Living in Bray in Berkshire means you have won life’s lottery. Your house is still worth more than most third world cities and you live in a village with Michael Roux’s Waterside Inn and two Heston Blumenthal eateries;The Fat Duck and The Hind’s Head Hotel. At The Fat Duck, popping over for a quick lunch involves over £200 a head and so the need to sell your children to the Belgians or part exchange your vitals for a glass of port. The only sane move is the outstanding Hind’s Head Hotel.
This old pub contains two dark secrets. The first was that Prince Phillip had his stag night here and that should have been reason enough to burn the place down and turn it into a drive through Morrissons. Fortunately the villagers of Bray, who are a house proud lot saw sense and kept it as a pub. The second dark secret is that Heston Blumenthal is engaged in some pretty scary experiments involving a turkey baster, some L’essence du Heston and a flask of liquid nitrogen. Let me explain.
Heston is a striking chap. Shiny of scalp and prone to wearing some rather trademark Joe 90 glasses, a description that the makers, Sergio Hipthruster, would no doubt reject. But these two things are Heston’s trademarks just like Gary Rhode’s hedgehog hair, Jamie’s estuary English and Ainsley Harriot’s inability to cook.
But it seems that either the great man isn’t content with the title Restaurant of the World and has been reading Boys From Brazil or his recruitment policy is verging on the bizarre. The truth is that eighty percent of the male waiters look like Heston so either he’s been cloning himself in the test kitchen or everyone he employs not only wants to work for him they want to look like him. It seems like there are four stages of Hestonism, as follows:
- Plongeur Heston
This is where you start in the Heston empire. Your hair is cut to one inch and you are allowed some trainee glasses. You are taught to smile, serve bread and say “Yes I really love that too”
- Comi Heston
Here your glasses are removed but you’re given the regulation sixteenth of an inch buzz cut. You’re taught how to walk and smile.
- Sous Heston
By now you are a top notch waiter, your hair is even shorter and your now wearing the steel framed version of the master’s famous glasses. People will do a double take in the street.
- Chef Heston
You are now Maitre d’Hotel and are sporting the full regalia of crop top and Joe 90’s. You’re invited to open Farmer’s Markets and often do phone-ins on Radio Berkshire. You’ve been known to earn up to £3000 for a speaking engagement.
But apart from the Heston clones – how is the restaurant. Fabulous. Excellent. Wonderful. I am so sick of overpriced, London, wannabee rip-off joints and the Hind’s Head is everything a good restaurant should be. They take classics and execute them perfectly from the pea and ham soup to the oxtail and kidney pudding. Not vast greasy portions just perfects tastes. They even do a Scotch Quails Egg (£2.25) which is the first I’ve been able to eat following public school food trauma. The soup was at the perfect temperature, warm enough to banish the chill but not so nuclear that your mouth lining was hanging off in strips. The oxtail pudding was so comforting I wanted to climb inside and hibernate. The only let down was the famous triple cooked chips that are a bit ordinary.
Stop what you’re doing and go now. Call 01628 626151and a Heston clone will welcome you with open arms. All six of them.