Stovell's, Chobham, Surrey GU24 8QS - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 15:41 22 November 2012 | UPDATED: 05:32 19 April 2015
It’s the start of a new era for the restaurant formerly known as the Cloche Hat, as married couple, the Stovells, who come with some pedigree from the capital’s restaurants, make this stalwart of the Surrey dining scene their own. Matthew Williams pays Stovell's a visit
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine November 2012
Restaurant reviewed: Stovell’s, 125 Windsor Road, Chobham, Surrey GU24 8QS. Tel: 01276 858000
What we ate:
Two courses for £30 or three courses for £38
Caramelised hand-caught Loch Leven scallops, chorizo, ratte potatoes and walnut dressing (supplement, £3)
Warm aromatic foie gras, barbecue silver-skin onions, toasted cobnuts, hay dressing and Nasturtium leaves
Chargrilled Lake District aged rib of beef for two over perfumed vine cutting embers (supplement, £8pp)
Side of buttered Hispi cabbage, £3
Warm chocolate fondant with Tudor Rose ice cream
Artisanal British and French cheese selection served with Piccalilli and biscuits
Woodford Reserve Bourbon, brown sugar, angostura and orange bitters, infused with orange and cherry, £9.50
Belvedere Vodka, lemon, Crème de Cassis, gomme, Champagne, £8.50
Bottle of Dinastia Vivanco Rioja Reserva 2005, £40
REVIEW: Entering the restaurant formerly known as the Cloche Hat in Chobham leaves you feeling a little bit like how I imagine Gandalf felt entering Bilbo Baggins’ Hobbiton abode for the first time: slightly wary of the headroom. Found in a 16th century Tudor farmhouse, the place may be small in stature but not in character – or, for that matter, characters.
Something of a Surrey institution (the previous incumbents had been there for over 50 years), it’s a new era for this mainstay of the local dining scene, with husband and wife team Fernando and Kristy Stovell (hailing from Mexico and New Zealand respectively) now at the helm, and a new name of Stovell’s.
Having met in 1997 at Westminster College, the couple have worked alongside one another ever since and are stalwarts of London’s prestigious Cuckoo Club. Some readers may also recognise chef Fernando from his appearances on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen and Market Kitchen.
There is a relaxed style to Stovell’s that is largely led by the force of Fernando’s personality – he talks with great passion about the produce he uses (or football) and it turns out is also a keen forager, often dragging his team out into the woods to supplement the menu.
But first things first. On arrival, my wife and I decided to make the most of the impressive cocktail menu and took seats in the bar area beneath a photo of the chef’s grandmother, who the Champagne list is named after. From timeless classics (Martini etc) to barrel-aged specialities, the cocktail offering is part of an attempt to turn the restaurant into a true all-round destination that will lure people out into the Surrey countryside.
When our table time arrived, waiter Ollie greeted us – it turns out he was actually headhunted in Bath by chef Fernando’s mum.
The à la carte menu, which could best be described as modern European, comes in at two courses for £30 or three courses for £38 and there are often a few surprises and ‘bonus courses’ along the way, depending on what’s in the kitchen on the day.
Apparently one of the chef’s favourite dishes, I opted for the caramelised hand-caught Loch Leven scallops as a starter, while Sylviane went with her French roots and chose the foie gras.
I have half jokingly wanted to put a few dishes on my wall as artworks over the years of reviewing, but the presentation at Stovell’s is second to none; an attention to detail matched only by the food itself.
The scallops were phenomenal, dressed with chorizo, ratte potatoes and walnut dressing, and worth the £3 supplement in my eyes. Sylviane’s summation of the foie gras: never had better. Says it all really.
An amouse bouche of pea and mint soup with Alsace bacon foam was served, a seasonal dish that will move on to a more hearty, earthy soup as the winter months grow dark.
It has to be said, the menu at Stovell’s is one of those that you could grapple with for weeks and still want to try everything on it. In the end, we opted for the côte de bouef to share. A mouthwatering slab of chargrilled Lake District aged rib of beef was presented with béarnaise sauce and a jus that wasn’t necessarily needed (but is always nice to have) for the succulent meat, which was truly moreish.
For dessert, I opted for a delicious dark chocolate fondant with Tudor rose ice cream, while Sylviane went with her staple artisanal British and French cheeses. We could find no fault in either of the dishes.
Undoubtedly, there will be those who miss the old Cloche Hat, which had been in Surrey since 1957, but it’s difficult to see them not being quickly won over. Suffice to say that Stovell’s has gone in the notebook as my restaurant of 2012 so far. Fernando and Kristy’s enthusiasm for their craft is truly infectious, the premises are stunning and the food is as good as it gets below Michelin star standard. We will be back.
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