A lovely interior with superb atmosphere, great food, an extensive wine list and a luxurious terrace overlooking one of the finest views in Surrey. Start early, stay till late.
So for our final day on the Jaguar F-Type tour, we stopped for lunch at The Watermill in Dorking, a gastro pub set in the rolling hills of Surrey, a designated area of natural beauty.
The nearest village is the quaintly named Pixham, noted for the Pixham Church designed by the famous English architect Edwin Lutyens. A rare corner of old England with narrow winding lanes peppered by Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Pixham was also the home of revered writer Daniel Defoe author of Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders.
The Watermill Inn has plenty of parking outside and once inside you are greeted by an impressive dark oak bar with white pillars and a large but cosy dining room. Stools, chairs and tables are widely spaced for comfort and there is an unmissable ambience of sociability and welcoming luxury. Rough-hewn wooden planks line some of the walls and ceilings, adding an air of sustainable, natural architecture. The interior is well thought out and rather special, both snug and airy.
We took a table by the tall bay windows looking out on the excellent balcony terrace and Boxhill, one of the steepest hill climbs in the South of England. The slate terrace is gorgeously decorated with multiple lanterns, cane chairs, sofas and booths, all heated by attractive hanging lights. You could start lunch early here and push on through till nightfall very easily, the sunset over the hills is spectacular.
The Watermill also featured a new English sparkling wine, Fitz, a delight, with small lasting bubbles, and a light crisp fruity taste made with Chardonnay, Seyval Blanc, Reichensteiner and Madeleine Angevine grapes.
The friendly Maitre d' brought us a crispy pork bite with apple caramel entrée to break the seal, which was lovely.
Our first course was a doozy, a supersized baked Camembert bread ring with apricot, chilli and thyme. A substantial work of art decorated in swirls and herbs for two, though I ate most of it. Being greedy we also took the balsamic onion, Gordal olives, gindijas, anchovies and pickled cucumber. Not for the faint-hearted, but delicious: sour, spicy and electric on the palate.
Emily had the pan-fried sea bass, crab arancini, saffron aioli with pickled watermelon and smoked chilli jam. Soft rich in flavour and perfectly balanced by the sweet spicy jam.
I had the fish pie, king scallops, smoked haddock, trout, king prawn, mussels with herb crumb and seasonal greens. Rich, buttery mash with soft plump ingredients, the perfect comfort food for a rainy Sunday. Though I was equally tempted by their fabulous range of dry-aged steaks; Aberdeen Angus, Hereford, Red Poll Longhorn and British Blue served with triple-cooked chips in bearnaise, peppercorn or brandy sauce. I guess I'll have to go back. And yes, I did order the triple-cooked chips as well and they were scrumptious and worth coming for alone.
We pushed on bravely through to dessert, with a baked clotted cream cheesecake, pickled pear, white chocolate ice cream, stem ginger and candied nuts that was even better than it sounds. And a black treacle sticky toffee pudding, butterscotch sauce, and honeycomb with black treacle ice cream, that left me actually wanting more.
We spent a little while watching the sunset over Boxhill while we recovered and left in a glow of warm satiation.
The collaborative efforts of Executive Chef Ben Silvester and Head Chef Craig Thomson have resulted in a menu that highlights the best of British farms while simultaneously blending tradition and innovation. They focus on creating an inviting social atmosphere, with an array of dishes from sharing plates to artisanal pizzas, and a brunch menu that's worth getting up early for.
Their bar boasts a well-crafted cocktail menu, including classic martinis, as well as an extensive wine cellar featuring rare finds from some of the world's most intriguing vineyards.
They also take pride in their selection of craft ales and lagers, featuring a variety of local cask and house ales, alongside an innovative assortment of non-alcoholic beverages.
All in all the Watermill is superb, another pride of place in the Surrey Hills with skilful and attentive service, great food, subtle flavoursome cocktails, and a brilliant welcome. Once you've been you'll immediately make it a regular haunt.