The Stephan Langton Inn: restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 11:15 30 August 2017 | UPDATED: 11:15 30 August 2017
Winner of best pub and best local menu at last year's Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards, the Stephan Langton Inn has long been a popular escape to the country. Matthew Williams discovers whether it has maintained its award-winning touch
Some pubs throw their specials up on blackboards, while others showcase the latest witticism from the ‘Great Big Book Of Clichéd Quotes’ that so many landlords must receive at Christmas...
...The Stephan Langton Inn at Friday Street, however, uses their humble wallcovering to proudly chalk up all the local food and drink producers that weave their way through each day’s menu.
They’re going to need a bigger one soon by the looks of things too, and it goes some way to explaining why they picked up best local menu AND pub of the year at 2016’s Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards.
Having long lived in the area and enjoyed the pub previously as dog walking punters, Anneliese Cameron and Lee Nicholls took over the country retreat in 2015. As a free house, it has enabled them to establish a tap room of sorts for Lee’s Tillingbourne Brewery (found a 15-minute drive away with Albury Vineyard and Silent Pool Distillers as neighbours – who are both found behind the bar too) but they’re also firmly focused on a taste of Surrey within their food offering.
A fairy tale place
I’m sure many of our regular readers were already well versed with this pub even before its double award-winning performance last year. Certainly if you live around the Reigate or Dorking area, it’s an almost fairy tale place that is passed down through the generations.
Turning off the A25 at Wotton and making your way down the winding lanes that lead you into the heart of Friday Street, it’s not hard to see why. There’s the tree-lined pond, gnarled ‘Lord of the Rings’ roots, charming cottages and a standalone wooden sign conveniently providing a sense of relief for any baffled sat-nav owners or weary walkers frantically double checking their route…
It’s a quaint little hamlet and I later discover that an owner of one of the neighbouring cottages even provides homemade preserves for the pub and the local gamekeeper is often found popping in with his latest finds – his dogs happily joining the pub dog, Teasel, at the bar.
It’s a place that offers its own smooth take on the rural idyll, and you can pop into the snug and bar or more expansive restaurant depending on your whims. To come clean, we’d actually made a sneaky visit a few weeks before with our French relatives after a magical trip around the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden in Ockley – they loved it and even tried the Tillingbourne rather than Leffe!
We arrive on review night to blue skies and the sun burning into the trees that dominate the valley.
Anneliese greets us and, after we’ve enjoyed a quick tipple outside, leads us into the dining room. They’ve kept things fairly simple décor-wise, offering splashes of colour with arty takes on rural life. The atmosphere is steady rather than bustling, but then it’s a week night and there’s no such thing as ‘passing’ trade in these parts.
Seated in a comfortable alcove with views out through the leaden windows, we order a bottle of Albury Vineyard’s delightful Silent Pool Rosé and take a glance through the tantalising menu. Settling for seafood to start, Sylviane’s scallops are fresh from Rex Goldsmith (aka The Chelsea Fishmonger, who lives down the road and has his own blackboard quotes to brighten any day! Make sure to check out his social media). They’re served simply with the salty crunch of bacon and fresh pea puree to accompany and who can argue with that?
My salmon, smoked at Tillingbourne Trout Farm in Abinger Hammer, doesn’t play about either. It’s a really good bit of fish with classic accompaniments.
Sylviane can’t resist the temptation of their signature, The Archbishop’s Pie, which is chock-full of succulent steak, pheasant breast, mushrooms and a thick Tillingbourne ‘Black Troll’ ale gravy. It’s comfort food done well and makes me look forward to returning in venison season.
As it is, I opt for the pan-roasted cod, smoked hollandaise, thick cut chips and summer stems off the specials board. A very decent portion of more lovely fish.
To finish, I can’t resist the comfort food nod of the crumble with ice cream from St Joan’s Dairy in Leigh and Sylviane heads straight for the cheese selection, which proves to be a real winner – there’s a charcoal cheddar that, while not from the area, is absolutely unbelievable.
All in all, this is a lovely little pub that’s championing Surrey at every turn and I can’t help but encourage and applaud their efforts. Long may it continue.
Need to know
The Stephan Langton Inn
Friday Street, near Dorking RH5 6JR
Tel: 01306 730775
What we ate
Rex Goldsmith’s scallops of the day, £8.95
Tillingbourne Trouth Farm smoked salmon, dill blini, avruga caviar crème fraiche, £7.95
The Archbishop’s Pie , mash and vegetables, £14.95
Pan-roasted cod, smoked hollandaise, thick cut chips and summer stems, £16.95
Crumble of the day, £6.95
Selection of Surrey & Sussex (and Lincoln!) cheeses, £8.50
Bottle of Albury Vineyard’s Silent Pool Rose, £18.50
TIP: Pop down for Tillingbourne Tuesday every week when all Tillingbourne beers are £3.50 and under.
A note on those Surrey suppliers...
Fish from The Chelsea Fishmonger (…lives in Wotton)
Meat from Rawlings of Cranleigh
Smokery at Tillingbourne Trout Farm at Abinger Hammer
Game from The Wotton Estate
Bread from Chalk Hills Bakery, Reigate
Watercress from Kingfisher Farm, Abinger Hammer
Asparagus from Sondes Place Farm, Dorking
Salad leaves from Secretts Farm, Milford
Wine from Albury Vineyard
Beer from Tillingbourne Brewery, near Shere
Cakes and chocolates from Homemade by Hannah, Westcott
Preserves from Pond Cottage Preserves, Friday Street
Note: depending on seasons!