Albert Arms

Albert Arms is another one of those places I kind of knew it existed but didn’t really know much about it and didn’t clock that it was an option for dining out. When they invited me for lunch I was most intrigued, I hadn’t even realised they did food.

Better still, it’s an independent pub that has been in the same family for 40 years. There’s even a boutique hotel in the mews, who knew?

albert arm's esher exterior

You enter into a roomy space with a unique horseshoe shaped bar (a nod to nearby Sandown racecourse?). This is a pub that takes its beer very seriously. They’ve just won pub of the year for their area by the Campaign for Real Ale and this year they have pledged to served 200 guest ales.

The bar area is popular and gets very busy at peak times. But enough about that, we were here for the food.

albert arm's esher bar

There’s a sophisticated feeling dining area to the rear of the bar. It’s a Goldilocks size with lots of windows that create a nice, bright space. There were a good number of people in for lunch, which created a buzzy atmosphere.

albert arm's esher dining area

On the way to the roof terrace we discovered the location for our next mum’s night Christmas party, a private room that will hold all 50 of us.

albert arm's esher private room

There’s a cosy rooftop terrace that’s shielded from traffic noise by the front section of the building. It seems to be an afternoon sun trap.

Most impressive of all, meat is sourced weekly from their own farm in Somerset that raises rare breeds – Longhorn cattle, Gloucester Old Spot pigs and Black Leg chicken. The cattle live in a forest and dine on herbs and flowers, meat is then aged for at least 35 days which promises to give a completely unique flavour to their beef.

The Albert Arms clearly takes their steak very seriously and offers nine cuts of beef on their menu, along with several different types of sauce. Not that you need a sauce for steak this good.

albert arm's esher outdoor roof terrace

In addition to the steaks, the menu features more meats and several fish dishes, this is a carnivore’s paradise. There’s also a specials menu that changes frequently. Everything is cooked fresh to order and they will cater to any dietary needs.

Prices on the regular menu aren’t cheap but are in line with what you would expect to pay for this style and quality of food.

The Sunday Roast menu has a larger than average selection for a very good price – one course is £9.95. It also promises to be very child friendly with ‘table wide’ colouring competitions.

For starters, Bridget opted for the colourful Tricolore Tower £7.00 avocado, tomato and mozzarella with basil dressing. It was very fresh tasting with a lovely dressing.

albert arm's esher tricolore salad

I decided to order from the lunch menu, which is £7.00 for one course or £9.50 for two. For my starter I chose the Egg Florentine poached egg on a bed of spinach topped with parmesan shave. Wow, this was a Popeye portion of spinach and I certainly felt healthier for eating it all.

albert arm's esher egg florentine

We obviously couldn’t come to the Albert Arms and not have a steak. For her main Bridget had the 8oz fillet/tenderloin £23 with a Blue Cheese cream, stilton and parsley sauce £2.50 (The sauce comes served in a little jug.) The meat was incredibly tender, melt on your tongue yum. It’s amazing that a low fat fillet cut can be so flavourful.

albert arm's esher steak with blue cheese sauce

Steaks come served with a choice of potatoes but they were happy to substitute for a side salad. And what a big side salad it was, Bridget could only manage half of it.

albert arm's esher salad

For my lunch special main I selected the Baked cod fillet in Marinara sauce, sauce contains capers, black olives & cherry tomatoes. The fish was perfectly cooked and the sauce was just plain tasty. I loved every bite, and there were quite a few of those as it was a generous portion for a lunch serving.

albert arm's esher black cod

My lunch main also came with a choice of potato, naturally I went for the triple cooked chips. They were very good but I didn’t manage to get very far down the bucket. It sure was a whole lot of food for £9.50. I think this is one of the best value lunch menus around.

albert arm's esher chips

Despite my best intentions to be good to my waist and not order dessert, I couldn’t resist the tart of the week – chocolate and peach £5.00. Peaches, like scallops and beetroot, are another weakness of mine. This tart was yummy, more chocolate than peach but not too sweet.

albert arm's esher chocolate and peach tart

If you’re in the mood for steak, The Albert Arms is the place you’re looking for. Yet it offers much more, including great value lunch and Sunday roast menus. I am so glad I learned about it, my first visit most definitely won’t be my last.

