Kinghams, Shere GU5 9HE - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 10:26 17 January 2014 | UPDATED: 10:26 17 January 2014
Recently named Restaurant of the Year in the Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards, as voted for by our readers, Kinghams more than lives up to the billing, as Matthew Williams reports
REVIEWED: Kinghams, Gomshall Lane, Shere GU5 9HE: 01483 202168
What we ate
Potted pheasant, chestnut, pork and apricot served with damson chutney and toasted brioche, £7.95
Marinated salmon in sea salt and lime on cucumber spaghetti, caviar and quail’s egg, £8.95
Slow roasted belly of pork with spiced apple, chorizo and Welsh rarebit served on pea purée with crispy crackling, £17.95
Roast loin of lamb encased in black pudding on a redcurrant and rosemary polenta cake with baby caper mint sauce, £19.95
Apple tarte tartin with caramel sauce served with vanilla ice cream, £6.95
Selection of English farm cheese with grapes, apples and biscuits, £7.95
A bottle of Chateau Lucas, Lussac St Émilion 2008, France, £31.50
REVIEW: Surrey Life readers really are a discerning bunch. So when you voted for Kinghams in your droves at the recent Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards, I thought it was about time we returned to the Shere restaurant for another taste.
Having beaten off stiff competition from Stovell’s (my favourite restaurant of 2012 as it happens) and that other long-time Surrey stalwart at Newlands Corner, Carlo’s Trattoria, the bar was set at Olympian levels for our visit. However, there’s a reason why this little restaurant, which celebrated its 20th birthday in 2013, has been talked about so warmly by so many for the last two decades.
For one thing, not only is this quintessentially English eatery located in one of our great chocolate-box villages but it is also housed in a 17th century building, surely making it one of the prettiest restaurants around.
It’s a freezing midweek night when we wind our way through Shere’s unlit streets and the warmth from inside the restaurant’s cosy cottage home is palpable. A golden glow that draws us in like transfixed moths or, perhaps, Arctic explorers on the hunt for sanctuary. Log fires roar as the pink returns to our skin and we manage to prise our jackets off and hand them over to the welcoming face that greets us.
All low-beamed ceilings, white linened tables and walls lined by local artists from Dorking’s The Wow! Gallery, Kinghams is certainly a snug winter escape.
Having long presumed the restaurant was named after the proprietor but since discovered that owner Paul’s surname is in fact Baker, we are informed that Kingham was his mother’s maiden name – who wants a restaurant called Bakers, right?
In any event, it would seem plenty want a restaurant called Kinghams. It may be a Wednesday evening but half the village must be merrily chatting away and cleaning their plates at the well-spaced tables. As for us, we’re whisked to an almost private alcove with views to either side of the dividing log fire and chimney.
Bread is served – deliciously light and crusty from a Godalming bakery – and wine is ordered – a hark back to our honeymoon days driving through Lussac St Émilion rather than the local offering (Silent Pool Rose 2012, Albury) available on their recommended list. The wine list is long, strong and varied, with prices ranging from around £18 to £100 – although an extra special vintage cellar and various Champagnes reach beyond that.
Chef proprietor Paul trained at the Royal Lancaster Hotel and Ealing College before gaining experience at London restaurants such as J Sheekey fish and seafood in St Martin’s Lane and Stocks Club in the King’s Road. He says that rather than attempting to wow with trickery, he aims to present stunning ingredients in the most satisfying way possible.
And so it proves, with my starter of potted pheasant packing a real punch and ably supported by delicious damson chutney.
Across the table, my wife Sylviane opts for a salmon dish that finishes with the bang of caviar and quail’s eggs, to build on the fresh salmon, lime and cucumber spaghetti.
The real stars of the show to my mind, however, are the main courses – both traditional but with twists that really send them through the flavour stratosphere.
My pork is as beautifully cooked as it is presented, towering on a yin and yang of gravy and powerfully green pea purée; a treat for the eye.
The dish is completely set on fire by the spiced apple, chorizo and Welsh rarebit that straddle the cut – it’s the kind of thing I’d enjoy eating day after day after day, if only the human metabolism would allow such things. The crispy crackling also brings a hugely satisfying crunch of additional texture to the dish.
Sylviane, meanwhile, chooses the lamb dish, which brings black pudding and a redcurrant and rosemary polenta cake into play. It achieves a similar magic to mine, with strong additional flavours complementing rather than overpowering excellent cuts of meat. Simple yet refined, and very tasty to boot.
As regular readers will know, your humble correspondents often suffer from food envy at this point of the menu, casting longing looks at each others’ plates. Suffice to say, on this occasion, we were instead a little defensive – guarding our treasured selections with knives and forks drawn. Seriously good cooking.
The service throughout the evening is friendly and attentive without ever intruding, and it’s easy to understand how the restaurant has garnered such a loyal following over its 20 years.
The label on our wine mentions the propensity of vino to bring friends together, and Kinghams has a similar talent for putting you at ease while delighting with its flavours.
Our meal finishes with a flourish – a delicious apple tarte tartin with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream for me, while Sylviane, ever the experimentalist, opts for the cheeseboard – so easy to do, yet so simple to get wrong. The Golden Cross, a soft unpasteurised goat’s cheese from East Sussex, and Tornegus, with its washed rind in a wine and herb brine, prove hits and a strong dénouement.
A motto runs through Kinghams’ menus (complete with more local artists’ work), which states: “One cannot work well, feel well, love well, unless one has eaten well.”
As I said on opening this piece, our readers certainly know their stuff and so, it seems, does Kinghams, which is thoroughly deserving of its Restaurant of the Year crown.
The other Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards Restaurant of the Year finalists were:
125 Windsor Road, Chobham GU24 8QS
Tel: 01276 858000
Surrey Life Chefs of the Year, 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.
Shere Road, near Guildford GU4 8SE
Tel: 01483 224180
Nearly 30 years at Surrey beauty spot Newlands Corner and Carlo’s Trattoria has established a reputation as a fun and friendly place that takes its food seriously. One of the best Italian restaurants around.