Fleurie, Godalming Surrey GU7 1NN - restaurant review - CLOSED
PUBLISHED: 16:09 21 March 2014 | UPDATED: 14:07 18 November 2015
Replace the Pepperpot with the Eiffel Tower and the River Wey with La Seine and, with a little imagination (okay, quite a lot!), Godalming could almost be the English market town equivalent of Paris. Matthew Williams visits for un petit peu of France...
Review: Fleurie, 11 Wharf Street, Godalming GU7 1NN Tel: 01483 429969
What we ate:
£30 three courses (*£3 supplement)
Seared scallops with black pudding purée, lime jelly and truffle drizzle*
Trio of rabbit, mushroom and spinach roulade with streaky bacon wrap, broad beans and rabbit jus
Hand-cut fillet of steak tartare with dressed leaves, frites and hen’s yolk*
Birtley Farm three-bone herb-crusted rack of lamb with garlic gratin dauphinois, curly kale and red wine jus*
Poire William roasted pear tart with caramel ice cream and spun sugar
Artisan cheeseboard with olive oil tartine and dressed leaves*
Fleurie, La Madone, Georges Blanc, £33
REVIEW: Having met on the streets of Paris over a shared love of food and wine, it’s no surprise that Mark and Jenny Harrison embarked on a restaurant adventure of their own.
Their dream was eventually fulfilled towards the end of 2011 in Godalming – a picturesque town yes, but perhaps not quite on par with the French capital… yet!
Returning to Jenny’s Surrey roots, they set about creating their perfect evening out: quality dining without pretensions.
I should admit that their efforts were flagged up to me by a Surrey Life reader over a year ago, but I hadn’t quite got around to visiting. However, when Mark popped up again at the Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards, as one of our trio of finalists for Chef of the Year, I was reminded that my appointment was well overdue. Something of a Francophile myself, it really shouldn’t have taken this long.
Fleurie, romantically named after Mark’s pet name for Jenny from their early dating days, is found via an unassuming lobby on the first floor of a historic building overlooking Wharf Street. Located opposite the popular Italian independent La Luna, this little corner of Godalming may not quite be Paris but it has plenty of potential to carve out a gastronomic reputation.
Greeted by barrel umbrella holders, wine boxes on window sills, an array of well- spaced and lit tables and the lovely Jenny, the restaurant has an immediate allure.
I often praise the passion of restaurateurs in this column – keeping the quality high when rents continue to escalate in still difficult economic times takes a certain level of enthusiasm (or madness!) – but it turns out that Mark has taken things a little further than most. A carpenter in a former life, he literally laid the restaurant’s expanse of wooden flooring himself.
Meanwhile, in her own efforts not to be outdone, Jenny’s photography is included in an artsy wall capturing a bit of the French magic.
With wines ranging from a very reasonable £17.50 a bottle right up to the top dogs at £80, we opted for something around the middle ground and an aptly-named Fleurie 2010.
In a menu full of bouillabaisse, cassoulet and escargots, decisions are not easily made but even I surprised myself by ordering the scallops and rack of lamb instead of the terrine and cassoulet that I’d been so intent on. Perhaps I just wanted to make life easier for myself on our next visit if things went the way the atmosphere suggested they might.
My wife Sylviane somehow looked past the moules marinières and tartare for the starter and instead went for the trio of rabbit, mushroom and spinach roulade before opting for the full-size steak tartare with anticipation in her eyes.
The starters came; the rabbit roulade rich and deep while the subtle scallops were accompanied by a powerful and dish-making punch of black pudding purée, lime jelly and truffle drizzle.
Perhaps my decision on the lamb dish main course had been swayed by knowing it had come from just down the road. Most of the meat is sourced from Rawlings of Cranleigh; seafood from Cranleigh Fish and Godalming Fish; fruit and veg from Amylou’s, Godalming; oils from The Olive Oil Shop, Godalming; and cheese from The Godalming Food Company. In reality, it’s a case of Surrey food with a French flavour. In any case, the lamb proved to be delicious, accompanied by a personal favourite of garlic gratin dauphinois.
A tartare star
The real star was to come with the steak tartare, however, and for me it was a complete surprise. I should explain. I’ve never been the world’s most squeamish eater (and I apologise to any vegetarians who might find the whole idea horrific) but a few years ago on the south coast of France, I attempted this famous delicacy and found it hard to stomach.
Back at Fleurie, though, as soon as I saw Sylviane’s beautifully prepared plate, I was castigating myself for such short term foolishness. What I’d tried previously was obviously the Little Chef variant, while this must have been the butcher and chef’s pride and joy; perfectly seasoned meat that proved as delicious as most things I’ve tried in my reviewing days and confounded my expectations. I find it hard to imagine steak tartare is done better elsewhere in Surrey.
As the evening progressed, the large room filled out and seemed to be doing a grand trade for a Tuesday night. The service was courteous, with a wink to fun if you are of an acquiescing mind. Quality dining + without pretensions = ticked.
For dessert, I tickled my sweet taste buds with a more-ish pear tart and Sylviane went for – drum roll, please – the cheese. Well, we were in ‘France’ after all.
Funnily enough, the cheeseboard told me an awful lot about Fleurie and their commitment to detail. Instead of the ubiquitous Surrey crackers that seem to occupy most cheeseboards with varying degrees of quality, Mark and his team opt for lightly oiled and delicious cuts of toast to accompany their chosen cheeses. In fact, I’m surprised more don’t follow suit.
From beginning to end, Fleurie is a relaxed indulgence – and those two don’t always go together, especially partnered with New Year bank statements. Some restaurants are the preserve of special occasions and this is one that could easily be considered for such times. Once you’ve double-checked the price, however, you realise that maybe you could eat this well a little more regularly after all.
And our other two chef finalists at the Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards 2013 were...
Kristy and Fernando Stovell @ Stovell’s
125 Windsor Road, Chobham GU24 8QS Tel: 01276 858000
The overall winners of our Surrey Life Chef of the Year award, Fernando and Kristy Stovells’ enthusiasm for their craft is truly infectious, the premises are stunning and the food is as good as it gets below Michelin star standard – a Surrey star.
Ben Piette @ London House
134 High Street, Old Woking GU22 9JNTel: 01483 750610
A former MasterChef: The Professionals semi-finalist, Ben Piette was a McLaren Technology Centre hospitality chef – cooking for the likes of Ron Dennis, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in his time. London House has certainly lived up to the expectations.