82 High St, Esher, Surrey, KT10 9QS
www.albertarms.com
Town car park

We were guests of Albert Arms but this is no way biased our review.

Ye Olde Swan

Continuing with my quest of discovering Surrey’s oldest pubs, Jman and I decided the check out 13th century Ye Olde Swan in Thames Ditton.

It’s located right on the River Thames and before you go trying all those doors, the entrance is on the river side.

It’s part of The Old English Inns group, a very large chain made up of historic pubs and inns.

Ye Olde Swan exterior

Inside is a rambling place that seems to go on and on. There are at least four dining rooms, each with a good sized capacity. We chose to sit in the bar area, with nice old flag stone flooring and a great ancient fireplace (tucked away in the corner and so entirely missable.)

Ye Olde Swan bar

Choice seats are near the entrance, only a handful beside a wall of windows overlooking the river. This is a popular pub and you’d do well to nab one.

Ye Olde Swan best tables

The farthest room has a cosy vibe despite being a good size probably because of the exposed bricks and light coloured beams.

Ye Olde Swan downstairs dining room

There’s an upstairs dining area which is opened when the other areas are full. It’s not as characterful as the rest of the pub.

Not Sure I get a deeper sense of age from Ye Olde Swan, it’s old but somehow I was expecting older.

Ye Olde Swan upstairs seating

Outside is the really exciting bit. A large patio sits alongside the river with a mix of comfortable seats and picnic tables. Interestingly, they haven’t tried to cram as many tables as possible into the space so there’s a good feeling of space around each table. The only drawback is there’s an island offshore so the river isn’t very wide here.

Ye Olde Swan riverside patio

The menu is a fairly comprehensive chain pub assortment that’s guaranteed to have something for everyone plus daily specials.

We waited nearly 40 minutes for our food. When we asked where our food was the barman said ‘everyone came at once’, imagine that, being lunchtime and all. This pub has a very large seating capacity, it needs a kitchen to match. My tip is to get here early or come out of busy mealtime hours.

Jman decided on the ‘sharer’ Nachos covered with melted Barber’s 1833 vintage reserve cheddar, sour cream and chives, pico de gallo salsa and pomegranate seeds topped with hickory smoked beef brisket £7.99. Naturally he wasn’t interested in sharing any with me. He really enjoyed them, a nice mix of flavours and the pomegranate seeds were a snazzy addition.

Ye Olde Swan beef nachos

I had the daily special, scallops and bacon £5.99. I wish they’d had a fuller description of them, as they were quite impressive and surprised me when they arrived. They were on some sort of nicely textured pea puree and topped with crispy bacon and some sort of tasty green stuff. I loved this and in no way expected this sort of quality, especially for that price. My kudos to the chef.

Ye Olde Swan scallops

I had a side of sweet potato fries £2.49 to go with my scallops. I chose to eat all the scallops first since they are best freshly cooked. They had some sort of coating on them, which really caught the oil and I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get the taste out of my mouth.

Ye Olde Swan sweet potato fries

Ye Olde Swan is a solid pub and a particularly good spot for lounging by the river in the beautiful weather we’ve been having. And if scallops are on the specials menu order them!

Summer Road, Thames Ditton, Surrey, KT7 0QQ
www.oldenglishinns.co.uk/our-locations/the-ye-olde-swan-thames-ditton
Small car park
Dogs welcome in hard floor areas

The Alexander

When I picked my Canadian friend up from the airport it was only natural that the first thing she wanted to do was go to a pub. (Particularly since she writes a Toronto pub blog.) I chose to take her to The Alexander in Oatlands (Weybridge.)

The Alexander Weybridge exterior

Outside there’s a nice big outdoor space that doesn’t open up to a road (just the parking lot.)

Inside the pub runs in a relatively skinny chevron from the car park entrance, with windows running along one side or the other, there’s no dark, dank pub qualities here.

The Alexander Weybridge bar

Decor is a kind of updated take on shabby chic pub, up to date colours and a bit of whimsy coupled with all the nice big windows make for a cordial dining spot.

