England: Hinds Head

Tonight involved a jaunt into Bray, just a few miles away, to a fabulous dinner at the Hinds Head. I had tried to get reservations, the place is popular. I was advised to just show up and have a seat in the bar, they serve the same menu in the bar as they do in the restaurant.

If we ever have a night of wanting to go out to eat and need inspiration, we are so going here again. This is the pub that is owned by Heston Blumenthal and is across the street from his three-Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck. Bray is also home to another pair of Michelin starred restaurant and separate pub by a different owner.

We each started out with a bar snack of “Devils on Horseback.” There was no description on the menu, so we just had to ask. These are prunes, marinated in brandy, stuffed with a mango chutney and wrapped in pancetta, cooked until crispy. Unusual, but oh so good! I love the combination of fruit and meat, a balance of sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy.

I paired my meal with the house white wine. I imagine having the house white wine in Heston’s pub would be a pretty good house wine.

I opted to have one of the appetizers as an entree, the Goats Cheese, Onion and Red Pepper Tart (if you read my blog regularly, this should not surprise you as you know I have a hard time saying no to anything involving Goats cheese). This was also a dish involving those lovely balance of flavors and textures topped with a peppery rocket.

The real star of the show though, was the pudding. The Quaking Pudding! All of the puddings sounded wonderful, but a quick search on the interwebs from Mark’s phone revealed a recipe basically describing the ingredients for creme brulee with added brioche crumbs. A fancy bread pudding? I thought.

Heston’s concept for many of the traditional dishes in his pub is to take medieval recipes, for which generally there are few actual details and instruction for, and create modern versions of them. Jellies and Puddings used to be made inside various sac like organs to hold their shape while they were boiled, to help them maintain structural integrity but also allow to keep their wobbly nature. This pudding was not made in some ruminants stomach. No. Sweet puddings were made wrapped in linen cloth.

This was a heavenly pudding! It did come out on a wooden platter wibbling and wobbling about, finely sliced apples folded into a small heap besides. Imagine an extremely light custard, a smooth bread pudding, a creme brulee spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg in a creamy warm Jello-like texture. We were rewarded as we dipped our spoons into this delight to a pudding that enveloped us in creamy warmth, it is a comfort food for a chilly autumn night. Mark and I split one, I could have easily consumed another. It was just so good and so light.

Again I say, if we are ever at a loss for ideas for going out to dinner, we will return here and I will order the Quaking Pudding.