The William Bray, Shere, Surrey GU5 9HS - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 20:04 21 December 2010 | UPDATED: 21:46 26 March 2015
While it may have been rather quiet on the Hollywood front in Shere just lately, The William Bray has been making the headlines that keep this pretty village on the map. MATTHEW WILLIAMS paid a visit to sample its legendary fare
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine December 2010
Restaurant reviewed: The William Bray, Shere Lane, Shere, Surrey GU5 9HS Tel: 01483 202044
Food and drink 9
What we ate
Grilled red mullet with warm Nicoise salad £7.50
Norfolk mussels served in cream, leek and white wine sauce £7.50
Rack of Sherbourne farm lamb with Tuscan vegetable and chickpea casserole £19.50
Wild mushroom, chestnut and coriander risotto with parmesan and crème fraiche £10.50
Cherry doughnuts with cinnamon sugar and custard shake £7.50
Chocolate brownies with espresso ice cream £7.50
Large glass of Rioja Crianza, Bodegas Lan 2005 (Spain) £9.20
Large glass of Bergerie de L’Hortus Rose 2008 (South France) £8.50
REVIEW: Last time I visited The William Bray, Formula 1 supremo Eddie Jordan was sitting in the corner playing drums with his band. As dinner time serenades go, it wasn’t perhaps the most romantic but it was a lot of fun.
Then, a few months later, readers voted it their favourite summer pub in an online poll on our website. Mind you, it has a pretty formidable reputation in the wintertime, too...
Inspired by Cameron Diaz and Jude Law’s visit to Shere for the filming of The Holiday, the pub now gets in a snow machine each winter to add a little magic – pop along to their evening of carols on Christmas Eve to check out this local phenomenon.
There was no sign of a winter wonderland, however, the night that my girlfriend and I visited, though as we approached via thoroughly flooded country lanes on a dreary late autumn evening, the warm interior acted as our lighthouse.
Unfortunately, what was rather more of a problem on our arrival was that there was no sign of any waiting staff, either. Now it has to be said, I have never once heard a complaint about the service at the pub and my previous experiences have been faultless. However, on this particular evening, Murphy’s Law decided to introduce a series of events that less relaxed folk might have taken umbrage over. After a slow start, however, things did pick up.
Named after Shere’s 18th century Lord of the Manor, The William Bray is owned by former racing driver Julian Bailey and his personality is stamped across the pub’s interior, with the walls adorned in racing pictures – including one of Lewis Hamilton playing guitar at a recent quiz night.
It is the food, however, that has made the pub’s name. Chef Mark Routledge is an avid experimentalist with local produce and highly skilled with it, too – you may have read about his efforts tackling crayfish with a Surrey Wildlife Trust ranger in last month’s magazine; a pest turned tasty menu addition.
Having said all that, on this occasion, Sylviane and I both opted for dishes from the coast – Norfolk mussels and red mullet, respectively. Mark’s presentation is effortlessly impressive and while keeping things simple, the flavours he conjures up would leave any reviewer clutching for the superlatives.
Opting for home in the second round, my rack of Sherbourne lamb, which wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Tate, was a wonderfully hearty and wholesome affair. Sylviane went for the vegetarian risotto and was equally blown away.
As with everything on the Bray’s menu, the modern British influence tends to throw up a few surprises and my dessert was no exception: doughnuts, just not as we know them. Set to join the preceding Sherbourne lamb in the Tate next summer, once again it was mouthwateringly good. I didn’t even get the chance to try the chocolate brownies on the other side of the table, which is testament alone!
So, while things may have stalled at the beginning of the evening, once the kitchen started firing, the Bray quickly made its way through the gears to highlight why many consider it to be in pole position among the area’s pubs. Fresh, local and ever inventive, the cooking continues to keep the crowds coming back.
3 other highly-rated Surrey pub restaurants
The Inn @ West End
42 Guildford Road, West End GU24 9PW: 01276 858 652
Surrey Dining Pub of the Year for the third year in a row according to the Good Pub Guide, Gerry and Ann Price are part of the reason the definition between pub and fine dining restaurant has become so blurred.
The Joshua Tree
30 Common Road, Redhill RH1 6HG: 01737 211994
A very relaxed, almost casual atmosphere belies the professionalism of the kitchen and front of house staff alike. If you’ve ever been tempted by kangaroo, here’s your chance.
School Road, Windlesham GU20 6PD: 01276 479244
The quality of this pub’s food is so good that it has appeared as an Inspector’s Favourite choice in the prestigious Michelin Guide.