Bray village Fete 2015 – Sunday 6th September on the Village Green.
Just a couple of miles upstream from Windsor is the beautiful and historic village of Bray, home to two of Britain’s best restaurants – the Roux brother’s Waterside Inn and Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck.
The Hind’s Head pub in Bray dates back to the 15th century and is a great spot to start. If you are there at lunchtime try the food which is close to perfection. I can say this quite literally, because the Hind’s head is now owned by Heston Blumenthal who also owns the Fat Duck Restaurant just across the road. The Fat Duck was recently acclaimed as the BEST RESTAURANT IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. Highlights on the menu include snail porridge (we didn’t try that one), and bacon and egg ice cream (amazingly fantastic flavour).
The Hind’s Head pub in Bray has open fires and really friendly bar staff. One of the few pubs ever to have been visited by royalty, Bray’s Hind’s Head Pub is almost perfect. A great big medieval oak beamed inn with a real sense of age and tradition. They keep a great cellar and serve local ales as well as some really great wines.The food at The Hind’s Head in Bray is also pretty special. Not too many people know that it is actually also owned by Heston Blumental and serves stunning food at very reasonable rates. In spring 2006 the Observer magazine gave this pub a score of 9.5 out of ten. They rarely score any establishment higher than about a seven. In 2007 Kate Robinson of the Telegraph also gave it a great review and most recently, The Hinds Head was named ‘Pub of the Year’ 2011 in the Michelin ‘Eating Out in Pubs’ guide.
If you are looking for something altogether grander than a pub, then The Fat Duck at Bray has a 4 month waiting list so if you cannot get a table, there is always Michel Roux’s famous Waterside Inn just around the corner. Yes, folks, that is two three Michelin Starred Restaurants in Bray! Quite how the little village of Bray became the country’s foremost fine dining location is a mystery that puzzles many.
In some ways perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised. Bray has had a history of self re-invention. It was the Vicar of Bray (according to popular song and a plaque in the Hind’s Head) who spent many years changing back and forth between the Catholic and Protestant faiths depending on which way the political wind blew, to ensure he would ‘Remain the Vicar of Bray, Sir”
St Michael’s Church, Bray is worth visiting to find out more. The building is fine Norman Church, built in 1294 on the site of an earlier Saxon chapel. One of the most interesting things to see in the church at Bray is the Sheela-Na-Gig up in the rafters. This is a small stone female figure with large breasts and legs spread, believed to be Celtic mother goddess she is a visible remenant of Bray and England’s pagan past.
That great English composer Sir Edward Elgar was a regular visitor to Bray and it was here that he composed parts of some of his most famous works, including The Kingdom and the Violin Concerto. He stayed at ‘The Hut’, an estate overlooking the river close to Monkey Island. The Hut was owned by Frank Schuster a patron of the arts. Other famous visitors included George Bernard Shaw, Siegfried Sassoon and the painter Walter Sickert. Later on, the estate was broken up into smaller plots, one of which was the childhood home of racing driver Stirling Moss.
These days Bray is a favourite retirement spot for the rich and famous, because the Bray marina allows them to keep their boats moored close at hand. During the summer, the Riverside Brasserie in the marina offer amazing meals. Owned and run by a former head chef of the Fat Duck, the Riverside Brasserie was recently voted one of the top 10 riverside restaurants in England.
The Crown on the High Street is another wonderful old fashioned pub with low ceilings, heavy beams, great beer and, unsurprisingly, a great menu of excellent food.
As you can see, Bray is well worth a visit, particularly if you are feeling a bit peckish!
Through the 1960s and 1970s, Down Place, a large waterside mansion a little downstream from Bray village became home to Hammer Films. The classic Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing Dracula was filmed here amongst many other famous films. The studios are still in use to this day, but are not open to the general public.
Where is Bray?
Just drive from Windsor westwards along the Maidenhead road for about 4 miles (past Bray Studios and Oakley Court) and you will see signs directing you to turn right. A 1 km road leads you into the heart of Bray village.