If you're planning a day trip to this quintessential English village, a stop off at the Dabbling Duck in Shere is a must
The reputation of the Dabbling Duck in Shere precedes itself. It’s a fairly well known eatery in Surrey, but I was curious to know if it lived up to the hype. And I’m pleased to report that everything you hear about this charming coffee shop is true. The food is great, and the cakes are even better.
The Dabbling Duck is in the centre of Shere, a beautiful, quintessential English country village about halfway between Guildford and Dorking. You’re may already know of Shere’s filmstar fame, following her leading role alongside Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law in the 2006 Christmas rom-com The Holiday. The village has also made appearances in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reasons (2004), and The Wedding Date (2005).
Shere is made up of a collection of quaint village houses, several small shops, a museum, an art gallery, two pubs, a restaurant and an old church. And of course, the Dabbling Duck. As if all that’s not enough to charm the socks off you, the Tillingbourne River also runs through the centre of the village.
The Dabbling Duck is laden with vintage charm, and it’s always busy. The decor is shabby chic all the way, with mismatched tables and chairs, reams of bunting, vintage vases and quirky ornaments lining shelves on the walls, and lots of cute signs. There’s a real buzz to the place, and on the Saturday afternoon I visited there was rarely a free table. The customers just kept on coming.
Inside there’s room for about 50, but there’s a pretty garden for warmer days. In the chillier months, a cool yurt is put up in part of the garden to provide extra tables.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The first thing you’ll see when you walk through the door is a dresser laden with cakes and other baked delights. And while these are all undoubtably good, it’s worth arriving with an appetite for lunch as well, as the food here is very good.
The food is locally sourced where possibly and prepared simply. The menu offers a good choice for lunch from soup, sandwiches and salads to burgers, fishcakes and tarts. I went for the griddled halloumi salad, the kids chose burgers, and Mr M went for smoked salmon sandwich on donka bread (that’s rye bread to me and you!). We all were all happy, me particularly so as it all felt pretty healthy too.
If you want to spice up your lunch, in addition to the usual teas and coffees there are a selection of alcoholic bevvies. The specials menu on the day I went offered Pimms and lemonade (by the glass or jug), and Silent Pool gin and Fever Tree tonic by the glass.
Didn’t you see those cakes? Of course this place is child friendly – and mine loved it. It’s busy, and while buggies can make it in and out, it may require a bit of manoeuvring. It can get pretty noisy in the main cafe, but the yurt is a bit more peaceful, so if it’s a quiet chat you’re after, head there.
There’s a kids’ menu, which includes burgers, fishcakes, sausages and other kid-friendly options. Portion sizes are pretty good – my mini mudlet is 10 so it’s often a gamble as to whether we go for the kids’s menu. This one’s a go-go! Especially if you plan to follow up with cake!
OUT & ABOUT
Shere is a destination in itself, and you’ll easily while away most of the day here. We took a delightful 1.5 mile walk around the village and through some countryside. It’s an easy circular walk that starts and ends quite near to Shere Delights, the ice cream and sweets shop – handy if you need to extra enticement to get children walking.
St James’s Church is also worth a look, perched up the hill a little and encircled by its quaint graveyard. It’s been a place of worship since 1190, so there’s plenty of history here. The Lych Gate was designed in 1902 by the architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, who also designed various buildings in Shere for the Bray family, who have been Lords of the Manor of Shere since 1487.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: girly lunches, cake-munchers, day-trippers needed sustenance. Plus there’s a lovely outdoor area if you want to enjoy the sunshine.
Not for: posh noshers. It’s a very good café, don’t expect the world!
The damage: It’s pretty good value. Sandwiches are £7-9.50, burgers £13, salads and tarts around the £11 mark. The kids burger was £6.50, but the beans or cheese on toast is around £3. Cakes are very well priced around £3.