Spectacular food sourced from a bountiful locale is a formula that’s drawing in the townies. Lisa Jenkins reports
On top of the Chilterns, 10 minutes from well-known designer outlet Bicester Village, is the Pointer, located in the picturesque village of Brill. Known locally as Brill on the Hill, the town is perched in the centre of the Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire countryside.
Fiona and David Howden bought the pub – then known as the Red Lion Brill – from Greene King in May 2011. Having lived and farmed in the local area for well over a decade, their goal was to create a ‘real’ village pub.
The town dates back some 80,000 years to the Paleolithic period and Mini Patel, the new head chef at the Pointer, takes obvious delight in creating some beautiful dishes with the ingredients picked from the ancient soil at the Howdens’ nearby Pointer Farm.
The Pointer is a country pub, a restaurant, butchers and delicatessen. It serves simple and seasonal food and drink.
Patel’s CV includes chef roles at the dining room at the Cotswold House hotel, Claridge’s and the Connaught in London and Rockpool restaurant in Sydney with Neil Perry.
At the Pointer he finds himself with a host of new friends, including Paul Gough, estates manager, and stockman Jamie Brewer, who looks after the cattle and pigs. The farm has a herd of 120 pedigree Longhorns and a mixture of Middle White,Tamworth-Kune Kune cross, pure Tamworth and pure Kune Kune sows and boars. It also has 30 Hampshire Down sheep and 50 free-range chickens for eggs.
The Pointer’s butchers, managed by farmer and butcher Jon Wilkins and his wife, is at the heart of the village and provides a range of quality meat and charcuterie, sold alongside fresh fruit and vegetables from the farm.
Patel and the team find themselves with access to over 70 organic ingredients grown and nurtured by Gough. Patel is able to create an ever-changing and essentially British menu with some twists, including items such as the Pointer farm salad with baby shoots, flowers and truffle dressing (£7), Pointer farm pea soup with poached Cacklebean farm egg and garlic croutons (£7), Pointer farm Longhorn rib-eye steak with beef dripping chips (£25) and gnocchi with peas, sheeps’ curd, yellow courgettes, tomato and Pointer farm leaves (£15).
“Our attitude to food is pretty straightforward,” says Patel. “We cook what is best on the day, using the seasonal produce we either grow ourselves on our farm or obtain from local markets and suppliers.
“All our meat comes from our own livestock herds and neighbouring farms and, if from further afield, from farmers who genuinely believe in good food that you can actually taste.
The chef is obviously inspired by his surroundings and it would be hard not to be. He says his focus at the Pointer is to showcase the sustainability and quality of the ingredients in his dishes.
The pub uses 14 other small farms and suppliers to create its menus, including Arlington eggs direct from Cacklebean farm, Wellocks for extra dry goods and New Wave Seafood for the freshest south-coast fish.
The bar menu is popular with locals too, and accounts for around 15%-20% of total food sales, adds Patel. “We’ve had a complete overhaul of the menus and service since I started in December 2014.
Treacle tart, bergamot, buttermilk sorbet
“Although we are essentially a pub, we would like to think we offer something for everyone. The locals are with us, whether it’s for a special occasion or just a quick visit for our butchers’ sausages and mashed potato.”
The menu lists the variety of ingredients supplied by the Pointer farm, including globe and violet artichokes, rainbow chard, Sweetheart strawberries and Green Zebra tomatoes. The bread is served in a paper bag held closed with a wooden peg. The twisted homemade savoury muffins and sourdough breads are offered with beef dripping or salted butter.
The Pointer looks set to become a destination pub restaurant. With its regular Big Pig Gig events, where they serve a whole pig, and weekly average covers of 300-400 guests, news of Patel’s creativity and skill will inevitably spread.
From the menu
- Cornish lobster with Green Zebra tomato, fennel and smoked paprika mayonnaise, £12
- Pointer farm potted pork with baby pickles and toast, £7
- Cornish day boat hake with Brixham crab, violet artichokes and heritage potatoes, 19
- Middle White pork belly with Anna potato, Pointer farm vegetables, Mr Hawes’ gooseberries and scrumpy juices, £17
- Michel Cluizel’s Elianza Noir milk chocolate bar with Elysium black muscat and caramelised banana, £8
- Oakley village elderflower and lemon posset with pistachio and lemon drizzle cake, £7
27 Church Street, Brill, Buckinghamshire HP18 9RT