Muddy eats: The Retreat, Staines-upon-Thames
We all need a little lift now and again – an eyebrow shape, a facial, that sparkly top we’re convinced won’t cling to our blobby bits. Pubs and restaurants are no different and The Retreat in Staines-upon-Thames has certainly had its vitamin infusion or possibly even a bit of Botox here and there. A makeover at the end of last year has given the pub a huge boost, and it was time for Muddy to check out its new curves.
The pub has even dropped the fishing reference, going from The Anglers’ Retreat to simply The Retreat. And while it may sound a little like you’re heading off to a day spa, at least you know to leave your waders at home.
In fact, despite it’s former name suggesting a riverside location, The Retreat is actually a few hundred metres from the Thames. It’s an old pub – it was called the Lucan Arms, after Lord Lucan, until the late nineties – and many of the original features have been retained in the refurb.
The result is a striking mix of old and new, quirky and contemporary, with a mix of Mediterranean and north African influences. It’s a substantial pub, mostly open plan, with zoned dining spaces. The new owners, Brakspear, were hoping to create a stylish and welcoming local pub, and I think they’ve achieved that.
The menu has plenty of choice, with Starters and Salads, Burgers, Pizza, Grill (offering Australian beef from Tom Hixson at Smithfield Market), and the Classics, plus daily specials. I went on a Tuesday for lunch with my father-in-law, who lives in a nearby village.
The kitchen offered two choices for soup of the day (£5): beetroot, onion and thyme with goats cheese cream, and cumin, cauliflower and sweet onion. I went the beetroot option and I’m so glad I did. It was divine… and the goats cheese cream which I’ve never had before, was a perfect topper.
My father-in-law chose the salt and pepper squid with aioli (£6), and was more than happy with his choice. I, too, can vouch for the squid, having nicked a piece from his plate. It was absolutely delicious.
For mains, I went for the fillet of sea bass with cherry tomatoes, courgette, sweet peppers and garlic, and my father-in-law went for the veggie option: the sweet potato and aubergine Malaysian curry with coconut rice. Both were nicely presented and tasted great. The sea bass was exactly how I like it: skin crunchy and meat flaky but not dried. My f-i-l said the spices were just right in the curry.
After two courses, I was intending to skip the pudding, but gluttony got in the way so instead I shared a crème brûlée, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was deliciously crunchy on top with the creamy custard below.
I hadn’t been to The Retreat in any of it’s previous incarnations, but I’m told it was fairly dated, a bit cramped, and the food was average, so things are definitely looking up here.
The facelift has seen a slight rise in prices, which has disgruntled a couple of former regulars, but if you’re looking for excellent food in a lovely setting, then this is well worth a try. It’s also worth mentioning if you fancy popping in after a long dog walk up the river, dogs are welcome in the bar area. There’s a bar menu if you want food, but between 3-5pm they serve only pizza and sandwiches. I’ll be the one dozing by the fire – just give me a shove if it starts getting dangerously close to school pick up time will you?!
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Relaxed dining – food is served all day so no rushing to get you in or out. They seem happy to have children there, and there’s enough variety and flexibility on the menu that you’ll keep everyone happy.
Not for: Anyone who thinks the former name brings water views – it’s a few hundred metres from the Thames. But you could still combine a lunch here with a walk along the river.
£££: Reasonable. Starters are from £5-£8; steaks are from £16.50-£30 depending on the size and cut, with sides all around the £3 mark. The burgers are £11.50 for halloumi, £12.50 chicken or beef, and £15.50 for Wagyu beef; and the pizzas are all around the £10. The Classics menu starts at 9.50 for the baked ham with double free range eggs and fries, rising to £18 for the 10oz bone-in lam leg steak with roast potatoes.
The Retreat, Staines Road, Staines, TW18 2RT. Tel: 01784 464839. theretreatstaines.co.uk