We visited The Hinds Head for lunch a while ago. We went fairly late, around 1:30pm. They are open for lunch until 2:30 though, so it wasn't a problem. As it wasn't very busy, we sat in the bar section rather than the restaurant. Although the restaurant has only been open since 2004 in its current form, the building is well over 500 years old. It has the look of an old pub about it, with all the timbered ceilings and wood panelling, though of course it's in better shape than its 500 years would lead you to think. Heston Blumenthal owns The Hinds Head. He's a pretty famous chef here in the U.K. and runs a 3 star Michelin restaurant which is basically next door, The Fat Duck. I think they even share a kitchen or stores or something with The Hinds Head. As another bit of interesting trivia, Prince Philip had his stag night at The Hinds Head in 1947, before marrying (then) Princess Elizabeth.
I had Lancashire Hotpot and my companion (isn't that how all restaurant reviewers refer to the person they eat dinner with? My "companion". A nice neutral term which leaves you to wonder what sort of relationship they have. Wife-husband? Business partner? Homosexual affair?) had Skate Wing with Capers, Lemon and Parsley. The bartender warned me that the hotpot had an oyster in it when I ordered it. I was a bit bemused by this, as having never eaten a Lancashire Hotpot, I wouldn't have known whether this was usual or not. I told the bartender as much after the meal, and he let me into a bit of the history of the Hotpot, saying that oysters used to be a regular ingredient in it, since they were cheap for people to use. The Hinds Head tries to keep the food as traditional as the pub is, hence the oysters I guess.
As I said, I'd never eaten Lancashire Hotpot before, but it was pretty good. The oyster in it did seem a bit odd, but it was okay. My companion's skate wing was excellent though, I'll probably order that next time if it's still on the menu. I don't know if it changes, but I would hope there's a bit of seasonal variety to it.
So my rating:
Ambiance: 2 I like the old Tudor look of the pub. As I didn't see the restaurant bit, I don't know what it's like, but the pub part was good, even if near empty. Not smoky, a big fireplace (not lit, but obviously working) and timbered walls and ceilings. Although it fits with the atmosphere, the slightly wonky table that tilted slighty on two legs took away a bit.
Service: 3 The bartenders and the personnel who brought the food were all very friendly, but in a laid-back, non-interfering manner. I thought the bartender knowing the history of the traditional food was a great thing, not seen in nearly enough restaurant staff.
Food: 2.5 Our mains were excellent, but I didn't think much of their Triple Cooked Chips. They seemed pretty ordinary to me.
So a strong rating of 7.5 out of 9 for The Hind's Head. We will be back again.
The Hinds Head website: http://www.thehindsheadhotel.com/index.aspx