Review: The Pointer, Brill
"Desserts are exemplary – a crumbly lemon meringue pie a particular highlight"
Some restaurant features are easier to write than others. I’ve tried my damndest to do justice in print to dozens of eating establishments – and in particular, rural dining pubs – over the past few years, and there is something that at this point, I’d like to admit: a lot of them are, essentially, close to identical. They have real ales. One or two of these are from the local brewery. They buy seasonal produce. They offer modern British food. In their dining rooms, there are exposed beams and flagstone floors. They serve gin in balloon glasses, and garnish with mint leaves and juniper berries. It’s all warmly familiar.
None of this is a criticism; it’s a beautiful formula, and I’m not arguing for wacky innovation for its own sake. Quite the opposite: the ubiquity of this type of place means that when one truly stands out from the crowd, it’s all the more impressive.
Enter The Pointer. I’m not even going to attempt to give off an air of balanced argument or detached criticism: this place is absolutely fabulous on every conceivable level – from the unusually spacious table layouts to the flawlessly attentive and palpably engaged front-of-house staff, and from the bold flavours on the plates to the satisfying weight of the cutlery you enjoy them with.
The menu is concise and relies heavily on ingredients sourced either from The Pointer’s in-house, 200-acre farm and kitchen garden or from similarly traditional operations around the Buckinghamshire-Oxfordshire border. You have five starters, five mains and five desserts to choose from, but don’t think that this makes settling on a choice any easier. After aching over my decision for a good while longer than is strictly acceptable, I settled on a fantastically dense pork terrine topped with light-as-air popcorn-style crackling, delicately presented with a fiercely acidic piccalilli that’s laced with crispy endive – a glorious contrast of textures and flavours.
On the other side of the table, there was beef tartare spiked with wild leeks, with an egg yolk purée and translucent-thin sourdough wafers. The presentation is thoughtful rather than indulgent, and the ingredients complementary rather than pushy.
Onto the mains and the levels remain high. A pearly, sweet fillet of hake falls apart over a satisfyingly salty chowder dotted with alexanders and gem lettuce leaves. Thick cuts of grouse come with a fragrant juniper gravy that you wish came by the half-pint, and fondant potatoes caramelised to the point of nearindecency. Chips are cooked in beef dripping and the aromas leave you weak.
Desserts are exemplary – a crumbly lemon meringue pie a particular highlight – but aside from the food, The Pointer’s wine list takes some beating. I had the good fortune to try the remarkable Dinton Folly sparkling wine, produced less than ten miles away. It’s better than the vast majority of champagnes, and at £35 a bottle, is a no-brainer. A number of very good bottles are available below the £30 mark. The food is not cheap – mains hover around £25 – but with a three-course set menu on offer for £22.50, it really is left to you to decide how lavish you want to go.
There may be many which attempt the same thing, but very few deliver like this – with The Pointer, Brill is truly blessed.
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