Heston’s posh pub
Bray's elegantly eccentric, Michelin-starred Hinds Head.
Have you ever been to Bray? On the outskirts of Maidenhead lies the most perfect cluster of restaurants in a pretty waterside Berkshire village – holding 7 glittery Michelin Stars. The Alain-Roux owned The Waterside Inn with three Michelin stars); The Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal’s flagship, with a matching three Michelin stars; and The Hind’s Head, also Heston-owned, with one Michelin star.
This white-washed 15th century building, sitting in front of the medieval village church, offers what it calls ‘traditional British cuisine’ with a menu that reintroduces some historic dishes with a hit if Heston theatre.
Not only has this historic Tudor building undergone a spectacular refurbishment, new Head Chef Pete Grey (a Hind’s Head veteran having worked here for more than 3 years), has taken charge in the kitchen.
The new look reflects its hunting lodge and coaching inn past, with a vibe that is elegantly eccentric with a nod to the many royal connections. Upstairs is now The Royal Lounge (venue for Prince Philip’s stag do)– essentially it’s a cocktail bar, with tweed and velvet furnishings, taxidermy and dim lighting. Think cool gentlemen’s club without the overflowing testosterone with granny chic.
The restaurant is now on the ground floor, a rich mix of wooden paneling, leather chairs, settels, fireplaces and parquet flooring. It’s relaxed, buzzy and on a Monday night the place was packed.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
Do not miss the opportunity to sink a cocktail and a bar snack in The Royal Lounge – it’s theatrical and very cool. Aesthetically it is right up my street – shotgun chandeliers, Heston and his team immortalised in curtain fabric and cool artwork. The drinks menu is vast, craft beers, artisan gins and spirits, cocktails and mocktails that taste as good as the ones with booze.
I tried a couple (it was a sacrifice but for you, anything). Emily’s Earl Grey Tea Sour, served in an elegant tea cup, not too sweet, totally drinkable made with gin, elderflower, tea bitters, Earl Grey syrup and Pimms float is right up my street. But for real drama, Great Expectations (rum, brandy, lemon and nutmeg) is served in a book. Open the cover and a hip flask containing your drink is nestled in the pages ready to be poured into a glass. There is always a danger these things can feel gimmicky, but the execution is clever, creative and just what the rebooted Hind’s Head is all about.
If you fancy a bar snack, i tried two classics – the Chewit (essentially a posh pork pie) with a walnut ketchup based on a Tudor recipe and the legendary Hind’s Had Scotch egg, served in a silver egg cup.
In the restaurant we sat next to enormous fireplace on the ground floor. There are two options depending on how hungry you are. A 5-course tasting menu or a la carte. After the bar snack I dived into the a la carte menu and plumped for the Lapsang Souchong tea smoked salmon, served with a sour cream butter and soda bread. A light starter with delicate flavours.
Followed by the winter warming Beef a la Mode – an indulgent braised Ox cheek with black truffle and champ mash. Pass the bread and mop up the gravy. It was melt in the mouth lovely.
No room for pud, after this lot. But I would have chosen the treacle start with milk ice cream or pumpkin and orange crumble if my jeans weren’t cutting me in half.
OUT AND ABOUT:
Take a stroll (or a roll?) around the village. It won’t take you long – about 50 metres before you make it to Story on the high street, a tiny boutique that must do the most incredible trade with all the passing foodies. Fair play though, because it’s a little haven of great taste, with lovely jewellery, fashion and homewares.It’s a short walk to the river’s edge, but if you want to push up your daily step count, head down to Bray lock and can do some lovely looping walks around Bray, Maidenhead and Windsor.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Foodies who want to experience a Heston Blumenthal’s world without choking on the bill. High quality lunchers (think good friend catch-ups or relaxed work lunches). Grab the girls for cocktails, date night with the other half or special occasion family get togethers. Kids are surprisingly well catered for.
Not for: those who want a more formal white table cloth style approach to Michelin dining.
£££: As befits a Michelin restaurant, you can add a couple of quid onto each course. So entrees start from £9, mains start at £20-£38 (and don’t forget to add your sides of fries and veggies to that price). Desserts start at £8. There’s a 3-cours set lunch Mon-Sat for £25 a head. So I’d say it’s expensive for a ‘normal’ restaurant, but a fair price for the quality of the food. At the set menu is a cracking deal.