With its world-class food scene, picture-perfect villages, pretty countryside, and sunny vineyards, Surrey offers much more than a weekend break. But it's a good place to start, says Sara Hardy.
Start your weekend in style with lunch at the characterful Onslow Arms in West Clandon – easily accessed from the M25. The food here is consistently excellent with a wine list to match. You can snuggle up on one of the chesterfields that sit beside the imposing inglenook fireplace or, if the weather calls for rosé or Pimms, the walled garden is the perfect spot.
Don’t get too comfortable because it’s a two-minute drive to the top of Newlands Corner for some of the best views in Surrey. Blow away the cobwebs with a choice of circular walks (varying in length and incline) which take you past the turquoise spring-fed lakes of the Silent Pool gin and vodka distillery. You will also pass the organic vineyard of Albury which provides exquisite wines to many prestigious restaurants.
The journey to Ripley (birthplace of guitar legend Eric Clapton, and your home for the next two nights) will take ten minutes. Once you’ve settled in to your beautiful accommodation at Broadway Barn (broadwaybarn.com), take a stroll down the tree-lined high street for a drink at the intimate Ripley Anchor which dates back to the 16th century and is owned by two protégées of Michelin–starred chef, Steve Drake. Its cool but cosy atmosphere and prestigious accolades, Including Michelin’s Bib Gourmand, make it a glorious spot for dinner. Alternatively, a few steps down the high street will take you to The Clock House where you can enjoy the full Michelin star experience.
If it’s the second Saturday of the month, call in to the farmers market on the village green before setting off; it’s a foodie’s paradise. Otherwise, drive ten minutes into the Surrey Hills to the chocolate box village of Shere. You might find this village strangely familiar as it has starred in numerous films, including Bridget Jones’ Diary. Park behind the village hall and meander down to the Dabbling Duck to enjoy a delicious breakfast beside the stream. Afterwards, take a stroll and soak up the atmosphere among pretty houses, boutique shops and tea rooms.
The twenty-minute drive to Denbies Wine Estate will take you through the stunning village of Abinger Hammer and across the Surrey Hills. Offering spectacular views over the 265-acre vineyard, Box Hill and the North Downs, the vineyard’s contemporary Gallery Restaurant is a memorable setting for lunch. The seasonal set menu is almost entirely sourced from local suppliers and the wine list needs little introduction.
Take one of the hourly outdoor vineyard tours (suitable for children as the tour is provided by a covered tractor train) or an indoor winery tour. If time allows, afterwards you could take the short drive up to Box Hill which is famous for its challenging cycle paths, not to mention more great views.
There are two stand out places within an easy twenty-minute drive from Ripley. Michelin–starred Sorrel in Dorking offers mouth–tingling flavours of discovery in its plates packed with ingenuity and excellence. I was recently voted one of the UK’s sexiest restaurants, putting Surrey fine dining firmly on the map.
A bit closer to Ripley, the Swan Inn in Esher is one of star Spanish chef José Pizarro’s four restaurants, but his very first pub. Don’t be fooled by the gastro pub décor, which sits beside the village green; the tapas here rivals any I’ve had in Madrid.
A few steps down Ripley high street is Nest Home and Café which has a range of tasty breakfast options in warm and relaxed surroundings. A five minute drive away is RHS Wisley where you can spend the day exploring the many parts of this wonderful garden which includes fruit fields, a rockery, rose garden and glasshouse, plus a restaurant and café.
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