The menu changes daily, I like the ‘on this day’ and famous birthdays for each day. It has some nice sounding dishes, however as we were there for lunch we didn’t want a full big meal and there weren’t really any light lunch type items save for lentil soup. Lentils are my anti-beetroots. I will never, ever order anything with lentils.

The Alexander Weybridge seating area

Service was fine.

My friend, fresh off the plane from Canada and barely on breakfast time opted for the Great British cheeseboard with white graps, pear chutney & biscuits £8.50. As you can see it was nicely presented and a pretty good size, it made for a nice little lunch.

The Alexander Weybridge English cheese plate

I opted for the potato skins with sweet chilli and sour cream dips £5.50 from the bar snacks menu. Foolishly, for some reason (I think from a combination of the price and wishful thinking) I thought I was ordering North American style potato skins, like these, that can be passable as a lunch. Instead they were literally just the skins. They were very tasty and nicely presented but I’m not sure about the value for money.

The Alexander potato skins

I do like the interior of The Alexander and expect it is quite a nice spot for dinner or a Sunday lunch, however I’m not surprised we were the only ones in at lunchtime – they need a light lunch menu. The food we did have was good quality and nicely presented. I think it is worth a try when going out for a full meal.

139 Oatlands Drive, Weybridge, Surrey, KT13 9LA
www.thealexanderweybridge.co.uk
Car park
Dogs welcome

Stephan Langton

I’d heard rumours of The Stephan Langton on the fabled Friday Street in Abinger Common and had been saving it to take a Canadian houseguest to. Finally my first guest of the year arrived and so off we went.

Our drive became more and more rural until we finally turned onto Friday Street, a beautiful single lane track constrained by impossibly growing trees. A little way along and you reach a tiny hamlet with a pretty mill pond. About as middle of nowhere that Surrey gets, The Stephan Langton is on the lane that runs alongside the pond.

Stephan Langton pub surrey exterior

There are a few outdoor tables in front of the pub.

Inside is a different vibe to most Surrey pubs, neither gastropub nor old man’s pub, the Stephan Langton is still and welcoming, seemingly without notice of the outside world.

There’s a pleasant dining room. I suspect reservations are necessary on weekends, my tip is to request one of the two tables in the little alcove room with nice views to the outside.

Stephan Langton pub surrey dining room

There’s a small bar area full of rural charm and dog walkers. You can also reserve a table in this area, wise even on weekdays.

Service is informal, chatty and welcoming. We had a great laugh with our server, who was keen to help my carsick daughter’s mood.

Stephan Langton pub surrey bar

The menu changes constantly and promises the use of fresh and local ingredients, sometimes even including pheasant shot on the estate. There were many interesting items on the menu, including tuna lasagna and venison sausages. Prices were fair.

We both elected to have two courses from the starters menu, beginning with the pea and mint Homemade soup of the day (V) £4.95 Fresh bread & butter This was so yummy that my daughter, who had previously rejected any lunch on the basis of having a sore tummy, took one taste of mine and then demanded her own bowl – which she gobbled up.

Stephan Langton pub surrey  pea and mint soup

For the next course, Canadian Vikki selected the Smooth chicken liver & whiskey pate £6.95 homemade chutney and toast. It was highly enjoyable and the chutney was very tasty.

Stephan Langton pub surrey whisky pate

For my second dish, I went for the Roast beetroot, chorizo & pancetta salad £7.25 Roasted with local honey as I can’t resist beetroot on a menu. It was very nice, a larger portion than I had expected, it alone would have been filling enough for lunch.

Stephan Langton pub surrey  beetroot salad

Friday Street in Abinger Common is a perfect spot for a walk in the countryside and the Stephan Langdon is the perfect spot to relax in afterwards. This is one of the finest pub locations Surrey has to offer and the journey to it is as satisfying as the pub itself.

I love the setting. I love the atmosphere. I love the food. I love that their website still has a title page. I love this pub and will definitely be bringing all my Canadian visitors here.

Friday Street, Abinger Common, Dorking, Surrey, RH5 6JR
www.stephanlangtonpub.co.uk
Small car park, there’s also a car park just before the hamlet
Dogs welcomed with biscuits in the bar area

Square Meal

The Anchor Ripley

Mother’s day and of course my kids know I’d like nothing more than to go out for a meal. Unfortunately they’re too young to arrange this and so I took it upon myself to book us in for dinner at The Anchor in Ripley.

