The Richard Onslow, Cranleigh, Surrey GU6 8AU ~ restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 14:10 21 September 2012 | UPDATED: 14:27 17 July 2014
A night in the self-proclaimed ‘biggest village in Britain’ promised much, but would The Richard Onslow and its refurbished rooms be up to the task? MATTHEW WILLIAMS visited Cranleigh, bag in hand, to find out
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine September 2012
Restaurant reviewed: The Richard Onslow, 113-117 High Street, Cranleigh GU6 8AU: 01483 274 922
What we ate...
Double-baked cheese soufflé and chive crème fraîche, £6
Potted crab, smoked paprika mayonnaise and toasted rye, £7.25
28-day aged 20oz Casterbridge Côte de Boeuf on a board for two to share, with chips, roast vine tomatoes, rocket and parmesan salad and Béarnaise sauce, £48
Côte de Brouilly 2009, Les Volcaniques, J Charlet, France, £27.50
REVIEW: On first arriving at The Richard Onslow in Cranleigh, we weren’t quite sure what to expect – we’ve driven past before when the place was still a building site and, on this occasion, a motley crew of regular drinkers seemed to surround the only entrance into the place leaving it feeling a little like running the gauntlet.
For once, with our wedding a week away and birthday celebrations also in the air, we had taken up the Onslow’s offer of a night’s stay to go with our review, and I wonder if they might not be better opening up a side entrance for overnight guests. Anyway, I’m picking holes here that the place really doesn’t deserve.
Once inside, you’re greeted by an attractive décor, piles of daily papers, a well-stocked bar and an inviting open restaurant area – and as such, any wariness immediately evaporates.
Quickly whisked off to our room via a courtyard that looks small and perfectly formed for alfresco dining, we were impressed to find an £85-a-night room (including breakfast and free Wi-Fi) that was almost apartment-like in size.
There are a mix of rooms, some of which are part of the pub itself and may be more affected by a lively weekend nights bar antics, but there are also further rooms tucked away out the back and it was here we would lay our heads.
Returning to the main building, we grabbed a Pimm’s and pint of Surrey Hills Brewery’s Shere Drop at the bar and sat down for a chat with the immediately welcoming owner John Taylor.
Having lived another life as one of Sir Richard Branson’s right-hand men in Ulusaba, his private game reserve in South Africa, and on the idyllic island of Necker in the British Virgin Islands, John has found his way to Cranleigh, via a stint in London, in time to settle down here with his young family.
Originally looking for somewhere near the sea, Cranleigh eventually offered the opportunity that he and the Peach Pub Company were looking for.
Swept into the bustling dining room, which was packed on the Saturday night, and led to a table for two, this is pub dining as we’re starting to expect in Surrey nowadays but is an awful long way from the ‘home-cooked’ food of the past.
A reader recommendation
We only had to look at the menu for the starters as we’d already decided to follow a Surrey Life reader’s recommendation of the Côte de Boeuf for the main course – specials are presented on a blackboard at your table.
Sylviane, with her cheese fetish, opted for a double baked cheese soufflé, which was so light, fluffy and flavourful, I wasn’t even quick enough to have a try.
Similarly, my crab was a fresh delight, although it was actually the toasted rye that grabbed my attention for some reason. A chargrilled flavour that worked oh-so-well with the smoked paprika mayonnaise and crab.
We ordered a bottle of the Côte de Brouilly 2009, which seemed reasonably priced, especially as we’d dined at another Surrey restaurant (which shall go unnamed here) the night before for Sylviane’s birthday and seen the same bottle priced at nearly £10 more!
A quick thank you to the Surrey Life reader who recommended the Côte de Boeuf – hopefully you’ll know who you are – what an absolutely fantastic dish. I’m so glad I was hungry. A great cut of beef bought over the road in the local butcher’s, served with chunky chips, roast vine tomatoes, a rocket and parmesan salad and Béarnaise sauce.
The table weighed heavy with the load, as my eyes lit up and the dish was just as delicious as it looked. A standard no doubt, but a standard served with a certain swagger.
Conquering it did, however, leave us with no room for the desserts, which usually would have appealed to us both (there’s a nice option of a ‘morsel’ or ‘full’ cheese board – it’s also worth noting their selection of deli boards and daily roasts… there are certainly no half measures here).
Instead, we opted for Irish coffees, which were served on a tray with sugar in a Tate & Lyle golden syrup tub and a side of Smarties – a fun touch, I thought. Eating out should make you smile, or at least leave you a little more satisfied than when you entered, and it’s these sort of neat little touches that I certainly enjoy and set one destination apart from another.
In the morning, after a very, very lazy start to the day (what can I say, the beds are comfortable), we opted for the excellent Eggs Benedict for breakfast with a couple of filter coffees to set us on our way – breakfast is available all the way up to 11.30am, so there isn’t that mad dash that can take place for a one-hour breakfast slot at some hostelries.
So, in conclusion, how to sum up a pub that is offering so much? The Richard Onslow is an intriguing mix of drinking pub, top quality restaurant and relaxing weekend hideaway – it’s a fine balancing act that certainly at the moment they seem to be performing with some skill. We arrived to smiles and left relaxed: job done.
3 great eateries with beds
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Dating back to the 15th century, it’s all change at this old-fashioned coaching inn, which mixes a traditional bar area, complete with a log fire, and a modern restaurant. The esteemed chef Marco Pierre White has just bought the place, so expect big things to come.
Wiremill Lane, Felbridge, near Lingfield, Surrey RH7 6HJ: 01342 832263
Set on the edge of a lake with a terrace overlooking the water, this former 15th century wiremill is perfect for summer dining. Last year, they won The Publican Awards for the best accommodation pub in the country.
The Crown Inn
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The award-winning Crown dates back to the 13th century and even has royal patronage – it is recorded that King Edward VI and some 4,000 men camped on the Green at Chiddingfold on July 21, 1552.