First look: Rambler’s Rest, Chipstead
Sizzlingly quick on the uptake, we've been in, downed three courses, and reviewed the hottest new-look pub in Surrey - before it's even open to the public. Say hi to the foxy Rambler's Rest in Chipstead.
The Rambler’s Rest has long been a favourite pub of mine. It’s an easy drive from where I live, there are great walks nearby, there’s a wonderfully cosy feel plus a brilliant garden. What’s not to love?
‘Tis true it had grown a little tired, but a brand new interiors makeover has totally revived this old girl and she’s now looking like the foxy dame she once did. Add to that a new manager, a new chef and an entirely new service team and this is one pub that’s screaming ‘come to mamma’!
THE LOWDOWN / LOCATION
The Rambler’s Rest is in a wonderfully scenic spot on the edge of Chipstead village, near Banstead and Coulsdon. It’s surrounded by gentle rolling hills and bucolic countryside, and borders the Banstead Woods – so this is prime walking territory. It’s not called the Rambler’s Rest for nothing.
The pub itself is a rambling collection of ancient buildings which date back as far as the 1300s – originally a farm, later a tea shop, then an antiques emporium and eventually a pub. History and charm oozes from its pores, and with a marvellous collection of open fireplaces indoors plus a brilliant sun-trap of a garden – this is a pub for all seasons.
The pub has just had a total interiors makeover and it looks great. Stylish, cosy and unpretentious – it’s stayed true to the history of the building and brought out the best of this rustic old dame. Original fireplaces – and there are several – have been restored and fires now sizzle in at least five of them. Walls have been daubed in a mix of warm earthy colours and deep blues and greens, swanky new light fittings add a touch of glamour, and heavy velvet drapes hung bring warmth and intimacy.
It’s a large pub with a long central bar area the looks out over a large courtyard, intimate nooks and crannies plus two or three dining spaces including one that can be hired for private functions. The tired leather and plaid seating has been replaced with plush velvet chairs or banquet seating in hues of honey and butterscotch, teal blues and art nouveau florals. And interesting artwork and mirrors now fill the walls.
Outside, the courtyard has had new flagstones laid, and the addition of fairy lights and lanterns creates a wonderfully magical look. In the summer months this space, plus a second courtyard, will really come into their own.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Let’s talk food. There are plenty of options including a vegan menu, daily specials offering and an extensive all-day menu that will change seasonally, plus a Sunday roast menu. If I was to be picky, I’d say there’s almost too much on offer here – so narrowing your choice may be tricky. Food is described as country dining with fresh flavours inspired by the seasons, which you can take to mean non-pretentious British classics like ribeye steak, cod and chips, pork belly and rack of lamb. There are also dishes like crayfish, monkfish, oysters and chateaubriand, and there are regular deliveries of fish from around the British coast. There’s an emphasis on fresh ingredients – sourced locally where possible.
Sadly for me, the oysters were a popular option and had sold out so I made do (!!!) with the seared wild Atlantic scallops. It wasn’t a tough sacrifice, the scallops were divine – sweet, succulent and tender. They came with lobster and crab bonbons, and a pea and truffle oil velouté (which a fancy way of saying a fancy velvety sauce). My date for the evening was Muddy’s commercial bod, Becky, who chose the tempura squid. Naturally, I nicked a little – and this too got the thumbs up.
For mains, I was tempted by the monkfish, but was won over by the fillet steak. I’m a long-time vegetarian who’s recently started to selectively eat meat again – and having grown up on a beef farm in Australia, I’m fairly picky about my choices. The steaks at the Rambler’s comes from carefully chosen UK farms, is handcut by the butcher and aged for 30 days. And it was cooked to perfection, served alongside chunky chips and a caramelised onion and stilton tart.
Becky plumped for the nourish bowl (warm lentil falafel, roasted butternut squash, avocado, crispy chickpeas, pickled rainbow vegetables, baby spinach, slow-roasted tomato dip and tortilla) with salmon. It looked great, and got a happy seal of approval.
We dithered about ordering dessert – should we? shouldn’t we? – but our lovely waitress Hannah convinced us to go for the iconic sharing birdcage. And, well, with a name like that – why wouldn’t we? Three tiers of decadent dessert: vanilla cheesecake, blackcurrant mousse and home-baked brownie. Decadent, divine and delicious. Also rather filling!
It certainly is. And dog friendly too.
OUT & ABOUT
It’s pretty much the perfect walkers’ pub. You’re right next to Banstead Woods which offers some great walks from the carpark directly behind the pub. You can also park in the nearby Holly Lane car park and walk via the woods to the pub, and back again.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Couples, families, groups of friends, Sunday lunchers, walkers (dogs are allowed in the bar).
Not for: Super-special occasions – it’s a lovely pub, but a pub it is.
The damage: Fairly standard gastro pub prices. Starters £7-£12, mains range from £11 for a salad to £16 for the nourish bowl with salmon up to £22 for lamb and £26 for steak, desserts are around the £6-8 (or £16 for the sharing birdcage).