As seems to be the in thing these days, Michelin starred Drakes Restaurant acquired the centuries old pub in 2013 with a view to creating an unpretentious village pub.

DSC_5418

Inside is simply decorated, allowing the character of the ancient building to shine through. It’s made up of several smaller rooms, including a super cosy snug and a nice roaring fire.

The Anchor Ripley dining area

There’s also a courtyard with comfortable al fresco seating, not photographed as it was too dark, even darker than the food images.

Service is friendly but a little too relaxed, I like to linger over a meal but not over uncleared plates, hopefully this was down to the busy mother’s day rush.

DSC_5463

The mother’s day menu was all very tempting, which is how we ended up here in the first place. The set menu was two courses for £26 or three for £32 and was similar to their regular menu. Regular price mains range from £12-24 and there’s a set lunch menu of two coursese for £15 or three for 19.

I opted for a starter, the Beetroot salad, lemon dressing, pine nuts and goats cheese. I loved the assortment of beetroots and the pine nuts added a nice burst of flavour though I wasn’t convinced by goat’s cheese in grated form.

DSC_5424

For mains everyone but me chose the Roast sirloin of beef, Yorkshire pudding & fresh horseradish. In a blue and black or white and gold dress phenomena, that meat is juicy pink almost to the edges. The roast potatoes were amazing and the gravy was super flavourful.

DSC_5432

I had a tough time choosing my main, in the end went for the Slow cooked duck leg, mash potato, cabbage & licorice sauce. Most of this dish was lovely, unfortunately each bite of the mash was a mouthful of salt, I’m surprised it snuck out of the kitchen like that. Which is a shame as the rest of the plate was so nice, I especially enjoyed the licorice sauce.

DSC_5452

For dessert Jman had the Rhubarb & ginger custard, pistachio shortbread. As you can see, it was a visual delight, as if a cartoon had come to life. The taste wasn’t too shabby either, interesting flavours and textures made for an utterly enjoyable dessert.

DSC_5471

The Anchor building is magnificent and the Drakes have successfully created a comfortable pub with lots of charm. I’m hoping the slow service was down to our visit being on the busiest restaurant day of the year. And I will get to Drakes Restaurant, one day.

High Street, Ripley, Surrey, GU23 6AE
www.ripleyanchor.co.uk
Car park

Square Meal

The William Bray Shere

Armed with a slew of children and a hoard of dogs, the ladies and I engulfed the bar area of The William Bray in Shere after a dog walk in the Surrey hills. We’ve eaten in the restaurant of The William Bray and know it’s an appealing gastropub, but we wanted to test out how their casual lunches rate.

The beautiful Edwardian building is a dominant feature in the centre of my favourite Surrey village, Shere.

William Bray Shere exterior

There’s a lovely outdoor lounge area overlooking the road filled with comfortable seating. There’s also a garden with backless picnic tables to the side of the building.

Inside is bright and airy thanks to those beautiful big windows.

The main restaurant area is modern yet retains some of the Edwardian features, including the beautiful hardwood floor. I love wood floors, it’s so nice to see one in a pub.

William Bray Shere interior

The bar area is on the right as you look at the building. It’s not huge but the high ceiling and those big windows make it feel larger than it is. Again they’ve kept those beautiful hardwood floors and there’s a woodburner to give it a cosy feel in winter.

They have a good assortment of sandwiches on the bar snacks menu. They also serve the regular menu in the bar area.

William Bray Shere bar

Our server was super friendly. We did have a slight issue, as a sandwich for a child was ordered on a baguette but when it showed up it came on cornbread as they’d run out of baguettes – something the child was unimpressed with. If given a choice we would have asked for white bread and he would have eaten his lunch. (Although Ann took the cornbread and loved it.)

Now, a problem – I’ve lost my descriptions and prices and only one thing we ordered is on the online menu! My humblest appoligies.

Liz had a chicken and Mediterranean vegetable sandwich on a baguette. Apart from the unusual interpretation of a baguette it was a rather tasty sandwich.

