The March Hare
Like Alice's adventure down the rabbit hole, The March Hare in central Guildford is a delight. Great food, cosy surrounds and excellent service - we love!
Smack bang in the middle of Guildford with wonderful views out over Guildford Castle and gardens, The March Hare is a vibrant and busy pub on the site of the former Como Italian restaurant. It’s part of the White Brasserie Company, the little sister to Brasserie Blanc, Raymond Blanc’s more accessible answer to his Oxfordshire restaurant Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. And while it’s been open only five years it it feels very much at home in this location.
The name is a reference to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The author had strong ties with Guildford, and though he never actually lived in the town, he set up a home here for his six unmarried sisters, and visited often.
The pub doesn’t look particularly big from the outside – but it’s a bit like a tardis inside. There’s a bar area at the front, and you walk through here to get to to dining room at the back. The bar was crowded with a warm buzzing vibe on the Thursday evening I’d booked a table – definitely a good sign. There are nooks and crannies galore, with different areas to drink, eat and slouch in.
The restaurant is stylish with polished dark timber flooring and neutral colour palette of cool blues and greys, with nooks of deep aubergine. A wall of glass bi-fold doors leads out to a small courtyard garden, which in the winter months is enclosed with a retractable roof. Upstairs there’s another dining area.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The menu is strongly French focussed and changes with the seasons. There’s something to suit the tastebuds and wallets of anyone who dines here – as well as the a la carte menu, there’s a set menu, offering two courses for £12.95 available Mon-Sat until 6.30p. That’s great value!
All of the starters look tempting – and I dithered a bit when deciding – but I plumped for the wild mushroom fricassee while my dinner date chose the mussels mariniére. The fricassee was gorgeous – wild mushrooms served in a delicate broth of white wine, garlic and herbs. I’d order that again. The mussels, too, got the thumbs up. They looked plump, fresh and cooked perfectly in their creamy broth.
For mains, I moved away from the French influences choosing instead the Valencia paella with red mullet and king prawns. My date went for the smoked pork belly with apple and crackling. It came served with Dauphinoise potatoes and braised red cabbage – and if I weren’t so happy with my own choice I’d have had a serious case of food envy. On stormy winter’s night – it felt like an excellent choice. And indeed, not a morsel was left behind.
For pudding, we went for the cheese board to share – and very much enjoyed the selection of cheeses from Guildford cheesemonger and deli Partisan.
I’ve visited the March Hare a few times now, and there’s quite grown-up vibe going on here – so you may not want to bring the kids. Having said that, it’s busy and bustling – not starchy and formal – so kids wouldn’t feel out of place. There’s a kids’ menu, and a half-price, half-portion offer on a selection of dishes from the main menu.
OUT & ABOUT
Being a centre-of-town pub, Guildford’s fab shops are an obvious diversion before or after lunch at The March Hare. But it’s position in the shadow of Guildford Castle means you could combine a visit to the castle with lunch or dinner.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: I’m hard pressed to think of who wouldn’t like The March Hare, but if you’re after a country pub in a rural setting, the central Guildford location won’t suit you. It’s also a vibrant and busy pub, so if you’re after something more formal, this isn’t it.
Not for: The food is definitely on the gastro scale so if you’re after something more simple and homely, it may not be your bag. Energetic toddlers might find it hard to last the course without a large garden to run around in.
The damage: Starters are around £6-£8 with sharing platters for £13-£15. Mains start around £12 and go up to £25 for steak. Most mains hover around the £16 mark. Puddings are around £7-£8.
The March Hare, 2-4 South Hill, Guildford GU1 3SY. marchhareguildford.com