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The Anchor, Ripley GU23 6AE - restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 11:54 22 April 2014 | UPDATED: 11:54 22 April 2014

A laid-back starter

A laid-back starter

of cath lowe photogtraphy

A change of pace this month sees our reviewer’s path unexpectedly lead to the idyllic village of Ripley and an old pub that has been transformed into a future foodie fantasy, having just picked up two AA rosettes. Matthew Williams visits The Anchor

Restaurant reviewed: The Anchor, High Street, Ripley GU23 6AE. Tel: 01483 211866

***

The low-down

Verdict:

Food: 9

Service: 8

Venue: 8

What we ate:

The lunch menu is two-courses for £15 or three-courses for £19

Starters

Welsh Rarebit x2

Main courses

Ale-braised beef cheek, mashed potato, broccoli and pickled onion

Roast cod, chorizo, mushroom and chard

Dessert

Frozen ginger mousse, rhubarb and pistachio (shared)

Drinks

The Tillingbourne Brewery’s Black Troll, £3.90

Tour Caret Chardonnay (medium), £6.25

***

REVIEW: There’s no doubt that the modern pub is a very different beast from the ol’ spit and sawdust drinking dens of old. While a mix of costly legislation, taxes, rental costs and sky high entertainment licenses have strangled one end of the market, superstar chefs like Tom Kerridge and Heston Blumenthal have taken the humble boozer in a direction that few would have envisaged at the other. Is it a pub or is it, well, a very fine dining restaurant with a bar? The lines seem to become evermore blurred.

And yet, while some punters will never come to terms with the ‘gastropub’, others have already forgotten that there was ever any other way. The rules of the ‘pub’ have been broken, obliterated, somehow reassembled and are now taking on a life of their own. Perhaps they had to be with so many independent restaurateurs being priced out of High Streets by the chain gangs and a liquid diet no longer being healthy for most country pubs.

Here in Surrey, we certainly have some interesting foodie pubs if you know where to look, but the news that Michelin star chef Steve Drake and his wife Serina had teamed up with friends Chris and Lisanne Mealing to take over their local was still an eye-opener. Then came word that the head chef at Drake’s, Mike Wall-Palmer, would also be making the move across Ripley High Street to lead the kitchen at The Anchor. This was never going to be the Dog and Duck, then…

Now, three months later, and they’ve already picked up two AA rosettes.

Country retreat

I had already received plenty of positive reports of the place, so after a morning spent traipsing round the Surrey countryside visiting the Macbeth film set that had popped up at Hankley Common, we decided to pay a visit.

The question was though, was it still okay to just pop in for a quick drink and see where the wind took us? “Yes, of course, that’s what we’re here for,” came the reassuring reply.

So, with a pint of Tillingbourne Brewery’s Black Troll (they also had Dorking Brewery’s DB Number One on among their selection) for me and a medium glass of Tour Caret Chardonnay for my wife, we settled at the stools opposite the bar ready to watch the world pass by outside the window.

As well as the bar area, there are dining room options and a couple of snugs (the smaller of which we only spotted as we were leaving but fully intend to take over on our next visit).

Casting our eyes jealously at the enticing menus that we’d only picked up out of curiosity, we soon found ourselves at the bar ordering lunch.

Keeping things simple, we both went for the Welsh rarebit to start with. A hard one to ruin, of course, but deliciously crispy bread and silky smooth cheese always goes down a treat when done 
well. To tell the truth, I could have polished off a few more portions after our morning’s exertions.

For the main course, I opted for the braised beef cheek, mashed potato, broccoli and pickled onion. Utter melt-in-the-mouth heaven. Not as hearty as a traditional ‘pub’ lunch menu but then the flavours and presentation are on another level compared to most too.

Sylviane’s roast cod, chorizo, mushroom and chard was also very special – the chorizo and mushrooms not quite as you’ll usually know them! Utterly delicious but probably in need of a little more body from some added side dishes if you’ve just strolled in from walking the River Wey or biking in the Surrey Hills.

For dessert, we shared a magical ginger, rhubarb and pistachio creation, with layers of frozen and crumbled textures. Stunning.

All in all, the afternoon proved to be a laid-back way to enjoy exceptional food without a hint of pretension – much like our previous experience at Drake’s to be honest (the review of which can be found here).

A public house

And so, back to my introductory tract: that art of balancing the pub/restaurant hybrid…Well, it’s early days and so it would be a little unfair to expect otherwise, but I think that The Anchor is still growing into its new skin. With the skills and passions behind the place, however, I have no doubt it won’t be long before it fully finds its feet – and others will be left looking to follow.

Already it’s a welcome addition to the Surrey dining scene and I can’t wait to see how it develops. Now, time to book that snug and witness the place in its full evening finery.

***

3 other great pubs/restaurants

The Pendleton

26 St John’s, Earlswood RH1 6QF. Tel: 01737 760212

Stalwarts of the Surrey restaurant scene, Jon and Cynthia Coomb (The Stephan Langton, The Westerly etc) landed at The Pendleton near Redhill and have made it a must-visit dining destination.

The Hare & Hounds

Lingfield Common Road, Lingfield RH7 6BZ. Tel: 01342 832351

Head off the beaten track near the east Surrey village of Lingfield and you’ll discover the hidden gem that is The Hare & Hounds – it’s a shabby chic, culinary delight.

The Inn @ West End

42 Guildford Road, West End GU24 9PW: 01276 858652

Family-run by Gerry and Ann Price, The Inn @ West End has an open fire and fantastic wine list (and a wine shop!). They even have their own deerstalker who supplies 
all their roe and fallow deer.

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