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The Toby Cottage, Ripley, Surrey GU23 - restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 13:13 25 May 2012 | UPDATED: 14:54 20 February 2013

The Toby Cottage is a 16th century oak-beamed building

The Toby Cottage is a 16th century oak-beamed building

Tradition is high on the agenda this month as restaurant critic John Hughes enjoys the delights of the Toby Cottage in Ripley

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine October 2007

Restaurant reviewed: Toby Cottage, High Street, Ripley, Surrey GU23 Tel: 01483 224225

Tradition is high on the agenda this month as restaurant critic John Hughes enjoys the delights of the Toby Cottage in Ripley

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The Verdict:
Food: 7
Venue: 7
Service: 7

What we ate:
29.95 for three courses

Home-made pork & apple pt
Confit of duck leg served with a red onion marmalade

Main courses:
Grilled fillet of Loch Duart salmon with a white wine and prawn sauce
Roast rump of lamb with a celeriac puree and red wine jus

A selection of home-made ice cream and sorbet
Ginger and star anise panna cotta with mango coulis

Marques de Caceres (2009), Rioja Rosado, 17.95

What we ate...

Seafood Pancake 10.95
Asparagus 9.95

Main Courses
Tournedos Rossini 19.50
Roast Crispy Duck 18.95
Selection of fresh
vegetables and potatoes 3.50

Strawberry cheesecake 6.50

Rioja Bod. Paternina
Tempranillo-Garnache 2005 16.50

Food and wine 8/10
Venue 9/10
Service 9/10

REVIEW: The experience of dining at the Toby Cottage in Ripley is, as one might hope, just as traditional as the 16th century oak-beamed building in which this stylish restaurant is housed. Apparently, it used to be an antiques shop specialising in Toby Jugs and this was the inspiration for the name when it was converted into a restaurant in 1979. Under new management for the last year or so, tradition continues to be high on the agenda with an emphasis on close contact with customers. Flamb cooking at the table, for instance, is one of their specialities.

After ordering over an aperitif in the charming cocktail bar, my daughter Helen and I were seated in the main dining room with reminders to "mind your head" as we passed under beams that even the sweets trolley could barely duck under.

We had both been tempted away from the impressive array of starters on the main menu by some delicious specials. I chose asparagus; nice large, tender spears served simply with a hollandaise sauce. Meanwhile, Helen enjoyed a generous seafood pancake, brimming with flavours - a meal in itself almost. Both were excellent and a fine advertisement for the Toby Cottage's pride in using absolutely fresh ingredients.

My main course was an old favourite, Tournedos Rossini, a dish introduced to the Toby Cottage by their chef from his previous position at The Cloche Hat in Chobham. The fillet steak was tender yet firm, and the pat topping had a pleasing course, crumbling texture, which I much prefer to the smoother variety, both complemented by a rich Madeira sauce. Served with a selection of fresh vegetables and potatoes, this was a very satisfying dish. Across the table, Helen seemed equally pleased with her roast crispy duck and, in particular, the accompanying honey and almond sauce.

The wine list at the Toby Cottage is a subject of its own and has been developed and refined with great attention to complement the menu's blend of English and continental cuisine. To mention one section alone, the selection of Rioja wines is extensive, ranging from my modest choice, Bod. Paternina Temranillo-Garnache 2005, to some stunning vintages that come at a price.

All sweets from the trolley are handmade on the premises, and we shared a strawberry cheesecake, initially as a token gesture. But it turned out to be a gem with a flavour to die for and, we decided, worth forgoing starters for a future visit. There was just something about it.

Overall, it was a lovely evening in a charming restaurant serving traditional food and wine to a very high standard. The service was excellent, the waiters attentive and you leave with a feeling of contentment that is happily not compromised by the more contemporary habit of presenting you with a thumping great bill.

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