William Bray Shere chicken sandwich

Ann needed thawing out so went for the winter vegetable soup of the day. It was a nice size for a starter but not filling enough for lunch. It did have nice flavours. Fortunately she had the unwanted corn bread to fill up on, wich was yummy.

William Bray Shere soup

I choose the smoked salmon and crème fraiche £6.95. More bread than filling but fortunately it was heavenly fresh granary bread. We especially loved that our sandwiches came with root vegetable crisps.

William Bray Shere salmon sandwich

The William Bray is a really fabulous independent pub. I’d suggest it’s best for an evening meal with friends rather than a lunch spot. The front terrace is arguably the best place in Shere to watch village life go by and a perfect place to lounge after a ramble.

Shere Lane, Shere, Surrey, GU5 9HS
www.thewilliambray.co.uk
Car park
Dogs welcome in bar area

Square Meal

Olivo

A family outing to see I need a Doctor: The Whosical at the Yvonne Arnaud theatre in Guildford (which I highly recommend to Dr Who fans) took me in search of a nearby restaurant. I settled on Olivo, as it’s smelt so divine every time I’ve walked past and it’s steps away from the theatre.

Olivo Guildford

This is the type of olde worlde building that excites the foreigner in me. The building is a late Elizabethan timber-framed house, dating back to the early 1660’s. Nooks, crannies, beams, vaulted ceiling, stairs to various levels leading to variously sized rooms and wood floors a marble couldn’t stand still on. No decoration is need as the building shows itself but I suppose the owners feel no Italian restaurant is complete without photo montages of Italy on the wall.

The atmosphere was fabulous, Olivo was bustling but because of all the different rooms it didn’t feel loud or pressurised.

We were lucky enough to sit in the top room, where it seems the top little attic floor has been removed to create an airy vaulted ceiling obscured by horizontal beams.

I would love to have taken zillions of photos of the interior, however it was so busy and I’m too chicken to take photos with people in them. So I only managed one, in the room with the vaulted ceiling, sorry.

Olivo Guildford interior

The menu is relatively small by Italian restaurant standards, no doubt because Olivo promises they only use fresh, quality ingredients. It’s filled with classics, but also some nice modern interpretations.

There were plenty of staff to meet its busyness. I had a little walk around to check out all the rooms and couldn’t move five feet without getting in the way of yet another scurrying server.

Jman can’t resist a calzone, particularly a meatball one. He jumped at the Calzone meatballs £10.90 folded pizza, tomato, mozzarella, spinach, onion, garlic, meatballs. It was generously portioned, could have used a wee bit more spice but overalls was quite good.

Olivo meatball calzone

My kids each ordered the same thing, actually the same thing they order every time it’s on the menu (from the appetisers section), Calamari £5.95 deep fried, bread crumbed calamari rings, lemon, garlic and aromatic herb dressing, tartare sauce. It was tasty, a good portion considering it was a starter. Nicely flavoured dipping sauce. Of course my children didn’t let me try one, so that feedback comes straight from the mouth of a ten year old.

Olivo calamari

They did let me try their sides of chips, patatine fritte £3.00 chips. The were perfectly crisp on the outside and fluffy in the inside. And most importantly, they were the perfect dimensions – not too big and not too small, although they could do with fresher oil.

Olivo chips

I had the Merluzzo £14.95 pan fried fillet of cod, pancetta (Italian bacon), chilli, garlic, sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, served with crushed potatoes and leeks. The sauce was delicious, great flavours and textures with a good hint of heat, the fish was nicely cooked and the potatoes had a nice flavour that were super yummy when mixed with the sauce.

Olivo cod chilli tomatoes sweet peppers pancetta potatoes leeks

I wish we’d had more time to linger over some desserts in the great atmosphere but we had to rush off the to theatre. Olivo is a lovely gem of a restaurant that’s suitable for a myriad of occasions.

(tips, the online booking form told me the restaurant was full but it was no problem to get a table when I phoned. It’s an extremely convenient restuarant for the Yvonne Arnaud theatre.)

53 Quarry Street, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 3UA
www.olivo.co.uk
Town carpark