A meaty affair at the Herd in Pangbourne
When I mentioned to my friend and business partner that we had an invitation to review a steak restaurant at The Elephant Hotel in Pangbourne he sounded somewhat surprised. He told me he’d been there a few years earlier when it was a Thai restaurant and had no idea it had changed ownership. In fact, it seems The Herd is a well-kept secret at the moment. I doubt it will stay that way and recommend you go sooner rather than later to try for yourself.
The high-ceilinged dining room has a large fireplace at one end. Over-sized chairs round rustic wooden tables give an almost Gothic atmosphere to the place. We sat sipping a house cocktail (Bombay Sapphire, prosecco, elderflower cordial, mint and cucumber) and a glass of prosecco while we checked out the menu and obsessed over the meat knives…
While it’s obvious that steak is the main event at The Herd, there are actually a good number of alternatives and even a few vegetarian options. It’s a simple menu but well thought out. I could see plenty of options that would have worked for me if I hadn’t already set my heart on something from the ‘fire’ section. And, it was the theatre which tempted me. I wanted to see the show and feel the fire.
In the end, we agreed to share a tomahawk steak, something I’ve always hesitated to do before, veering towards a leaner fillet steak. But, sharing steaks are always special.
We ordered starters too.
Gin and beetroot cured salmon for me, which they make in-house was delicious – a garnish of caper berries and pickled cucumber set off the dish of chunky morsels of cured salmon very well.
Asparagus with a poached egg and rocket for my companion, arrived in Instagram-ready perfection – and looked delicious. The kind of egg dish that even I would indulge in, with a soft oozing yolk complementing the perfectly cooked fresh asparagus.
Before our starters even arrived, the main event was brought out, the trophy of the night. A large silver dome on a wooden board was walked ceremoniously to the front of the room and placed on the table in front of the fire.
Our Tomahawk lay in state under the dome, waiting to be sacrificed. The Romanian chef prepared it for the fire, basting it and seasoning before putting it onto the hottest part of the grill. And just as our starters arrived, the Tomahawk was grilled carefully – seared, then moved slightly off stage to cook to a perfect medium rare.
I watched the chef checking the internal temperature of the meat with a thermometer before moving it to rest.
What eventually arrived at our table after the starters was, according to my companion, the best steak he’s eaten outside of London.
The careful preparation, wood-fired grill and long resting really helped. The exterior of the steak had that delicious char while the middle was still a perfect medium rare, hot through and with all the marbling melted to create a soft, tender and deliciously flavoured mouthful. The Herd uses Red Sussex beef from the Royal Windsor farms – so, we were eating beef fit for royalty. Their menu advises that the breed is an old English one, from the forests of Kent. And this ancient breed is believed to be the origin of many of the well known British breeds – Hereford, Welsh, Devon and Highland. And, I can attest to their claim that it produces a wonderful marbled beef whilst having a very relaxed temperament, ideal for a tender steak.
Served with fries and a few garnishes, it’s a simple yet delicious main course.
Neither of us really had space for dessert, but somehow we managed to share a traditional trifle.
Throughout the meal, we drank a perfectly matched bottle of Acordeon Tupungato Malbec from Mendoza which is priced at a reasonable £27 a bottle.. While the food is priced to reflect the high quality, the wine list offers a good range of options without a London mark-up.
We really enjoyed The Herd and I’d be more than happy to dine here again. Just ten minutes on the train from Reading, it’s the kind of place that we will visit again for a special occasion or client entertaining. And, I have a strange feeling I’ll be ordering a Tomahawk again when that happens.
01189 842 244
I don’t know of a London restaurant which offers a wood fired grill – but for a similar type of steak with a good char, I’d recommend The Coal Shed, Tower Bridge. Or, just take the train to Pangbourne (it’s only 25 minutes to Reading, then 10 minutes further on to Pangbourne!)