The Richard Onslow, 113-117 High St, Cranleigh, GU6 8AU
An established dining room with a seriously creative menu from independent pub group Peach.
The upside: A gastro-pub with a outstanding unique menu which wanders outside the norm!
The downside: Struggling here….
The flipside: Top marks for energetic creative management!
When I was contacted by the PR company representing the Richard Onslow asking if I would like sample their new summer menu I immediately agreed. My review policy is one I stick to but I had already given the thumbs up to this pub in 2013 so a return visit was long overdue.
I had heard that founding manager John Taylor who is credited with putting this pub firmly on Surrey’s culinary map was leaving for pastures new. What a legacy he has left behind; management team that looked after me on the day I visited were high energy, well informed, slick and personable. Having studied the Peach Pubs website before I visited it seemed that they were exactly what they say they are, professional, dedicated, fun loving and food-centric.
Terri the Manager told me that each of the 18 pubs in this group are allowed to keep their individual personalities and each chef has menu autonomy aside from five classics that each pub menu carries. They are careful to keep the ethos of each venue in keeping with their location make sure that passing trade and locals are catered for with equal attention. The new menu I was there to sample was a collaboration of the in house chefs and development chef Mike Scott.
I had been invited to review the new summer menu and at the time of writing I feel guilty that a month has passed since visiting. The menu will run until September and I am sure that after my delightful experience the replacement will be just as good. My plus one was my teenage son (aged 15) who was doing one of his work experience weeks with me. He told me the other day that he preferred the week he did with the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (not surprisingly) but that lunch at the Richard Onslow had been a highlight of his week with me.
On arrival we were seated in their delightful dining room, which has a mixture of comfy sofas, dining chairs, round, square and oblong tables. This I like, as depending on the size of your party, you can choose a format that suits you. It’s a stylish light room with subtle decor a contemporary edge and a relaxed vibe.
The summer menu has some really interesting plates. It’s a refreshing compilation featuring summery seasonal ingredients and current food trends. For starters we chose free-range ham and cheddar croquettes with garlic aioli and Secretts watercress £7.25 and a spring onion and pea Scotch egg with pesto mayonnaise (£6.75). My son devoured his croquettes, which were crunchy, rich and cheesy. Dipping the croquettes into the aioli with a fork of watercress gave a perfect balance of flavours. My Scotch egg had a high scoring soft centre. The Scotch egg on its own was well seasoned but adding the pesto mayonnaise lifted the flavour profile from great to gorgeous. The chef was keen for us to sample his favourite starter from the menu, which was a stunner. Pan-fried scallops and monkfish with Bombay potatoes and Indian salad (£9.75 starter/£19.95 main) was a riot of ingredients. Plump fresh succulent scallops and monkfish with a backdrop of a Bhel Poori house style salad from London’s famous Drummond Street; if you have never been there do! Its a London institution. This was actually one of the most innovative dishes I have had in a while and it worked so well. I like risky cooking and this was a great example.
Onto the mains my teenage companion predictably chose sausages and mash from the specials board whilst I went for sea bass with saffron potatoes, mussels and clam chowder (£17.00). My son wolfed his dinner down and I savoured my dish. Crispy skin fish twinned with a creamy seafood chowder which was comforting but not overly rich. The fish and seafood were super fresh too suggesting a hint of the Mediterranean in Cranleigh (indulge me it was a sunny day). We ordered a dish of peas, courgette and beans which were sautéed in butter and simply gorgeous and a generous portion too. It was lunchtime and I was driving but I did notice that the wine list is comprehensive and priced to satisfy any budget with a few local English wines listed too.
The dessert menu included a vegan peanut butter and chocolate brownie made with Valrhona chocolate which can be served with sorbet if requested (£5.75) My chocoholic son had his with Jude’s vanilla ice-cream. The brownie was not oversweet (as is often the case) so a perfect partner to ice-cream. Served warm it was light in texture with an intense chocolate note and a nutty finish. My choice in complete contrast was grilled peach served with biscotti and Chantilly cream. I felt the biscotti here were a little large but this may have been because the portions here are generous and we had eaten really well. The Chantilly cream was delicious and the plate looked and tasted fantastic.
I finished with a pot of mint tea and development Chef Mike Scott came for a chat. Full of enthusiasm and clearly enjoying his job he echoed the ethos of Peach pubs which had been so eloquently described by his colleague Terri. We had had a terrific lunch served by energetic, well-informed and happy staff so I wasn’t surprised to discover that the company had won Best Employer in the 2015 Hospitality Awards.
They seem to have it all here and its delightful to find that this venue seems to have improved since my last review visit (its often the reverse). I also like the fact that they have a good mix of buying local where they can (bread from the craft baker across the road ) and salad leaves from Secretts in Milford, plan menus to the seasons and really care about the provenance too.
I am already planning a return visit and feel justified in giving this venue a big thumbs up.
Tel 01483 274922