A pretty, shabby chic parlour combining a café, gift shop and deli counter.
Go there for: Homemade specials, gourmet sandwiches, handmade cakes and bakes.
Avoid: Not booking ahead for a large group.
Is it worth the calories?: Homemade soup and specials are well balanced but go easy on the cakes!
Tips: Parking can be a little restricted; the pub across the road has additional spaces.
When Cathy Garthwaite and Christina Collins met on the school run a few years ago they immediately became friends. Managing careers and children was stressful so they explored business ideas closer to home. With successful backgrounds in textiles and hotel and catering the idea of a stylish café for locals to enjoy evolved. When the Old Forge in Shamley Green came up for rent its interior of red brick and beams hit the right note and Cathy and Christina signed the lease. They bought all their equipment and furniture second-hand and, after painting and decorating, created a lovely space.
The Speckledy Hen (a name borrowed from a children’s book) opened in 2012 and quickly gained a loyal following. Pastel-painted furniture, carefully sourced gifts, traditional children’s toys and local-food products creates a feel-good atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to lift the spirits, leaving the politics of life firmly outside. You get the sense that this venture has brought more than just a new venue to this community. Many of the staff live just around the corner and, as they pointed out, it’s a lovely place to work.
The kitchen is tiny so there is a limited but well-constructed menu. For breakfast choose from granola with yogurt and honey (£3.95), satisfying bacon butties (£3.95) or scrambled eggs served on artisan sourdough bread on its own (£5.95) or with bacon (£6.95) or smoked salmon (£9.95). Lunch options include an open and toasted sandwich menu (£7.50 plus) and Hen platters such as grilled haloumi, hummus, roasted peppers and grilled artichokes (£9.95). Daily specials might be Thai green curry (£9.95). There’s a good balance of vegetarian options and gluten-free diets are catered for. Fresh coffee is supplied by local roaster Coffee Real, tea is from Tea Pigs and cakes are made by Madeleine and Rachel, who live locally.
For lunch we sampled Thai green curry with a wholegrain mixed rice (very healthy). The portion wasn’t huge but substantial enough. I thought the curry could have been feistier, but my daughter loved it. I had a bowl of tomato and red pepper soup with bread (£5.95): this over-generous portion was served on a hen-shaped board (it’s a bit of a thing here). Piping hot and extremely tasty, it had me quietly admitting that I couldn’t have made it better myself.
The shop and deli sell a range of local and specialty foods including Ouse Valley preserves and Norbury Blue cheese. Bread is from the Hungry Guest in Petworth, and you can also pick up Kokoh chocolate hand produced by Joanna in Ewhurst . Take away and outside catering are also on offer. Although the menu states that food is locally sourced, that doesn’t extend to sausages and meat: a shame as there are so many great butchers in Surrey. But this evolving food business is a great addition to Surrey’s food destinations.