product to our customers.

The events

We always try to feature key dates for celebrations at the Hinds Head. Upcoming events include a Burns Night supper and whisky tasting on 25 January, in collaboration with Annandale distillery. Valentine's dining will see three days of celebration with a specially set menu.

The launch of our wine club commences in 2024 with the first of a series of four on 7 February. This will be led by our sister restaurants sommeliers from The Fat Duck and features six wines with nibbles.

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Mushroom parfait and the bar

In 2023, we launched a community Pumpkin Pageant in support of Thames Hospice – a local and very worthy charity that we support. In 2024, our ambition is to come back even bigger and better.

Christmas carolling was also featured in 2023 and very popular, with choirs from St Piran’s School and Thames Hospice joining us and the local community to really getting the festive theme going over two very special evenings.

The year was seen off in style with a red carpet ‘dress to impress’ New Year's Eve event, which certainly saw 2023 off with a bang.

We will soon be announcing the first of what we hope will be a series of very exciting events in our private dining room – ‘An audience With’ will feature a well known celebrity, we are very excited to be unveiling this announcement very soon.

The future

We don’t offer accommodation at the Hinds Head but have, over the past years, developed a wonderful relationship with Bray Cottages, which is a family-run business that expresses individuality and exceptional talent for interior design, in each of its dwellings. As a private residence, these offer guests an exclusive home from home.

Situated right in the heart of the village and pet friendly, they are the perfect solution to offer guests who are keen to enjoy a ‘Michelin experience’ in Bray, with more events planned we very much hope to expand this relationship to benefit our customers and the community.

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Merrifield duck

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