Our guide to Bri­tish pubs. This week: The Hinds Head, Bray, Berk­shire

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - The Back Page -

In 1947, the Hinds Head played host to Prince Philip’s stag party, be­fore his mar­riage to the Queen. If the thought of the Duke of Ed­in­burgh swill­ing pints with aban­don is too dif­fi­cult to imag­ine, there’s plenty to catch the eye in the re­li­gious thread that runs through the dark wooden veins of this 15th-cen­tury pub. A panel com­mem­o­rates the Vicar of Bray, the epony­mous pro­tag­o­nist of the old English bal­lad, who thrice changed faith in Tu­dor times. And above the fire­place an in­scrip­tion reads: “Fear knocked at the door. Faith an­swered. No one was there.”

Never mind Fear; if Hunger or Thirst knock at your door, you’ve come to the right place. Owned by He­ston Blu­men­thal of Fat Duck fame, the Hinds Head is a vil­lage pub with a dif­fer­ence. Rather than rud­dy­faced farm­ers in muddy boots, the lo­cals are a well-heeled lot. As­ton Martins and Porsches grace the car park like a Sur­rey show­room. Res­i­dent beers on tap in­clude IPA Greene King and Ab­bot Ale, with “guests” that in­clude a lo­cal Mar­low beer — this week it’s Roasted Nuts — or Tan­ner’s Cor­nish ale.

But it’s on the food front that the pub re­ally ex­cels. While the Fat Duck and Wa­ter­side Inn make Bray a truly culi­nary town, the Hinds Head at least has no ba­con-and-eggice-cream non­sense. In­stead it pro­vides a gas­tro­nomic ban­quet of tra­di­tional Bri­tish food that’s un­apolo­get­i­cally full-fat. Starters such as an exquisitely light and frothy pea and ham soup (£5.50) or mut­ton ham “cooked in hay” with quince jelly (£7) are fol­lowed by Lan­cashire hot­pot (£15.50) or ox­tail and kid­ney pud­ding (£14). Eton mess (£5.95) is a favourite dessert and an­other is quak­ing pud­ding, a baked cus­tard that quiv­ers like jelly.

Lighter fare in­cludes a smoked salmon with a cu­cum­ber and cream cheese sand­wich (£5.50), or you can mop up your Roasted Nuts with Scotch quail’s eggs (£1.50 each) and Welsh rarebit (£3).

But as I re­lax by a crack­ling fire­place in a com­fort­able arm­chair, it’s hard not to feel like a Tu­dor monarch and want to feast ac­cord­ingly. For­tu­nately Henry VIII never had his stag night (or six) here, else it might not still be stand­ing. Kate Robin­son

The Hinds Head Ho­tel, Bray, Berk­shire (01628 626151; www.hind­shead­ho­

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