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In the words of The Telegraph food critic Zoe Williams, the Pointer in Brill is every bit as gastro as it is a pub. Famed for its farm-fresh vegetables and knockout flavours, delivered by the highly talented Mini Patel, it’s fast becoming something of a sensation. And the judges of the Menu of the Year award couldn’t agree more.
Perched on top of the Chilterns, the Pointer is located in the picturesque village of Brill on the Hill, in the centre of the Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire countryside.
Owners Fiona and David Howden bought the pub – previously known as the Red Lion Brill – from Greene King in May 2011. Their goal was simple: to create a real village pub.
The judges of this award fell in love with the concept of the Pointer – a country pub, restaurant, butchers and delicatessen. However, its claim to serve simple and seasonal food and drink belies Patel’s skills. With a CV boasting roles at Cotswold House hotel, Claridge’s and the Connaught in London and Rockpool restaurant in Sydney with Neil Perry, Patel has developed an elegant style.
Working at the Pointer, Patel finds himself surrounded by a host of new friends, including Paul Gough, estates manager, and stockman Jamie Brewer, who looks after the cattle and pigs. The farm has 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 Hampshire Down sheep and 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.
The brigade at the Pointer has 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, Pointer farm pea soup with poached Cacklebean farm egg and garlic croutons and gnocchi with peas, sheeps’ curd, yellow courgettes, tomato and Pointer farm leaves.
“Our attitude to food is pretty straightforward,” Patel told The Caterer last year. “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.”
Such attention to sourcing is why 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 – and a Menu of the Year Catey to boot – will inevitably spread.
What the judges said
“The Pointer menu stood out among particularly strong competition this year for a number of reasons, but primarily because it reflects the passions, not only of head chef Mini Patel, but also of the owners, farmers and gardeners. The team create a real field-to-fork operation with clear provenance. Dishes reflect the passion and desire to produce quality pub food utilising excellent ingredients.”
“I think that restaurants like the Pointer are so important for the sustainability of the communities that surround them. In a perfect world, everything would work like this.”
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- Giovanna Grossi Group area manager, AA Hotel & Hospitality Services
- Rob Kirby Chef-director, Lexington Catering
- Jeremy Lee Head chef, Quo Vadis
- Bruno Loubet Chef-patron, Grain Store
- James Mackenzie Chef-proprietor, the Pipe and Glass Inn
- David Moore Owner, Pied à Terre
- Michael Raffael Food writer
- Jennifer Sharp Freelance writer
- Clare Smyth Former chef-patron, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
- Stephen Toman Chef-patron, Ox