Between Christmas and going back to work we rented a small car to travel to a few spots outside of London, to see that there is more to this world than this fair fine city. Guess what. There is.
I was going to write a tonne on our Xmas day meal detailing all the courses I cooked for our epic all day 5 course eating fest. But if the truth be told I can’t be arsed, and it’s a bit tacky anyhows so I shelved that idea, but I am going to bore you to death with a few of the places we went to on our little jaunts outside the capital.
We never had turkey on the big day itself, we had duck, as I am not a fan of this white meat. Too many years of too dry breast meat has put me off it forever. So my meals on the 25th contain anything but turkey. So far duck has ruled supreme over the last few years. For Boxing Day I am a stickler for tradition, and in my household as a child we always and I mean always had cold cuts, mashed potatoes and salads. No idea where this tradition came form but we have been doing it since I was a wee little bairn, and I will not have it any other way. There are some things that must never change. Never.
So on the 27th we left sunny Hampshire and headed to Berkshire and the small village of Bray. Anyone reading this thinking we were going to eat at the Fat Duck, can stop right here. It was a Monday and it was closed. No we were here for his posh pub, The Hinds Head.
It was exactly how I imagined it. A typical old English style pub in the countryside manner. I.e. it has very low ceilings, and yes I bumped my head even as we walked in. The sign told me to duck or grouse. I groused. Damn.
We were seated upstairs, which is a shame as it was a tad lifeless up there. Downstairs next to those open fires looked like a dream. Shame.
The menu is very simple and easy to read and eat. We ordered a started of pea and ham soup, and a scotch egg and devils on horseback.
To say the portions were small is an understatement. Pretty tiny, but with big boy prices. But the flavours out gun those prices 5 – 1. The soup was a tad watery but the flavours were awesome. Now that is how pea soup is supposed to taste. Wow. It’s pretty hard to put it into words, but imagine a really intense pea flavour, now times it by ten. The Scotch egg was well cooked and still had a runny quails egg inside.
The devils on horseback were nice but one bite wonders. I only got 2 and I wanted more. But these were pre-ordering tasters, but I knew what I wanted and I was just amusing my stomach to get it active for the treat to follow.
For mains we ordered the oxtail and kidney steamed pudding, with sides of potatoes and green beans. Plus a rump steak, marrow sauce and triple cooked chips.
The oxtail and kidney pudding was unxious beyond belief, maybe a little too much as I could feel my mouth slowly sealing shut. The suet pastry was the right thickness, anymore and it would have been too much. The gravy, same as for the steak was fantastic.
The potato’s were a tad bland, and some of the green beans squeaked a little. Both were under seasoned. Not what you would expect from a Heston joint.
The rump steak up to that point was the best steak I had tasted since we came back in March. I never knew a steak could taste so good. I had lost faith after a weekend in Paris trying to find good tasting steak. It had so much flavour. No idea where he gets his beef from but that farmer cares for his cows.
The marrow sauce was some of the best gravy I have ever had. The chips were good, very good, not sure if that was just the triple cookedness in them that made them good or what, but damn fine chips to go with an awesome steak.
We were pretty stuffed when it came to puddings, even with our waitress tempting us, but we just couldn’t do it. Even the coffees took their time going down, especially with the little truffled chocolates we had to eat.
The service was swift, smart and efficient in a very friendly way. I would have preferred to have sat downstairs in the bar area, but hey ho.
All in all it was a pretty bloody good meal. Small portions at big boy prices. But the flavours, textures and tastes all made up for it, even with one or two schoolboy errors.
I am now either saving up to come again, or to visit the Fat Duck across the road. Something I always said I would never do, but after this, I am very very curious.