Discovering a new pub is always an exciting experience particularly when you stumble upon one that comes complete with its own purpose-built butcher’s shop. It’s doubly exciting when you discover that the proprietor runs a farm down the road and it’s his livestock and vegetables that are sold in the shop and feature on the menu.
I am talking about The Pointer, a newly-renovated pub in the centre of the charming red-brick village of Brill. There has been a pub on this site since the 1700s, though some parts of this amazing cluster of buildings date back to the days of Agincourt. David Howden who runs a farm down the road took it over about a year ago.
As it’s a listed building, the renovations that David envisaged to bring an old and rather shabby village pub back to life, called for a painstaking brick by brick rebuild, rescuing ancient walls and old stonework, restoring old beams and pulling the whole collection of outbuildings and bars into an atmospheric whole, fit for the 21st century. His vision, which has been realised, was to create a pub that would act as the hub of the village, providing a place the small Brill community could meet, enjoy a drink and a meal, and also purchase fresh bread cooked in the pub kitchen along with local meat and vegetables.
Changing the name from the Red Lion to The Pointer was met with some hostility at first, but David has actually taken it back to its original name thought to have been chosen by the Cubbidge family who first sold ale there hundreds of years ago. David chose his chef Roger Hawkshaw because of his enthusiasm. “Roger is proving a real asset. He not only helped in the design of the open-plan kitchen adjacent to the dining room, but rejoiced in the finished product. He was so thrilled when he saw the finished results that he punched the air with joy,” said David, who is delighted that Roger is keen to start his day by baking bread for the shop. The menu Roger devises is written up every day as the choice of dishes depends on what the farm can supply. Indeed on Sunday the menu choice is limited to one Sunday roast, a fish and a vegetarian dish, but the meat is local, the vegetables freshly harvested and the fish is delivered fresh from the coast the night before. David’s intention is for customers to enjoy a long lazy lunch created from the best fresh ingredients he can produce.
The butcher’s shop is only open three afternoons a week and is run by David’s friend a farmer/ butcher Jon Wilkins. Together he and David have been building up a thriving herd of English Longhorn cattle as well as a sizable family of rare breed pigs. They will also be selling air-dried hams, salamis, and sausages prepared from their Tamworth pigs, along with fresh season produce that sells in local farms and markets.
One of their beers by the way has been specially brewed for the pub by the XT Brewing Company which operates just down the road near Thame. Obviously they call it The Pointer, and having tasted it last week, I can guarantee it is a great pint — indeed at 3.8% abv this amber-coloured beer makes for the perfect lunchtime drink. An agreement between David and the brewers means that he gets to take their leftover grains and yeast to feed their Longhorn cattle.
The Pointer is very atmospheric. The staff were friendly and helpful, the décor stylish and the food exceptional. The butcher’s shop was an unexpected bonus, which I am confident will act as the magic ingredient to help this pub prosper.