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Esher 2013: where to eat, shop and visit

PUBLISHED: 16:38 09 October 2013 | UPDATED: 16:41 09 October 2013

Esher

Esher

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Still popular with the rich and famous today, Esher’s appeal stretches back into history with Henry VIII and Queen Victoria regular visitors

A potted history...

Esher grew up as a stopping point on the London to Portsmouth road. There are several links to royalty here, with King Henry VIII using the area as a hunting ground in the 16th century. There are some interesting churches too. In the town centre, Christ Church is a Victorian Gothic building over 150 years old with a magnificent spire and tower. Across the green in nearby West End is St George’s – the little church built on land donated by Queen Victoria to save locals a walk into Esher. Last but not least, the original church of St George in Esher is over 900 years old and is now looked after by the Churches Conservation trust.

Shop till you drop…

Like many of Surrey’s towns, Esher has quite a few small independent shops, and a surprisingly large number of alluring boutiques. A walk down the High Street will take you past the Bernard Boutique, CLUB, Rocco, O’Keefe and Blink, to name just a few. Also dotted around are a selection of traditional shops – a Central Pharmacy (High Street), Garsons Garden Centre (Winterdown Road) and a few charity shops (pop into The Princess Alice Hospice Shop at 39 High Street – you’ll be astonished at the things thrown out by well-heeled Esher residents…). As well as being the latest dining spot on the High Street, the new Daylesford is a great place to pick up some beautifully fresh produce for a picnic.

Out & about…

The place to be if you fancy a flutter, Sandown Park is one of the best-known racecourses in the country and just a short gallop from the town centre. In fact, there is a lot more to Sandown than just the horses – there is also a dry ski slope, a karting track and an 18-hole golf course. If you prefer a more leisurely pursuit, there is also Claremont Landscape Garden, just a mile or two south of Esher on the Portsmouth Road. Originally an 18th century mansion and gardens favoured by Queen Victoria, it is now owned by the National Trust and features a large lake with the grounds dotted by follies. For the creatively inclined, pop into The Art Agency in the High Street, which promotes original work by selected contemporary artists through exhibitions and events. Last but not least, if you don’t fancy moving much at all then take in a film at the local cinema, The Odeon, also in the High Street.

Food & drink…

Dominating the top of the High Street is The Bear hotel and bar (01372 469786). Describing their cuisine as “traditional British with a twist”, you can order from tempting-sounding dishes such as London sausages in onion gravy; herb-crust four-bone rack of lamb with veg and sautéed potatoes; or British beef mini-burgers with Denhey cheddar. Also in the High Street another popular dining destination is Layla (01372 462333), an authentic Lebanese restaurant serving only the best and freshest dishes from the region. They even have a wide range of vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free dishes too. Not enough time? 
Just nearby you’ll find The Loaf and Ladle café and sandwich bar (01372 467559) or, round the corner in Church Street, Bar Estilo (01372 468880), serving a range of tapas, tostada and barbeque ribs.

Famous faces…

Still very much in the Chelsea footballer catchment area (the club’s training ground is just down the road), there’s no shortage of footballers to be seen. John Terry lives nearby and Gary Lineker has often been spotted here as well.

The town also has a link to The Beatles too. George Harrison once had a house in Esher (complete with a recording studio, of course).

Among the other well-known faces often seen locally is TV presenter Chris Tarrant.

***

Getting there…

Superb links to London and the M25 put Esher right at the heart of Surrey. The A307 Portsmouth Road runs right through the town and the motorway is just a quick traffic jam away at junction 11. Trains run through Esher station on the Waterloo to Woking service and as you would expect for a busy urban area there are frequent buses – from the High Street through Claygate, Surbiton and Kingston to Roehampton Vale.

***

My weekend in Esher

“I often pop into the Aladdin’s cave at Clark’s when I am looking for a present and if I want to treat myself to something special to wear there is lots to browse at Rocco,” says Alison Ramsay, owner at The Art Agency. “We’re spoilt for choice when deciding where to eat here. I could have breakfast, lunch and dinner at a different restaurant every day for a week but my favourites would be brunch at Cote and dinner at The Sherpa Kitchen. To work up an appetite, I might go for a walk in the woods at West End, feed the ducks and play a game of cricket with the children on the green. We could also go for a stroll around the lake at Claremont Landscape Garden following one of the trails.”

“It’s best to come here when the racing is on at Sandown,” says residential sales manager at Hamptons, Jonathan Dredge. “There is a real buzz around the High Street with plenty of places to grab some lunch before heading to the racing – and more than likely losing some money. Cote and Carluccio’s are good, as you can sit outside and people watch. On a Sunday, a lazy day in West End followed by a trip to Garsons Farm and its treasure trove garden centre hits the spot – there’s also a farm shop where you can buy fresh produce. You can round off the day by heading to the Prince of Wales pub in West End for an early evening meal.”

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