Wylde Loves: The Pointer at Brill
It's a dog's life at this idyllic Buckinghamshire gem...
Report by David Newton
What a discovery! I don’t really want to alert many more people to this gem of a pub-restaurant-with-rooms set in the gorgeous postcard-English village of Brill, but I fear I may be onto a losing streak, as it’s evidently already something of a destination.
The Pointer opened in 2011, chiefly as a way for its new owners Fiona and David Howden to sell and serve produce from their nearby farm and their “empire” is expanding organically to include a butchers next door and four guest rooms in a converted cottage over the road.
The charming pub sign that greets you features a beaming black Pointer dog (although the name originally referred to the local Pointer family) and this doggy theme runs throughout all areas of the business, adorning pictures, paper bags, scented candles and even the sunshades in the beer garden out the back. There’s a very careful attention to detail running though this place that is so well judged it brands the establishment but stops short of being annoying and invasive. I loved it.
I’m reluctant to divulge how easy it was to get to Brill village from London… but we arrived after a hassle-free 50 minute drive along the M40 that was so stress-free we jumped out of the car, got our room keys from the pub and set off on a bracing country walk with Dylan the Basset Hound to the fantastically picturesque local windmill. We’d brought the pooch along to test out the pub/restaurant/rooms’ dog-friendly policy and we – and Dylan – weren’t disappointed. In the bedroom (ours was on street level) there was a comfy dog bed and water bowl and in the entrance to the Pointer over the road were more bowls – one filled to the brim with dog biscuits; we had to drag Dylan away from it!
But what is there for two-legged visitors? Put simply: gastronomic heaven in a comfortably-rustic, yet efficiently modern setting. My old-fashioned parents would love The Pointer, but I did too, with my cosmopolitan leanings! We analysed to death what it was we loved about the cooking and we decided that, although “traditional”, it lacked the inept execution of our childhoods (over-cooked meats and over-boiled veg) and travelled even farther back in time to deliver culinary delights the (wealthier) Elizabethans would recognise. My roast grouse main course came with Savoy cabbage, game chips, bread sauce and juniper gravy, plus an intense, almost-black “rest-of-the-bird” dollop of sauce that awoke the palate. Pure British Autumn on a plate. My companion, being a diehard red-meat fan had no other choice than to sample the Pointer Farm Longhorn Beef Ribeye Steak. The fact that the beast had lived a presumably happy life within a mile of the restaurant is a plus-point that translates powerfully to the plate and the "perfect" steak came accompanied by nothing fancier than chips cooked in dripping, roasted cherry tomatoes, onion rings and béarnaise sauce. Retro, yes… but to a Berni Inn’s offerings what the Mona Lisa is to a biro scribble.
Our starters had been the Pointer Farm Pork Terrine (usually served with piccalilli, but changed at my companion’s request to a “superb” onion marmalade) and my Tartare of Longhorn Beef (above): simple, tangy, delicious.
I’m a fan of the tangy and my dessert, the Lemon Meringue Pie (below) – a childhood favourite – was a sharp-sweet delight, accompanied by lemon sorbet and lemon verbena purée, to bring this classic up to date. My companion had a seasonal treat: the Pear and Blackberry Tart, served with cider sorbet and set cream. It was as delicious as it sounds.
How can I recommend this place further? This visit had been provided gratis by The Pointer but we hadn’t even finished eating before we were thinking of reasons in the near future when we could come back and happily pay for future meals. It really is that good. We calculated the meal we had had would have costed us about £55 each… that was for three courses and a bottle of wine. We were thinking of “reasons” because, for us, The Pointer is a destination restaurant that we would travel the 50 minutes outside London to, and, despite the deceptively homely and cosy vibe, it’s a Special Occasion place. We’d probably stay over the road again, as the drinks selection here is seriously good…from pre-dinner cocktails to the dessert wines. The four guest rooms continue the cosy-with-all-mod-cons theme. I particularly loved the bathroom (below), which strikes the perfect balance between rustic functionality (flagstone floors, rough tiling round the butler’s sink basins, grainy wood shelving) and urban demands (shiny modern taps/shower fittings, amazingly good water pressure). There’s good WiFi, needless to say.
We all slept soundly on our comfortable beds, the humans ones replete with lush White Company bedlinen, while Dylan snored gently beside us on his doggy bed on the floor… all three of us awaking refreshed! Back over the road for breakfast; we had cereals, freshly-squeezed orange juice, followed by a magnificent, traditional Full English (see demolished version below). Vegetarians are amply catered for throughout the Pointer's menus – I had been sorely tempted by the previous evening's Sweetcorn and Mushroom Risotto – although vegans will most likely struggle. It's no surprise that the pub and restaurant are rapidly garnering awards; just before our visit The Pointer was named County Dining Pub of the Year, Buckinghamshire in The Good Pub Guide 2018, and the Guardian has just declared its Sunday lunch one of the Best 50 in Britain.
So it seems that, far from The Pointer being a secret I'd like to keep, I've just caught up in time to enjoy this amazing place. Will we be back? Absolutely!
Tuesday to Thursday 12:00 – 23:00
Friday & Saturday 12:00 – 24:00
Sunday 12:00 – 22:00
Tuesday to Saturday 12:00 – 14:30
Sunday 12:30 – 17:00
Tuesday to Thursday 18:30 – 21:00
Friday and Saturday 18:30 – 22:00
Set menu. The Farm Menu offers one course, £17.50, two courses
£18 and three courses, £22.50
Dogs are welcome in the Bar.
Covers – 60 inside and 30 in the garden
The Butchers’ Shop opening times
Wednesday to Friday: 2.30pm – 6.30pm and on Saturdays 9.00am – 2.00pm
Rooms and facilities
Four rooms with Super Kingsize Hypnos beds, two can be separated into twin beds. Hungarian goose down duvets, linens by The White Company, flatscreen TV, complimentary Wi-Fi, high pressure showers, freestanding slipper baths, Bramley toiletries. Wheelchair access available in downstairs rooms
Room rates per night
Doubles/twin rooms all from £130 a night, on a B&B basis.
Children can be also accommodated but linen is not provided. Dogs can stay in two of the bedrooms at an additional charge of £20 per dog per night.
By Car - Brill is 15 miles east of Oxford and seven miles from Bicester Village. From central London, the journey time is around 1hr 15 minutes by car. Heathrow Airport is an hour's drive away.
Car parking – Free street parking is available on both side of the lane outside The Pointer.