First past The Winning Post
Bounding around Berkshire in search of pubby perfection? I saddled up for a 3-course nosebag and a comfy sleepover at The Winning Post, Winkfield.
Saddle up! We’re off to The Winning Post in Winkfield a classic country pub surrounded by polo fields, riding schools and within trotting distance of Windsor and Ascot Racecourses. It’s an idyllic spot that would be right at home in Jilly Cooper novel – just add good looking outdoorsy types, wearing jodhpurs and carrying a riding crop. Back in the real world, this 18th century red brick boozer has all the essentials – open fires, well-worn wooden tables, tweed and a hearty menu of great pub classics. It belongs to The Upham Group’s stable of pubs and inns (including The Bunk Inn in Curridge, West Berkshire), all oozing character and with a reputatioon for first-rate service.
They’ve pulled off the trick of making you feel at home whether you’re a local popping in for a pint or a tourist looking for a quintessential base camp if you’re Windsor Castle, Legoland or Royal Ascot bound. We visited on a Friday night and the place was packed and buzzing with a mix of customers, with couples young and old, families, kids (and dogs) all tucking in. The beamed dining room, with its flagstone floors and fireplace, is cosy and rustic rather than overly trendy or try-hard, while the service was faultlessly warm and friendly.
Lucky for me, a sleepover was on the cards. There are 10 en-suite B&B rooms (eight doubles and two twins) to choose from, some with doors onto cute guests’ garden (no tipsy trespassers here). The decor in our room was blend of soothing greys, duck egg blue and creams, but there are some that have a sexier edge with a bold floral wallpaper and oodles of green velvet. If you’re keen to bring your bow wow bestie, Rooms 17 and 18 are particularly dog-friendly. Make sure you save room for the Full English… I instantly had food envy. The pastries and fruit I chose were very nice but the lure of sausage and egg was strong.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Thoughtfully put together, the menu is modern British but with some quirky touches. It’s divided into snacks, sharing platters, then the usual starters, mains plus a specials board, with an impressive cheese selection to close.
Mr Muddy is very much an anti sharer when it comes to food but he’s clearly gone soft in his old age. We plumped for a fishy Friday seafood platter. It’s served on a wooden board with a carb-a-licious hunks of bread and a selection of whitebait, scampi, grilled prawns and smoked salmon. Plenty of Marie Rose sauce to dip into and a bowl of olives and peppers. It’s not the most sophisticated starter, but it was delicious. The perfect meal for the indecisive.
Onward… Pork tenderloin, homemade garlic sausage (seriously good), hasselback potato and greens, which had the soothing effect I was hoping for. The perfect ‘there there’ meal after a busy week. Mr M had a classic rib eye steak, which was a little underdone for his taste but got hoovered up regardless. Clean plates are all the praise you need, to be honest.
In a shock move, we even shared a cheese board. I don’t even recognise us right now. A delicious selection of British cheeses with loads of crackers. So often the cheese-cracker ratio is waaaay off because of a stinginess of the one thing you need to transport the cheesy goodness into your mouth,. Not here. The food has a gastropub flair but zero pretension. It’s a pubby gem to put on your hit list.
OUT AND ABOUT
You’re spoilt for choice in this beautiful corner of the country. How about a mosey around Windsor Great Park? Then head to Windsor Castle for a poke around the Queen’s crash pad. If you’ve got the kids in tow, Legoland’s just down the road. Gloriously kid free? A hedonistic day out at the polo or races, gives you a chance to put on a frock and knock back the fizz.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Relaxed family or group lunches, casual date nights and it also makes a great base camp if you’re in the area to explore the Berkshire.
Not for: Anyone hoping for a minimalist interior and/or total anonymity. This is a friendly hangout where locals are happy to share their knowledge of – and clear love for – the local area.
The damage: Reasonable for this neck of the woods – starters and puds are around £7, with mains £15-£16. Plus there’s a kids menu, bar menu (the scotch eggs are lush).