THE VILLAGE INN at Buriton in Hampshire was a random choice for an overnight stay. The Mrs B had bought me a day's falconry at Compton nearby, and we had to stay overnight to be there on time the following day.
The inn had clearly had a recent makeover: it was full of beautifully distressed furniture and thoughtful little touches - like the hand-made felt duck on the windowsill of our bedroom and the Taschen photography book on the coffee table in front of the fire in the bar.
The drive had taken two hours, so we decided to dine in - and I'm so glad we did.
The menu's big feature was organic Macduff beef from Scotland, grilled over oak and hickory lump wood charcoal. But me and the Mrs B are slightly off red meat just for the moment, so I settled for Portobello mushroom soup and fish pie.
I could tell from the first sip of the soup that the chef was no ordinary pub cook. This was classical: the soup was made from a really good stock, and it had cream and (probably) brandy in it. It was very smooth and it looked as if the mushrooms had been hand diced by somebody who knew what they were doing. Excellent!
The fish pie was even better. It had a crusty cheese topping, with creamed (not merely mashed) potato, a light and creamy sauce and large, perfectly cooked lumps of fish. It is incredibly easy to get fish pie wrong: lumpy potato, overcooked fish, overpowering sauce - I've had them all. When I mentioned to the manager that the Inn's fish pie was 'better than Scotts in Mayfair', she told the chef and he dropped by to say hello.
Heinrich Boreniok is chef patron at The Village Inn. Raised in Franconia in North Bavaria, he is a longstanding member of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts and holds a Master Chef Diploma. That's interesting, but not as interesting as the fact that he was a prodigy of the great Anton Edelmann at The Savoy Hotel in London before becoming the youngest Maitre Chef in the history of the famous L'Ecu de France in St James's.
He went on to work with Bob Peyton at Stapleford Park in Leicestershire, and was then Executive Chef at the Naval and Military Club - affectionally known as the In and Out - on Piccadilly, and latterly St James's Square.
In chef terms, he is a member of the aristocracy - classically trained in the Escoffier tradition - and he is now running a pub in a tiny village in Hampshire. Like people do in the hospitality trade, we chatted about who we knew and Heinrich very quickly cottoned on to the fact that I'm fond of French classical cooking. He is such a nice guy.
So, this is just to say that if you're out that way stop by. It isn't the cheapest pub food you'll ever eat, but I'll guarantee you that it will be among the best.
And in a world in which chefs turn up for interview unable to fillet a fish or dismantle a pig because the usable parts have always turned up ready prepared in plastic bags, we really ought to give guys like Heinrich a leg up. Even the tartare sauce on the Mrs B's fish and chips was home made (in most other places it would have been out of a jar). And - red meat ban notwithstanding - we had to have the sausage for breakfast because it was made to Heinrich's own Bavarian recipe. It was, of course, wonderful.