If you’re a die-hard summer worshipper, like me, you are now in mourning, like me. However, I temporarily forget my seasonal dismay when autumnal explosion of colours happens all around me. It is a perfect time to seek cosy, countryside escape, preferably with the staying-the-night option but only after devouring some ‘full-fat’ pub food and washing it down with some full-bodied wine.
As if the ‘Cosmos Genie’ heard my thoughts (or rather my lovely editor did), an invite to dine and stay the night at The Pointer Pub & Restaurant at Brill in Buckinghamshire fell into my lap.
This is not just any pub. It has been named ‘County Dining Pub of the Year’ in the 2018 edition of The Good Pub Guide and won the four-star cooking rating award in the Waitrose Good Food Guide 2018.
Furthermore, The Pointer also recently launched four brand new luxurious and seriously stylish guest rooms in a newly renovated cottage, directly opposite this multi-award winning 17th century village pub. This is some strong pitch, so I grabbed my weekend-away luggage and my husband, and drove through London’s Saturday traffic with purpose.
We arrived to the tiny village, which bears tautological name Brill, with few minutes to spare before our dinner was booked and the dusk enveloping the area added a little magic to the atmosphere.
After we picked up our keys from the helpful staff at the Pointer, we entered the cottage, passed the ‘his and hers’ pair of Hunter wellies, a small fridge fully stocked with glass milk bottles and waters in the hallway and unlocked our ground floor room-to-be for the night.
The combination of muted palette of warm grey on the walls, brown oak wooden furniture, beige or white fabrics and multi-coloured embroidered cushions gave the generously spacious room an extremely eye-pleasing, relaxing and country-chic vibe. Someone definitely knew how to put various textures and colours together in here, that someone being Fiona Howden, the owner of Pointer. I peeked into the bathroom and apart from the big shower in the corner, there was a stand-alone bath next to the cute, cottage window. An instant hit with me!
The stomach rumbling was our cue to stroll across the road and get seated in the restaurant section of the Pointer, next to the outdoor garden, passing the classic low ceiling of the pub with the ‘Ouch’ sign helpfully stuck to the beams overhead.
We didn’t even know it yet but we were going to be served our dinner by a seriously knowledgeable waitress. I must’ve asked about hundred questions due to my genuine interest about the food and wine served, by the time I finished my last glass. I was seated on a bench with colourful cushions and even my bag had its own space, seemingly waiting to be served.
Before perusing Pointer’s food menu and the wine list, I quickly scan the room and the eye-pleasing combination of grey, brown and beige hues can be seen in here too, including the grey serving plates. The walls were either adorned with framed, cheerful drawings of familiar domestic animals or stylish wreaths made of pheasant feathers.
Back to the menus though, all bearing the same special illustration of a pointer dog by the renowned artist Robert James Clarke. First page of the food menu sets the tone, revealing that all their ‘classic British dishes with a creative twist’ showcase the local produce from the very own Pointer’s farm and gardens and other nearby-sourced artisan produce. Using around 70 organic ingredients, I could also look forward to unfamiliar-to-me Lovage, Nasturtium or Rainbow Chards amongst more familiar garden produce apparently. I’m in!
I was intrigued to try as many things as our pre-booked dinner allowed and our brilliant waitress didn’t object when I suggested that instead of one bottle of one type of wine, could we perhaps try different wines they offered by the glass, and pair them with our three-course dinner choices.
Waiting for our starters to appear, I curiously examined a ‘funny-looking’, unfamiliar dark-coloured thing on a small plate, covered with a glass lid. Our waitress finally shed the light ‘that thing’ to be a beef dripping butter. My carnivorous tasting buds later revealed that it was rather moore-ish, with Pointer’s own sourdough bread.We were also treated to a little Amuse Bouche surprise of a creamy pea and cucumber soup before the first course too. I felt spoilt already and we haven’t even started properly.
Our starters and the first glasses of white wine arrived. My Scottish husband simply had to go for the Mini Scotch Egg made with black pudding and served with mustard mayonnaise. I chose Clare Island Smoked Salmon with Pointer’s heritage beetroot, horseradish creme fraiche, nasturtium, watercress and pumpernickel. We both literally hoovered it and washed those delights down with a light and crisp glass of Coopers Creek Pinot Gris from New Zealand.
I was told that the owners, David and Fiona Howden are passionate advocates of ethical and sustainable farming practices. We missed the opening hours of Pointer’s own butcher’s shop, so we also got to taste their charcuterie board offerings of Peppered Middle White Pork Salami, Lamb Sagi, Air Dried Venison, Potted Middle White Pork and Longhorn Beef Cured in Red Wine.
Main courses continued to be even more of the meaty affairs. I went for Ludgershall New Season Lamb, served with baby aubergine, ratatouille vegetables, sheep’s curd and balsamic reduction. Husband went for the Grilled Pointer Farm Longhorn Beef Rib Eye Steak, probably the longest name for a beef steak, worthy of the king, I thought. The chips on the side were cooked in dripping and apparently the ‘best he ever tasted’ and also accompanied by onion rings, roast cherry tomatoes and Bearnaise sauce. Our fantastic waitress suggested to pair the mains with Italian Ducale Salice Salentino or South African Buitenverwachting Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. I think we ended up tasting both in our glasses, one at the time or so does my iPhone pictures suggest.
At this point, my other half became concerned that he was too stuffed to have a dessert. I was not to be beaten by the same concern and powered through. The delicious sounding Sticky Medjool Date Pudding was indeed delicious and served with butterscotch sauce, milk & honey ice cream. Paired with a tiny glass of Pedro Ximenez San Emilio dessert wine, I only just about managed to finish my plate.
We waddled over to the cosy pub section of Pointer, next to the fireplace and for some frivolous reason, I ended up rocking in the rocking chair, with my leftover dessert wine. I was simply compelled by the late-night, quiet and romantic country pub atmosphere.
We had an excellent sleep in the Hypnos beds, topped with feather and down White Company duvets and pillows. The outside was super quiet all night, not even the foxes or cats made any sounds, unlike outside my London’s house. In the morning I found the book Hobbit in the bedside table drawer. This could not get any cooler or endearing in here.
The next morning, we continued to be spoilt by the same amazing waitress at our generous breakfast, included in our overnight stay. The gorgeous breakfast display of the organic and locally baked, grown and produced foodie goodies was enriched by a truly brilliant addition: Virgin ‘Bloody’ Mary making station, together with Berocca and the headache tablets. Just brilliant.
During breakfast I discovered that this multi-award winning pub and restaurant even won the award for their baby-changing area – it is a really cute-looking, little alcove – and they have their own ethically sourced natural wax Pointer Candles with a blend of rose geranium, frankincense and vetivert pure essential oils.
After several sips of the coffee and freshly pressed orange juice, watermelon bites and delicious Eggs Benedict and Eggs Florentine, served with the fluffiest Hollandaise sauce, we realised that we might never leave this charming place, so we better drove off, against our will, just as it started drizzling but not before we viewed the local famous windmill landmark. Have I mentioned that any shopaholic fashionista staying here only has to drive 10 minutes to Bicester Village?
- The Pointer Pub & Restaurant’s rooms start from £130 a night on a B&B basis. More info at http://thepointerbrill.co.uk/