The Squirrel, Hurtmore GU7 2RN - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 16:06 30 March 2016 | UPDATED: 22:02 30 March 2016
As any regular reader of these pages will be well aware, the times are a-changing in the pub world, with many having aspirations far beyond simple, homely grub these days. The Squirrel at Hurtmore is among those with grand ambitions. Matthew Williams finds out if it's hitting the mark
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine March 2016
Need to know
The Squirrel, Hurtmore Road, Hurtmore GU7 2RN
What we ate
Rosemary and anchovy-crusted lamb rump, mushroom and potato boulangère, buttered mixed kale, roasted chestnut and garlic emulsion, £19.50
Maple-glazed Gressingham duck breast, sautéed vegetable and goat’s curd croustillant, potato fondant and raspberry jus, £18.50
Mixed berry and apple crumble with vanilla crème anglaise, £7.50
Hazelnut whip, almond tuile, chocolate and pistachio soil and pine sorbet, £7.50
Malbec, Nieto, Mendoza, Argentina, small glass, £6.20
A pint of Hogs Back Brewery’s TEA, £3.90
REVIEW: The hamlet of Hurtmore is one of those slightly strange Surrey places that, if approached from a certain angle, you’d presume is utterly in the middle of nowhere. In fact, it’s only minutes away from Guildford and Godalming (and the prestigious Charterhouse School), and a quick twist of the wheel off the bustling A3.
On our arrival, we drive past the picturesque 16th century cottage, which has been converted into eight letting rooms, and into the overflow car park on what appears to be a busy January lunchtime.
The Squirrel itself is fairly nondescript compared to its character-packed cottage neighbour, but it’s surrounded by gardens and alfresco dining areas that look highly inviting for the warmer months. A couple of concrete squirrels guard the entrance, of course.
Since November 2011, this frontier-style pub has been run by the owners of The Inn on the Green in the village of Ockley, near Dorking. For a while, their menu offering had been what they described as “basic pub food”, but recently they told Surrey Life that “things are now much more refined” and that their “goal is to put The Squirrel on the map as one of the best food pubs in Surrey.” High ambitions indeed, and certainly enough to get our taste buds twitching.
When we visit, the long bar inside is packed, with the local lunchtime drinking crowd in high spirits. There’s a choice of cosy bar seating, but we’re whisked over to the relative tranquillity of the restaurant. A huge conservatory means that there’s plenty of daylight flooding the room.
We settle down, order a couple of drinks from the well-stocked bar (I opt for the local Hogs Back Brewery TEA, one of four real ales) and take in the day’s menu. Head chef Jamie Bicknell has been brought in to strive for three AA rosettes, and his kitchen has set out its stall for elegant modern French/British cuisine.
While the starters are tempting (ceviche of salmon with candied beetroot carpaccio; seared fillet of beef with horseradish and Stilton crumb etc), we decide to keep things relatively light and head straight to the main courses.
A real treat
I zone in on the rosemary and anchovy-crusted lamb rump, which comes with mushroom and potato boulangère, buttered mixed kale, roasted chestnut and garlic emulsion. When it arrives, it’s a real treat. The meat is succulent, with its crispy coating packing a real punch of delicious seasoning, and the boulangère proves to be its perfect sidekick.
With the tasty-sounding lemon sole fillets in Parma ham already a sell-out, Sylviane opts for the duck dish, which turns out to have a few tricks up its sleeve. While the maple-glazed Gressingham duck breast is beautifully succulent, it is accompanied by a sautéed vegetable and goat’s curd croustillant (kind of like a posh pancake roll, I suppose, and a real winner), which brings a few flavours of the exotic to the dish.
As lunch moves on, the drinkers leave and a dog-walking couple settle down on a sofa by the bar with their mutt calmly by their side (“our pub is dog-friendly as long as your dog is pub friendly,” say the owners). As well as dogs, well-behaved children are also in tow and our mini-reviewer, Iona, thoroughly enjoys her exchanges with the waitresses from the comfort of the high chair provided. So, despite aiming for ‘fine’ with its food, the welcome here clearly remains one of a country pub.
While we may not have had room for starters, dessert is another matter entirely. I can’t resist the staple winter warmer that is mixed berry and apple crumble – an utterly mouth-watering mix that could have probably done with a slightly bigger dish, so I could swamp it with the moreish vanilla crème anglaise that accompanied. Perhaps that’s my own childhood habit though. Either way, it was a lovely thing. Please, sir, can I have...?
Sylviane opts for the hazelnut whip with almond tuile, chocolate and pistachio soil and pine sorbet, and her efforts to battle Iona off it highlight just how well it goes down.
As we leave, we both cast our eyes over to those picturesque 16th century cottages. It really isn’t hard to imagine a long, lazy weekend away in The Squirrel’s arms. With the Thursley and Puttenham commons, the Watts Gallery Artists’ Village and the picturesque town of Godalming and its riverside walks only minutes away (oh, and Guildford, of course), there would be plenty on the itinerary to build keen appetites.
3 more great country pubs
The Grantley Arms
It’s early days yet for The Grantley Arms but all the signs point to a very exciting future ahead. This is the kind of place that once again proves that a balance between village pub and fine dining can be found, and the results are thrilling. This is certainly one to keep your eyes on.
• The Street, Wonersh GU5 0PE Tel: 01483 893351
The Black Swan
Serving an inventive British menu, head chef Ian Wilson has put seasonality at the heart of his cooking. The bar stocks a number of local brewers on tap, and a specially-created beer called The Cygnet Bitter.
• Old Lane, Ockham KT11 1NG. Tel: 01932 862364
If you’re just looking for a quiet drink, that’s all well and good, but this place also hides a real culinary hot spot with a spectacular tasting menu for those looking for the full treatment. The building also happens to be home to a boutique hotel, run separately from the pub/restaurant.
• Peaslake GU5 9RR. Tel: 01306 731769