The Hinds Head in Bray - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 10:13 10 May 2016 | UPDATED: 15:39 07 November 2017
Great, very British and with just enough of Heston’s ‘quirks’ to make lunch or dinner here a memorable occasion, says Jan Raycroft
“So it’s one of those trendy gastropubs, isn’t it?” asked a neighbour as we strode back from a dog walk before I headed off to The Hinds Head. That had me thinking… The Hinds Head, it’s a piece of 16th century treasure in Heston Blumenthal’s collection – and in August he will have owned it for 12 years. There comes a time when you have to drop the ‘trendy’ tag and that dreaded term ‘gastropub’ has actually been around for 25 years. We should move on.
In any case, there is something almost indefinable about the Michelin-starred Hinds Head, which means it stands alone while somehow offering a Great British experience of superb food and drink in what really is still a pub with beams, fireplaces and cosy corners.
Of course the Heston influences, and his fascination with traditional British recipes is apparent on a menu which includes some classics which have stood the test of time since he took over. But he clearly has confidence, and rightly so, in Head Chef János Veres, originally from Hungary but with a fine British dining pedigree and shared obsession for local and seasonal produce.
Dining here is an absolute treat, whether for a feast or pint and filling snack. Prices are admittedly mid-upper, but the results arriving at the table could easily have a higher price tag, so somehow we are actually talking value for money.
Indeed, some of the tastes and textures are sublime. Whether you choose from daily offerings or go a la carte, seek delicate melt-in-the-mouth fresh fish dishes the equal of top coastal destinations, or something hearty like the oxtail and kidney pudding, it will hit the spot and have you telling friends.
Service and the sheer level of courtesy impresses. While vegetarian choices are not extensive, the dishes are as unique and lovingly prepared as the meaty feasts. My task is to arrive as the ‘Awkward Annie’ on such occasions (I have to be gluten-free) and it turned out that the Hinds Head could adapt numerous favourites. I asked for tea smoked salmon without the soda bread and an extraordinary selection of freshly baked gluten-free bread arrived. The first temptation was to hide some in my handbag! Diners at a nearby table should have spotted this but were sidetracked by roast loin of Jimmy Butler free range pork with all the trimmings.
Anyway, I left room for a gluten-free version of the most magnificent chocolate pudding, but noted that new diners were arriving to enjoy those old favourites, what must still be the world’s best Scotch eggs and triple cooked chips (Heston ‘invented’ the latter).
Prices: Around £30-40 for three excellent courses a la carte with sides. There are also good value daily choices and a separate bar menu for lighter snacks. A four course set menu with a real Heston flavour is £47.50. Sunday lunch mains start at just over £20, there’s a children’s menu for under a tenner.
Drinks: Extensive, and unusual real ales such as Tontine stout from ‘up North’ and Yardsman lager from a Belfast craft brewery. The Hinds Head has a monthly Monkey Spoon Cocktail Club. Under scrutiny on 29 April will be Mezcal Smokey cocktails, £25 per guest for three cocktails, olives, crisps and a lot of fun.