Reviewing Kinghams restaurant in Shere
PUBLISHED: 10:52 27 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:52 27 November 2018
Celebrating its 25 anniversary, Kinghams restaurant is found at the heart of one of Surrey's most iconic villages. Matthew Williams visits to discover the secrets of its longevity
While Steve Drake’s Sorrel and The Tudor Room’s Douglas Balish picked up the top restaurant titles at this year’s Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards, there’s only one establishment that’s been a finalist every single year since the awards were launched.
Found in the beautiful village of Shere, Kinghams has been owned and run by chef Paul Baker since 1993 and it has made a place at Surrey Life’s black-tie event its own. And so, despite the Michelin stars and 4 AA rosettes flying around in Surrey, it felt only right to return to Kinghams this month in a bid to rediscover what makes it so special.
While I often think Shere would benefit from a ban on motor vehicles or, perhaps, a secret underground car park, it remains one of our county’s most desirable destinations. Whether cooling your feet in the River Tillingbourne while munching on an ice cream during the summer months or cosying up in a pub in winter, the attraction is easy to understand.
Time and place
A time capsule of sorts, there are few Surrey restaurants that can match the longevity and longstanding reputation of Kinghams. From the moment you’re welcomed into the cottage-like interior, there’s a passion, enthusiasm and warmth at play that means, even on an autumnal Wednesday evening, the place is full. I always get the feeling that Kinghams is a home from home for some people, and you can understand why – it’s comfortable, cosy and reliable.This is a place that doesn’t change much, but then the beautiful artworks that adorn the walls and family sculptures that add a heart-warming touch perfectly frame this 17th century, wooden-beamed building.
The affable manager, Jack, talks us through the day’s specials and wine list, which features his and Paul’s favoured selections. We opt for Paul’s: a Gruner Veltliner Von de Terrasen 2016 from Austria, which turns out to be like a party on our taste buds. The striking menu features work by the same artist whose work takes pride of place on the walls, Tim Dolby – and, if you look closely, you can spot Paul and Jack depicted in the tranquil restaurant garden scene.
With fish sourced daily from Billingsgate and direct from Brixham day boats, it’s always a safe bet here and I opt for the fresh Cornish mackerel. Prepared three ways, to my taste, the smoked and creamed version with horseradish is the absolute star of the show. Sylviane’s pan-fried king scallops must be good, because I barely get a sniff…
Main for Sylviane is fillet of hake, which almost sweeps the beautiful fish in an Italian pesto pasta direction. She loves the combination of the cheddar, egg and basil crust with the wild mushroom, whole grain mustard and shallot compote. My roasted monkfish is an epic piece of fish that takes centre stage and sings all the hits, with a touch of avocado and lemon cream to perk things up when necessary and the earthiness of crispy bacon – all relaxing on a lovely crab bisque.
We bring things to a close with blackberry and apple oat crumble and a selection of English farm cheese –both really hit the spot.
All in all, Kinghams retains a pleasant balance of well-appointed village restaurant dining with a heart-warming homeliness. I think that’s what makes it so special. In these times when the new restaurant trend in town seems to change by the day and many seem to be looking for instantly ‘Instagrammable’ artworks rather than actual food, Kinghams is like a warm hug that helps you to forget the current rollercoaster madness of the world outside.
Kinghams Restaurant, Gomshall Lane, Shere GU5 9HE; kinghams-restaurant.co.uk
What we ate
• Starters: Fresh Cornish mackerel prepared three ways: ceviche with chilli, lime, radish and cucumber; poached in citrus stock and pomelo; and smoked and creamed with horseradish, £8.95 | King scallops pan-fried and served with sweetcorn, tomato and lime salsa with crispy pancetta and pea shoots, £11.95
• Mains: Fillet of hake with cheddar, egg and basil crust served on wild mushroom, whole grain mustard and shallot compote, £18.95 | Roasted monkfish served with avocado and lemon cream and crispy bacon on lemon scented fennel and crab bisque, £22.95
• Side dishes: Baby roast potatoes, £3.95 | Buttered spinach and savoy cabbage, £3.95
• Desserts: Blackberry and apple oat crumble served with vanilla ice cream and blackberry gel, £7.95 | Selection of English farm cheese with grapes, apples, homemade chutney and biscuits, £8.95
• Drinks: Gruner Veltliner Von de Terrasen 2016, Wagram, Austria, £33.50
• Eating out in Surrey - Best restaurants - Whether you’re looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here’s our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs