Pub chow bliss near London - Hind's Head in Bray
Continuing my financially limited exploration of good chow in/near London, I trekked out to Bray (just past Heathrow) to visit the Hind's Head, somewhat affilated with Heston Blumenthal of Fat Duck fame. I'd read from other posts that the pub serves high quality english classics. Getting there was all part of the adventure (which I've mentioned below)*
We had originally booked a table in the dining room, but when we learned that we could have the same menu in the super cosy pub, we quickly settled into a table by the fire (I know, I know, it's not cool to bail on a reservation, but they seemed understanding). The atmosphere was PERFECT. No music, snug but not overheated, and best of all, NON SMOKING. Gave me a glimpse of how glorious the UK will be once the smoking ban passes.
Tried a tasty new cider for me, called Sheppy's. Could taste the barnyard that must be right next to the apple trees (in a good way). Still prefer the Stowford Press I've tried in the Cotswolds. My dining companion fell in love with the Rebellion beer currently on tap (Roasted Nuts).
As a starter, ate some particularly good tea-smoked salmon. I'm fussy about lox and couldn't fault or improve this batch. Not at all fishy, beautiful amount of smokiness, glorious texture, and generous wide swathes of it on the plate. Served with a bit of creme fraiche, sweet/sour thinly sliced cukes, and a lemon wedge.
Came with very nice toasty multigrain bread, a generous amount. Wanted to sneak the leftovers home under my jacket.
I ordered skate wing with capers and brown butter sauce. It was perfectly fresh, quite rich, and made up entirely for the last time I had skate (not a fresh experience). Despite the merits of the skate dish, I found myself yearning for my dining partner's meal (as usual) - beautifully grilled rump steak with marrow and a beautiful reduction sauce. First taste of marrow; not sure what all the fuss is about. I can, however, understand the fuss over the chips. They were GLORIOUS. So glorious, we had to order another batch (at 5 pounds a bowl). They were so delectably cooked that they rustled like good tempura in their bowl, and were sprinkled with sea salt. As a side, we shared an iceberg lettuce salad with a nice amount of chives and a light dressing that was a refreshing balance to the rich meals.
We managed to then stuff in a small bowl of trifle. Again, beautifully balanced, nicely sherried, and sprinkled with perfectly toasted almonds.
It took some effort to leave the fireside seats in that pub. Highly, highly recommended.
* Took the tube from home, to Paddington Station, then the train to Maidenhead. Because I'd been plotting and scheming to visit Bray for some time, I had a printout of an ordinance survey map, so I was able to follow the "Green Way" public paths all the way to Bray. This took me from the nasty industrial big box wasteland around the station in Maidenhead, through slightly more bucolic surroundings, watching the amount of litter in the greenspace slowly recede until finally I was in English Village Bliss in Bray. A really nice way to get to the pub (better than a cab) and best of all, I was able to build up a fine appetite and better appreciate the pub's fireplace.
Aha! I knew I'd read a posting on chowhound about the pub, and your description of the pea soup had stuck in my head. I really wanted to try the soup but feared I would fill up too much on it and not be able to try anything else. It's on my list of things to try the next time I'm there (and there will certainly be a next time!). Anyway, you are partially responsible for my trek to Bray, so thank you very much!
I don't know how anyone wouldn't love this place. We were there about a month ago and I wrote about our lunch. We had the pea and ham soup which was the best I ever have tasted, plus I had the iceberg salad, too. We ate in the cosy pub, too, and I can't wait to go back and try those chips!