The Hare & Hounds, Lingfield RH7 6BZ - restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 13:23 01 May 2013 | UPDATED: 13:23 01 May 2013

Hare & Hounds, Lingfield

Hare & Hounds, Lingfield

Archant

Head off the beaten track near the east Surrey village of Lingfield and you’ll discover the hidden gem that is The Hare & Hounds. Following numerous recommendations over the years, Matthew Williams pays a visit and finds a shabby chic, culinary delight

The Hare & Hounds,

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

***

Verdict

Food 9

Venue 8

Service 8

What we ate

Starters

Croquette of ricotta gnocchi, wild mushrooms and home cured ham, £8.95

Roasted ccallops, confit black pudding with apple bread and cider foam, £12.50

Mains

Braised blade of beef, crushed swede and confit potato, red wine jus and poached shallot, £17.50

Slow roast fillet of salmon, potato and bacon croquette, braised baby gem and pea purée, £17.95

Desserts

Caramel and banana ‘Fabergé’ egg, lemon curd and honeycomb, £6.95

Selection of local cheese with fruit wheel and oat biscuit, £8.50

Drinks

Fleurie, President Marguerite, France, £23.50

***

Put down what you’re doing and type RH7 6BZ into your sat nav now. There are some that claim Surrey’s dining scene is bland and uninspiring – I tend to think people are being a little harsh, possibly spoilt by the riches on offer with the capital on our doorstep – but no one could claim such of The Hare & Hounds near Lingfield. Quite frankly though, if you didn’t know about this pub, there is very little chance you’d ever randomly pass it, having to veer off just before reaching the village itself. It’s a true hidden gem.

The decor is chic bohemian, quirky and very cosy, managing to be fun while avoiding being pretentious. Stone sculptures hold fort, while homemade condiments and pâtés are sold from a well stocked shelf. Beads are draped down the windows and drapes fall from the ceilings in certain areas. It might not have worked, but it really does and is instantly invigorating.

While friendly locals lined the bar on our visit, this is very much a pub for foodies and it’s too my shame it’s taken me so long to follow up all the good things I’ve heard about the place. So, on a cold February night, my wife Sylviane and I tucked ourselves into a magical little alcove with a fairy light lit entrance and sank in among the cushions.

MasterChef’s Monica Galetti has been known to enjoy dinner here and one glance at the menu goes some way to establishing why that might be.

While owner and chef Eric (not actually cooking on the night of our visit but thoroughly passionate in conversation about what a restaurant should and equally shouldn’t offer) hails from the Indian Ocean of Réunion, the menu is firmly rooted in Modern European cuisine and inspired by many years of working in restaurants throughout France and the UK.

We picked a Fleurie, President Marguerite from the wine list (reds ranging from £15.50 to £69.50). On a side note, Wineservice, a local company established in 1979 and run by Nick Hillman consult on the pub’s offering.

Starting debate

As always, Sylviane and I swapped between our chosen starters and I’d be hard pressed to choose a favourite between the croquette of ricotta gnocchi and roasted scallops. My wife insisted the former but I’m not so sure that the black pudding and apple bread didn’t push things in the direction of the latter for me.

Both exquisite dishes served in excellent portions and with presentation as interesting as the décor of the pub. A little cider foam on my dish helping to provide the full breadth of textures.

To follow, the braised blade of beef melted on contact with flavours that wrestled for favour in a delicious way and a confit potato that added sturdiness. Sylviane’s slow roast fillet of salmon was equally delicious, fresh fish with earthy potato and bacon croquettes supplying the muscle. We’ve eaten in places that would charge a lot more for a lot less – in quality and portions – over the years.

For dessert, I opted for the intriguing sounding caramel and banana ‘Fabergé’ egg (to be honest, I could have easily gone for the warm apple and custard doughnut… or the sticky toffee pudding… or the chilled pink rhubarb trifle… but let’s not be greedy, there’s always next time). Packed full of fun, the dish was everything I had imagined, with crisp honeycomb and the meringue ‘egg’ providing excellent textures to play with the strong caramel and banana flavours.

Sylviane, as regular readers will be unsurprised to discover, opted for the cheese board (quite the expert these days, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before The Very Best Cheese Boards in Surrey is released!). A strong goats cheese was complemented well by a well rounded camembert and quickly polished off.

So, the verdict then? There is no doubt that the Hare & Hounds has to work very hard with its out of town location in east Surrey. If this pub was on Guildford High Street or maybe in Reigate or Weybridge town centres, you’d struggle to get a table. As things stand, Eric, wife Tracy and the rest of the team continue to put in the hard yards and their efforts have paid off. They have created a destination pub packed full of interest. Suffice to say, I believe it is well worth a journey.

***

3 great foodie pubs in Surrey

The Inn @ West End

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

Family-run by Gerry and Ann Price, with an open fire and fantastic wine list (in fact, they also have their own wine shop), they have certainly earned their place on our county’s culinary map.

The Black Swan, Ockham

Old Lane, Ockham KT11 1NG: 01932 862364

They’ve come a long way since the bar scene for American Werewolf in London was shot at the pub. Nowadays you’re more likely to bump into Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie or Guy Ritchie who have all visited over the course of the last year.

The Swan, Chiddingfold

Petworth Road, Chiddingfold GU8 4TY: 01428 684688

After 20 years spent running one of London’s ‘best kept secrets’ – the Swag and Tails pub in Knightsbridge – the owners moved down to Surrey for a new start in rural Chiddingfold.

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