Sometimes it is difficult to believe how much natural beauty can thrive
not all that far from the urban distraction of London. One of the prime
examples is a parcel of countryside of Outstanding Natural Beauty in
the heart of the Surrey Hills where a large private estate and an even
larger National Trust interest have combined their 5,000 acres to
preserve and enhance the best.
Eating here is a fun business with not too much in the way of
formality, but proper attention paid to the two main menus, one of
which is the daily blackboard that cheerfully blurs the cut off point
between starters and more substantial dishes. A toasted panini with a
mug of fresh home made soup can look - and taste - like nectar after a
strenuous day's walking in the surrounding hills. Warm black pudding
and bacon salad, pan fried lamb sweetbreads with tartare sauce, or a
traditional pork pie with piccalilli fire up the tastebuds, before
moving on to wild boar and apple sausages with traditional mash and
onion gravy, free range Sussex White chicken breast, and every Sunday
the customary range of roasts with trimmings.
Homely dishes like rabbit pie and pigeon breasts mingle with the
classics such as Abinger watercress soup or corn beef hash and are all
part of Chef Simon Adams repertoire, who uses nothing but the best for
his home made cuisine.
Every evening except Sundays and Mondays a dinner menu is available,
with a choice from four starters, say poached pear, blue cheese salad
and caramelised hazelnuts, or chicken liver parfait with red onion
marmalade and granary toast. Main courses of braised South Downs lamb
shank with roast garlic and parsley mash, fillet of pollock with a
poppy seed crust, or an Aberdeen Angus rib eye steak with horseradish
layered potatoes can be followed after a decent interval with perhaps
apple and lavender crumble and clotted cream.
This is the sort of place where cheese seems to belong and their
farmhouse selection served with quince paste and crackers has put the
final piece in place for many a hearty trencher who has come here to
refuel body and mind. Well, not quite the final piece - that belongs to
the Stephan Langton fudge that comes with tea or coffee.
Host Chris Robinson was born in Dublin, a fact that is reflected in
the fine range of Irish whiskeys; his co-host is Rosie. Scotland is not
forgotten and fine single malts grace the bar. Well kept Surrey Hill's
Brewery's Shere Drop and the New Dorking Brewery's DB1 bring determined
men from afar, and Old Rosie Scrumpy needs treating with respect.
Some 30 bins generate a healthy interest from those who like their
wines, both old world and new. A recent addition prompting much
interest, from Argentina, is an organic Sangiovise. Described as 'deep
in colour, rich in flavour and has a certain spiciness', it also
happens to be extremely good value for money. Some 23 of their wines
are available by the glass, and in different sized ones as well, how's
that for choice?