Saturday, June 5, 2010
I just moved back to England after living in my home country, the U.S., for over two years. On the run up to my move I did one thing... research where to eat. I have a list of 25, or 30 great restaurants dotted all over the U.K., France and Spain. But there's one I wanted to get to first, The Hinds Head in Bray. I've actually eaten here before, but it was pre-Passport Foodie and thus, a new trip had to be made. U.S. Mothers Day seemed like a fine excuse to make the hour long drive from West Sussex to Berkshire.
Bray is one of those funny little English towns that is so unassuming you think to yourself, what does everyone do here? And, how does anyone make a living? Do the people who live in Bray get paid to take long walks along the river and dine in the best restaurants in the world? Namely, The Fat Duck and The Waterside Inn. Both 3 Star Michelin restaurants. The narrow village high street off the motorway leads straight to The Fat Duck and The Hinds Head. In fact, you'd have to be rather dull to miss either restaurant. We parked in The Hinds Head parking lot, next to a Ferrari 660, just one of the countless super cars parked next to our... well, not super car. Just another day in Bray I suppose.
We were seated rather quickly and in a quiet area on the second floor. Gnarled, rustic wood was aplenty in this 400 year old pub, which was Queen Elizabeth IIs local. Actually, that's not true, but she did bring a busload of European Royalty there in 1963. The menu is exactly the way I like it... small and to the point. Nothing but pure, understated, delicious English pub grub.
Up first was the least pub-like dish on the menu. My Balmoral Venison Cheese Burger. And I just have to be extremely honest here, it was perhaps the best burger I have ever had. The Brioche bun was perfectly toasted and flaked off in my mouth with just the right amount of sweetness. The Cheddar Cheese was melted to perfection and wasn't too sharp that it distracted from the meat. And the meat was the top gem on the crown. Venison, served slightly pink in the middle, with gallons of juice running down it with each mouthful. I could stop this entry right now and be happy. But I won't... I've had far too much coffee today to stop now.
Next up was the Roast Pork Collar with Stuffing, Apple Sauce and Crackling. A shining example of this dish, but it was overshadowed by the glorious burger, which was still lingering on my taste buds. There was one dish on the table that looked like it could give my Venison Burger a run for its money and that was the Roast Sirloin of Highland Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and served with Roasted Potatoes and Veggies. Yorkshire Pudding is one of those things that looks so easy to make well, but it is rarely done so. Far too many pubs ruin this quintessentially English accompaniment and it's a bloody shame. The Hinds Head is not one of those pubs. This was perfect. And so were the Triple Cooked Chips Blumenthal is known for.
Dessert was next and it didn't disappoint. The Sussex Pond Pudding was a very pleasant dish, with just the right amount of sweet and savory. The Banana Eton Mess was equally good and for once I had to stop myself from finishing both desserts. Prices are relatively reasonable for what you get. There are less expensive pubs in the UK, but this one is special. Even if you forget about its famous big brother right next door. Which is tough to do with Ferrari 660s in the parking lot and Japanese tourists taking photos with all of their 13 cameras around their necks. As I write this I'm only thinking of one thing, when can I go back for that burger?
My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography