PUBLISHED: 10:16 18 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:10 08 February 2019
The White Bear, Fickleshole
From ancient hostelries with roaring inglenook fireplaces to craft- beer bars and whisky havens with a twist, Surrey is blessed with some truly tantalising pubs for a cosy winter lunch or leisurely couple of drinks
Just minutes away from our county’s A25 main vein, the Abinger Hatch is found in that pristine part of Surrey that somehow retains an air of remarkable seclusion despite being so well connected. The picturesque country lanes, with their high banks, act almost like an illusionist’s deception to slowly reveal the hamlets, villages and country pubs within. Find your way down Abinger or Hollow Lanes near Wotton, and the big reveal is the Abinger Hatch: a charming free house that’s well worth the trip.
With ten real ales, five real ciders and 20 keg beers behind the bar, The Albion is a haven for beer lovers. The pub also happens to have its own brewery, the rather excellent Big Smoke Brewery (which can be found right behind The Antelope; The Albion’s sister pub). We can’t mention The Albion without talking about their delicious Sunday roast; perfect for warming up after a cold and blustery winter walk along the Thames.
Best known for its windmill (it’s said to be the oldest working post mill in Britain), the village of Outwood is also home to three pubs and one or two famous faces. One of the pubs is the 17th-century hostelry, The Bell, complete with its giant ironmongery dominating the entrance. Surrounded by beautiful National Trust countryside, perfect for a winter stroll, this is a cosy little place packed full of rustic charm.
Found in the middle of Windlesham, Wentworth and Chobham, this is exactly the classy kind of establishment you’d expect for its surroundings. The Brickmakers take their food very seriously and on the menu you’ll find traditional British dishes such as fish and chips, slow braised shoulder of lamb with winter vegetables and twice cooked pork belly with mash.
Found off the beaten track, roughly in the middle of Dorking, Epsom and Reigate, The Cock Inn has been completely transformed in recent years. Part of the Red Mist Leisure group, it is now a delightfully decorated country pub with a delectable food and drink offering. There’s also a fantastic four-mile Headley Heath walk from its doorstep to work up an appetite. Perhaps try a local gin from Silent Pool or Mews afterwards.
Dating back to the 15th century, The Dog & Pheasant is just about the quintessential English pub: all low-hanging wooden beams, log fires and interesting village characters! Their Wednesday grill nights are a must for those who love a top-quality steak with a glass of their favourite red or beer (as a free house, there’s always an interesting tipple or two from a local brewery on offer).
The Duke of Cambridge in Tilford is a cottage-like pub joined by a rustic barn to offer almost, as they put it, “alfresco winter dining.” Meat, vegetables, bread, ales and even ice cream are locally sourced where possible and the pub has an inviting winter menu with plenty of comforting mains to wet the appetite. Think slow-braised meats and hearty pies.
With an offering that more than lives up to Chobham’s foodie village reputation, this former Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards Pub of the Year winner is a fantastic modern country pub with homely log fires. Roasts on Sunday include lamb, chicken and vegetable, with other classic pub dishes on offer.
Found beside the ponds and ancient oak trees of leafy Carshalton, this Young’s pub is decked out with leather booth seating, tweed armchairs and light fittings made from vintage glass decanters. First built in 1730, did you know Lord Epsom drafted the rules for the Epsom Derby in the Swan Bar here?
Okay, okay, so crackling fires are all well and good but how’s this for a winter warmer? The Grey Horse stocks 150-plus whiskies (including a bottle from every Scottish distillery still producing)! That’ll have you rosy-cheeked in no time. Now home to Smok’d, a barbecue restaurant, they haven’t forgotten the venue’s entertainment roots and the RamJam Club, hidden behind the venue, still hosts great live comedy, jazz and blues.
Something of a Surrey institution, there’s been a Grumpy Mole population explosion in recent years. The country inn is found near Oxted, joining its brothers in Tadworth, Brockham, Epsom and Cheam. Previously known as The Royal Oak, this one is also perfectly positioned for winter walks in the picturesque Staffhurst Wood.
Built in the 1830s and originally intended as a summer house, of all things, the Hand & Spear became a hotel on the opening of the adjacent railway station. A striking building, it’s been through various guises since but now proudly boasts a number of boutique bedrooms. A popular hideaway over the years, Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson corrected proofs of his classic 19th-century novel, Treasure Island, while staying here.
An idyllic sanctuary for discerning adults, The Inn at West End has an impressive wine list to work your way through on winter’s days. This popular hostelry has steadily built its reputation as a haven for those looking for top-end pub dining – with warming game dishes featuring heavily at this time of year.
Perhaps not as famous as some of the racecourse-side pubs in Epsom, The Jolly Coopers (which is found just outside the town centre) has been making a bit of a name for itself over the past year or so. A hidden gem, according to some locals we know, it’s a family-owned free house that takes its food and drink seriously without any pretension.
If the all-consuming breed of modern gastropub/restaurant establishments isn’t for you and you’ve been wondering what happened to all the old-fashioned alehouses, then the Jolly Farmer could hit the spot. That said, they’ve been curating a very special beer offering since way before the craft beer ‘revolution’ so maybe they’re the real trendsetters? Either way, an intimate, welcoming and warming venue.
If you were ever to doubt the history and heritage behind The Merry Harriers, one glance at the walls should assuage any disbelief: the names of past landlords dating back to 1701 adorn them. These days, Peter and Lana de Savary run the rule. With local food and drink at the heart of things, rooms to stay in and events to keep you smiling long into the winter nights, there is certainly much to enjoy here.
Located in the beautifully appointed village of West Clandon, The Onslow Arms offers everything you could wish for from a modern pub. While certainly sprawling, it still remains cosy and whether you’re looking to sit down for some top pub grub or prop up the bar for a little chatter, it ticks plenty of boxes.
Escape the worst of the winter chill with a trip to the southern hemisphere. Chilworth’s Percy Arms has a touch of South African flair to it, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find better steak at any Surrey pub. Authentic Africana artefacts and photos were shipped in and stylish tartans, weaves and leathers were also introduced here to reflect the comfort and style of a colonial hunting lodge.
Part of the Time Well Spent group, who run the likes of The Sportsman in Mogador, The Black Horse in Reigate and The Well House Inn in Mugswell, the 15th century Punchbowl Inn was reopened in August 2016. The history of the surrounding area adorns the walls of each nook and cranny, with horse brasses and a large inglenook fireplace.
Situated on the border of Betchworth and Buckland villages, The Red Lion can be dated back to the early 18th century with parts constructed around 1730. While the main bar and dining area are fully focussed on traditional country-pub dining (and relaxing with a real ale), their Cellar Room offers something special for private celebrations.
Every time you enter Milford’s Refectory, there’s still a tendency to catch your breath, as there aren’t many Surrey pubs like this one. An old cattle barn transformed by open fires and ancient wooden beams, the building that’s home to this pub was once owned by a family of renowned antique dealers. These days, you’ll find a vast but buzzy hostelry.
The village of Cranleigh is blessed with a selection of high-end independents that are the envy of many nearby places, and The Richard Onslow is a hostelry worthy of them. The menu is packed full of warming dishes and expertly-selected wines, and there’s always a local tipple on the bar. Get a table in the snug if you can.
Arguably the most secluded pub and restaurant in Surrey, The Stephan Langton Inn is named after the Archbishop of Canterbury who signed the Magna Carta in 1218. Once you have found it, this pub is never easily forgotten, as attested by its dominance at the 2016 Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards when they picked up both the Pub of the Year and Best Local Menu crowns.
Famed for its CAMRA success, The Surrey Oaks has long received awards from both local and national beer experts. They always have an extremely well-stocked bar and are known for their beer festivals too (though they tend to save those for the warmer months!). A quintessentially English country pub, their open fires roar during the winter to welcome you in from the cold. Then there’s the food and drink, which comes highly recommended as well. Take a designated driver!
Chiddingfold is a village blessed with excellent pubs and inns and, among those, The Swan Inn enjoys a prime position. Perfect for a leisurely drink or a top-class meal, the pub is now part of the Upham Group, which also owns Upham Brewery. If you enjoy things too much, there’s always the 11 beautiful bedrooms upstairs too.
Bought by the villagers of Thursley in order to save the pub from being developed into a residential property, The Three Horseshoes first began trading in the 1870s, although parts of the building date back to the 16th century. Found among the idyllic countryside of south-west Surrey, try their Frensham brewery produced house beer in the cosy bar or a top-class pub dish in the restaurant area out the back.
The pub’s namesake and mascot, a white bear has stood proudly outside the inn for more than 100 years. The original wooden bear was acquired at auction in 1905 but, during World War Two, it was abducted by revelling Canadian troops stationed in Woldingham. The present bear is a far heavier chap. A time capsule of a pub, they have Fickleshole ale brewed by Pilgrim Brewery in Reigate and are able to serve venison and lamb from the neighbouring Titsey Estate’s herds.
Originally built as a hunting lodge for King Richard II, perhaps the king would approve of some of the touches on this country smokehouse’s menu. What at first appears to be an old-fashioned pub quickly reveals a very modern heart with an intricately-realised menu and some great craft beers.
Having been given a new lease of life in December 2016, The Winterton is now a true craft-beer pub with eight keg lines, six hand-pulls and five wines on tap – but who’s keeping count, right?! Also, found on the back bar, there are more than 70 gins and 15 different types of tonic water. Well, that should keep you busy. Did you know that local folklore has it that the Winterton was the last place in England where the riot act was read in 1929, after the famous village bonfire was started prematurely? Now how’s that for a winter warmer?
Petworth Road, Chiddingfold GU8 4UU
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