The Hinds Head
- When: November 2016
- Michelin Stars: 1
- Male DINK Rating: 11/15
- Female DINK Rating: 11/15
- Total Cost: $150
The Hinds Head in Bray, England, sits right across the street from The Fat Duck, a restaurant that holds 3 Michelin stars, is rated as one of the top restaurants in the world, and shares the same owner – chef Heston Blumenthal. Since we wanted to make a stop by Windsor Castle (nearby) on our way from London Heathrow out to the Cotswolds, we thought this would be a perfect time to try The Hinds Head. We made a lunch reservation for noon on OpenTable several weeks before arriving. Our flight arrived into Heathrow at 9:30 a.m., and we picked up the rental car and headed west towards Bray.
The town of Bray is tiny and charming, and The Hinds Head is located right on the main road through town – it would be difficult to miss. There are a few parking spots directly in front of the restaurant, and there is a clearly-marked, dedicated parking lot (shared with The Fat Duck) across the street. We arrived a bit early – before the beginning of lunch service – but were able to go inside. A very cozy bar area awaits to the left, and the actual bar is to the right. We were surprised to see several groups of people already partaking in rounds of beer in the bar. We each ordered a half pint of beer and sat in the bar until our reservation time. There didn’t appear to be a dedicated hostess or hostess table, but we flagged what looked like a waitress and were immediately shown to our table in the downstairs dining room (there’s another dining room upstairs).
We were presented with a “Set Lunch Menu” consisting of either two or three courses as well as a more extensive a la carte menu. Since the a la carte menu had more interesting options, we elected to choose from it. We each ordered a Scotch Egg as a snack, Male DINK ordered “Venison Carpaccio” and the “Bone in Sirloin of Veal,” and Female DINK ordered “Hash of Snails” and “Free Range Belly of Jimmy Butler Pork.” We also ordered a side of curried parsnips.
The Scotch Eggs were served at the same time as the first course and came with a mustard dipping sauce. This was like eating your entire breakfast in a bite – almost like a fried sausage and egg breakfast sandwich. These were good, but they weren’t amazing. It’s certainly not a “refined” food, but I don’t think that’s what they were going for in this instance.
The Venison Carpaccio was served with slices of turnip, arugula, parmesan cheese, and caper dressing. There were also a few crispy bits that were like triple-fried french fries – they added a nice texture. The carpaccio itself was very good. I don’t believe I’ve had venison carpaccio before, but, after this, I’d certainly try it again. The venison had a somewhat nutty and almost anise taste to it, and the arugula worked well to balance the flavors. The dressing wasn’t memorable, and I could always use more turnips!
The Hash of Snails sat atop a toasted (and hard) piece of bread and was accompanied by greens, chives, and onions. Female DINK really liked the flavor profile. She commented that the flavors went well together; however, they might have went together a bit too well, as the snails seemed to be lost in the dish. Overall, she enjoyed the flavor of the dish, even if it was a bit difficult to cut politely due to the stiffness of the bread.
The side of curried parsnips arrived with the second course and was served with chestnuts and bacon. These flavors went incredibly well together, yet the fresh flavor of the parsnips was still evident on its own. Our one critique of this side would be that the parsnips at the bottom of the dish became very oily and, therefore, less enjoyable to eat.
The Bone in Sirloin of Veal was delicious, and it was a very generous portion. The flavor of the veal was excellent – it tasted as if it had been marinated and slow cooked for hours. Very juicy but not incredibly tender. The cabbage and onion, together with the bread crumbs and pieces of pork (perhaps?), really completed the dish, and I felt that this dish showcased the chef’s refinement and control.
The Free Range Belly of Jimmy Butler Pork was similarly delicious. The pork was served atop a bed of barley in a wheat beer broth, and the pork itself was very tender and had great flavor. While the pork was good, Female DINK would actually pick the barley as the star of this dish. The barley simply paired perfectly with the broth, and Female DINK would have been happy eating a bowl of soup consisting solely of the barley and broth. This was also a large portion.
While we were probably too full to eat dessert anyway, we did not order dessert because we were running out of time to visit Windsor Castle. We did, however, each order a double espresso to keep us awake for the rest of the day, as we did just make a transatlantic flight.
Overall, we thought the food was good and the atmosphere was fairly casual. We kept having to remind ourselves that this was not intended to be a “fancy” place. That’s probably due, at least in part, to the fact that the majority of our Michelin dining experiences have been formal dinner tasting menus. We wouldn’t make a special trip to The Hinds Head again, but, if we were ever in a similar situation or in the general area, we’d definitely return.
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