The Grantley Arms, The Street, Wonersh GU5 0PE - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 10:57 15 February 2016 | UPDATED: 11:34 16 February 2016
It's all change in the village of Wonersh, where The Grantley Arms has new owners and heightened ambitions. Matthew Williams pays an early visit - and leaves excited about what is still to come
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2016
The Grantley Arms
The Street, Wonersh, Surrey GU5 0PE.
Tel: 01483 893351. Web: thegrantleyarms.co.uk
Need to know
What we ate
Three courses for £29
Spiced pumpkin soup
Pan-fried Penrith chicken
Pie of the day (cod)
Granny Smith sponge
64% chocolate cremeux
Large glass of 2011 Malbec Finca Perdriel Collection, Mendoza, Argentina, £15
REVIEW: In a trend that seems to be growing apace – and is certainly fully encouraged here at Surrey Life towers – friends are grouping together to take over their local pubs across our county. The latest to make such a transition is The Grantley Arms in Wonersh, and with the changes has come such a level of chatter that we just couldn’t resist an early visit.
Taken over by a couple of friends, Chris Frederick and Richard Cryer, they happened across the sale of this historic inn by chance and over a couple of pints thought, “well, how hard can it be?” Despite having no background in the industry, they already seem to have laid down a confident path.
In has come chef Matt Edmonds, who left a high-profile role at Searcy’s at London’s Gherkin, with the intention in the near future to provide separate menus both for ‘laid-back pub’ and ‘fine-dining restaurant’. Matt says that while he hopes the accolades will come in the long run, he’s not going to lose any sleep over them and is happy to concentrate on cooking great food with a respect for the produce. While his eyes are on the likes of the Hand & Flowers in Marlow and The Hardwick in Abergavenny, The Sportsman in Whitstable, for now the focus is on being “humble” and taking things step-by-step.
So they are striving for the heights, but when we visit, I am pleased to see that it remains a very relaxed kind of place. Seeping with history outside (there’s a sign that states it was established all the way back in 1590) but bringing you firmly into the modern world inside, it still retains a charming character.
We arrive on a weekend lunchtime and take seats in the light and spacious bar area. Having had a scout around, there’s plenty of cosy-looking corners for more formal/romantic occasions too (well, we are in February after all). It’s also child-friendly, and they bring out a crayons and colouring set with the high chair for our daughter and restaurant reviewing assistant, Iona.
The bar itself is well stocked with local ales and wines, and remains the kind of place that would feel just as welcoming for a drink with friends as a full-scale feast.
Later this year, they’re looking to open a deli in the storeroom next door, which will add more reason to visit the pretty village of Wonersh. Found in the countryside between Albury and Bramley, recent years have seen this quiet little corner become best-known for having the spectacular Barnett Hill conference centre on its doorstep. With this new ambitious foodie offering, however, these are exciting times for the village.
On the menu
While we peruse the menu, as a little extra treat, chef Matt serves us up an additional South Downs venison carpaccio with hazelnuts and home-grown rocket starter with our drinks. The wafer-thin slices of meat pack a powerful punch, with the nutty texture complemented perfectly by the deliciously wintery cinnamon backing.
So onto our starters ‘proper’, where my lightly-spiced pumpkin soup is poured at the table onto glazed chestnuts and watercress. It’s pure silk, while the dash of nuts again add bite.
Across the table, Sylviane opts for the slow-cooked salmon with Marie Rose dressing, poached oyster, fennel and grilled cucumber, which really celebrates each beautifully fresh ingredient.
Around us, a steady lunch trade builds – from families enjoying the full trimmings to weekend ‘paper and a pint’ visitors. Music wafts around the place, without ever intruding on conversations.
Heading into the main courses, with expectations firmly met by the presentation and flavours on display, I’m immediately won over again by what must be the most succulent chicken I’ve ever eaten. Not normally something I’d get over-excited about but it’s utterly delicious and well complemented by a crispy-edged black pudding and potato pressing, as well as flavours of mushroom and pancetta. Just really, really good cooking and again that celebration of each ingredient is the clear raison d’être.
The pie of the day (cod) that Sylviane opts for is packed full of flavour, topped with a pastry lid and served with creamy-as-you-like mash; it’s warming pub grub with a touch of elegance.
Still early afternoon, by now we are feeling well at home. In fact, The Grantley Arms has a feeling similar to Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards 2015 pub of the year, The Onslow Arms in Clandon, where you could quite happily settle down into the evening if circumstances would allow.
As it is, the tempting desserts grab our attention for a time yet, my Granny Smith sponge making magic with caramel and calvados chantilly (sweet partnerships don’t get much better than that, in my view), and Sylviane’s chocolate cremeux with praline crumble, banana jam and ice cream is so good that I don’t get to try as much as a spoonful.
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.
3 more great Surrey gastropubs
The Onslow Arms
Set in the swanky countryside surrounds of Clandon, the Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards 2015 Pub of the Year is one that takes its food very seriously.
• The Street, West Clandon GU4 7TF Tel: 01483 222447
The Plough Inn
When frustration at the local dining scene got the better of them, four Surrey friends did the obvious thing: they bought one of their local pubs. Well, some of us can dream…
• Plough Lane, Downside, Cobham KT11 3LT Tel: 01932 589790
Bought by the owners of the neighbouring Michelin-starred Drake’s restaurant in 2013, The Anchor has been transformed into a food-led pub/restaurant.
• High Street, Ripley GU23 6AE Tel: 01483 211866
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