Review: Stag on the River, near Godalming
With a fairy tale riverside setting and a reassuringly rustic vibe, the Stag on the River near Godalming is becoming a popular feast-and-stay destination in Surrey. We packed our bags for the night.
If ever you were to feel a million miles from anywhere, while actually being just a handy stone’s throw from the A3 it would be at the Stag on the River in Lower Eashing. It’s a hidden gem tucked away in this pretty little village, over a medieval bridge that was constructed by monks from Waverley Abby in the 14th century. There’s not much else in the village really apart from a collection of pretty period houses and an attractive looking business park that sits on the site of a former mill.
The pub – a pretty red brick building dating back to the 18th Century – sits on the banks of the River Wey and it makes the most of the waterside views with a terrace and garden that stretches along the banks. Part of the Red Mist family of pubs, The Stag is a gastropub with seven boutique B&B rooms. It’s a lovely spot for a getaway, popular with couples looking for a cheeky night away, as well as walkers and cyclists tackling the Surrey Hills cycling routes.
Relaxed and friendly, there’s a cool alfresco vibe going on – and on a sunny day locals and visitors make the most of the riverside terrace. The terrace is one of the Covid silver-linings – a lovely combination of covered but still mostly open. There are heaters, too, and blankets draped over the chairs for evenings that turn chilly. The covered terrace extends into a grassy area with more casual picnic tables.
Large garden planters are positioned around bringing in more of the green, and there are lovely big lanterns that lend a lovely glow of candle-lit ambience as the sun set.
Inside, the pub is stylish but also relaxed, with plenty of nooks and cosy corners rather than a large open-plan layout. It’s a pub that works well whatever the season. Summer dining on the terrace? Check! Snug winter’s afternoons by the crackling fire? Check!
SCOFF & QUAFF
It was a lovely spring evening when I visited – so the perfect start was drinks on the lawn (Prosecco for me, the in-house Punchbowl Pale Ale for him) overlooking the water while it was still sunny before moving to the covered terrace for our meal.
The emphasis here is on quality locally sourced food – all the vegetables are grown and harvested in Kent, responsibly sourced fish coming almost directly from sea to plate (via the stove) and meat from British farms. The menu is well thought out, and offers plenty of options for vegetarians, vegans and anyone with gluten intolerances.
To start I chose the crispy king prawns (flavoursome, light and fluffy with a nice bit of crunch) from the specials menu and Mr Muddy chose the ham hock and Cornish cheddar croquettes (light and gorgeously cheesy). For mains I stayed with the seafood vibe and again chose from the specials – a grilled fillet of bream with a Kalamata olives and artichoke tapenade, roasted cherry tomatoes and clam linguini. Mr M went for the 8oz grass fed flat iron steak with triple cooked chips. Both were generous portions and beautifully presented with delicate presentation touches.
Enough room for pudding? Probably now, but I always manage to fit in something sweet at the end – sharing a slice of the baked vanilla cheese cake with blackcurrant compote, sorrel and honeycomb. It was excellent – and it was all washed down superbly with a very drinkable bottle of South African Chenin blanc.
There are seven rooms at The Stag – three are in the original part of the 17th-century inn, and the other four are in a newer addition.
You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d had an ale too many on the walk up the stairs in the older part of the pub – the walls slope one way, the floors another, and the oak-beamed ceilings and walls sway yet another direction still. The bedrooms are much the same – brimming with character – and it only adds to the delightful eccentricity of the place.
We stayed in Shackleford, the largest room in the old bit, and handily there is an almost secret door connecting this room with one of the others, creating a brilliant family suite. There’s also a sofa that converts to a double bed.
The rooms a beautifully appointed, and a cut above bog-standard pub B&B rooms. The beds are The Business – enormous sleep-inducing slabs, dressed with crisp white linen, piles of huge fluffy pillow and gorgeous throws. The devil’s in the detail, and I loved all the little touches – proper, chilled milk for your cuppa, Hampshire-roasted Mozzo coffee, fluffy towels and dressing gowns, and luxury ESPA toiletries. Oh, and excellent wi-fi.
Breakfast is continental – fruit, pastries, boiled eggs and sourdough bread, granola, yoghurt and fruit compotes, plus fresh coffee and juices. Delish!
Absolutely. Whether you want to come for just the food, or to stay, children are made to feel very welcome. The devil is in the detail – with special children toiletries, travel cots (available on request) and children’s toy boxes – plus a Little Stags menu for kids that includes things like BBQ chicken wraps, tomato and herb pasta, and sausage and mash.
OUT & ABOUT
You’re pretty well situated here for plenty of nearby attractions as well as being just a short drive in Guildford and with all that if offers. The gorgeous gardens of the National Trust’s Winkworth Arboretum are not far, or for a spot of culture head to the Watts Gallery and Artists’ Village a little further up the A3 in the pretty village of Compton. Godalming is only a few miles away, and it’s a lovely town for a wander around. But you’ll have to tear yourself away for this lovely riverside setting first.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Peeps who want to escape the hustle and bustle for a lovely dinner and overnighter; friends catching up for lunch by the babbling waters of the Wey; romantics looking for a naughty getaway; families who want to enjoy a relaxed afternoon in the garden.
Not for: There’s a laid back and reassuringly rustic vibe, so if you’re after something with more ponce, this may not hit that note.
The damage: B&B packages start from just £90 per room, per night; dinner, B&B packages start from just £160 per night for two people sharing – very reasonable given the quality of the rooms, food and the super friendly service. In the restaurant, starters are from £6.50-£10; Mains are from £14.95-£23.50. All the bits on the side are £3.50-£4.75. Pudding is around £7-£8.
The Stag on the River, Lower Eashing Lane, Eashing, GU7 2QG stagontherivereashing.co.uk