Sands at Bleak House
Fabulous food, an extensive drinks menu and a 30 second stagger to bed - there's nothing bleak about this chic boutique hotel on the edge of Horsell Common.
THE LOWDOWN / LOCATION
Once upon a time Bleak House was a tired and neglected roadhouse sitting on the busy Cherstsey Road just outside Woking. There wasn’t much to recommend it really. But then Tracey King, the former owner of a wine bar in West Byfleet, got hold of it and things went from bleak to chic.
Fast forward a dozen or so years, and the restaurant and bar, plus eight bedrooms, are now better known by their new name, Sands at Bleak House, a reference to sandpits within the neighbouring Horsell Common, made famous as the landing place of the Martians in H G Wells’ War of the Worlds.
Sands is a smart venue, a sort of pub / restaurant hybrid, which also has a private room that can be used for functions, private dining or conferences. There’s a relaxed and friendly feel to the place, with a sofas and comfy chairs in the bar area. There are several dining spaces each with a slightly different feel, including a small conservatory which overlooks the garden.
Styling is kept simple with muted earthy tones, zhooshed up with statement vases and decorative urns. I liked that the lighting was kept low too, which helped create a cosy and intimate feel.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Like the styling, the food is also kept simple with five choices of starter and five choices of main – it’s the perfect menu in my book. Quality over quantity. The restaurant has a good reputation locally, and like many a good gastropub, the emphasis is on quality ingredients and attention to detail.
We started with a drink in the bar – a pint of real ale for him, glass of Prosecco for moi – and ordered our meals here before moving to our table in one of the dining rooms. Gin lovers will be happy to know there’s an extensive gin menu.
For dinner, I started with a simple Greek salad which was light and delicious, while Mr M went for the grilled mackerel fillet with sweet potato, beetroot, green beans and a chilli and lime dressing. He cleared his plate pretty quickly, so I took that as a sign it was excellent.
Moving on the mains, I chose the fish selection which came with sautéed new potatoes, green beans and a lemon and dill cream sauce, while Mr M went off piste from his usual preferences and went for the chargrilled rib eye steak with chips, grilled tomato, flat mushrooms and rocket, and a peppercorn sauce. Both meals were excellent. The steak was perfectly cooked, juicy and tender.
For puds, Mr M gorged on the citrus pavlova with lemon curd, caramelized orange segments and pistachio brittle, while I went for the Dorset apple cake with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream. Again, nothing to complain about here.
The bedrooms are comfy but not particularly distinctive – neutral, muted colours rule here. There are seven bedrooms and one bedroom suite which includes a small kitchenette and lounge area. All the rooms have large comfy beds, flat screen TVs and huge fluffy towels. We were in the bedroom suite, and there were tea and coffee making facilities, plus a large jar of cookies, a selection of cereals and fruit, plus pastries for our breakfast. If you prefer a cooked breakfast, the kitchen opens at 9am.
I quite liked the option of having breakfast in my room – I had to leave earlyish the next morning for a meeting – and I’d imagine this must appeal to the business clientele. But while the accommodation here is undoubtedly a great choice for business people, I also think it’s a brilliant option for couples looking for a dinner, bed and breakfast night away, who don’t want the hassle of travelling a long way. It’s also a great way to enjoy fabulous food and wine, without having to drive home. Eat, drink, stagger, sleep. Perfecto!
Yes, I’d say so. The vibe is relaxed and family-friendly. In the summer, the outdoor garden would be a lovely spot for families to dine.
OUT & ABOUT
Sands sits on the edge of Horsell Common, a popular spot for walkers and nature lovers. Take a walk through the woods and across the heath to the centre of the Common, where you will find the sandpits in H G Wells’ War of the Worlds.
Slightly further away – but still only about 20 mins in the car – is Brooklands Museum, the birthplace of British motorsport and aviation, and in nearby Woking you’ll find the New Victoria Theatre which has an excellent line up of shows, and The Lightbox art gallery and museum.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Anyone looking for excellent food in a relaxed and friendly setting. There are different dining areas so all sized parties can be accommodated. It’s open for breakfast from 9am. Being right next door to Horsell Common, it’s the perfect base to explore the area or just stay the night if travelling further afield (it’s 20 minutes from Heathrow).
Not for: Foodies looking for their next Michelin-starred or Bib Gourmand fix. Whilst it’s smart and stylish, it’s not starchy white tablecloths and posh nosh.
The damage: Starters from £6.50 to £7.50; mains £11.95 to £21.95 with sides £2.50-£3; desserts £5.95 to £6.95, or £9.50 for the cheese platter.
Sands At Bleak House, Chertsey Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 5NL. Tel: 01483 756988. sandsatbleakhouse.co.uk