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The Running Horses

Excellent food and and a stylish place to spend the night at this quirky historic inn in a classically English village.

THE LOWDOWN / LOCATION

A little off the beaten track on the Old London Road in the village of Mickleham near Dorking, The Running Horses is a quirky little pub that attracts a diverse clientele. With Box Hill nearby – a popular hill-climb for London cyclists – the pub gets its fair share of cyclists staying over, and as a result has built a bike store which is free for guests.

They also attract international tourists who prefer to lay their heads in a cute English village pub, than a slick London hotel. It’s only 45 mins by train to London Waterloo, so it’s easy to have the best of both worlds.

I’d also say the pub could work as a mini-break getaway, for Surrey peeps who need a night away from the kids but don’t want to spend ages getting somewhere. It’s cute village location gives it the feel of being far from anywhere, and if you’re feeling up for it there are lovely walks in the area, including – of course – Box Hill. Or you could borrow one of the pub’s bikes.

THE VIBE

This is quirky vintage chic at its best. It’s truly charming and totally suits the character of the pub which dates back to the 16th century. Rooms are decorated in soft shades of grey with plush thick carpets and vintage furniture. I love the vintage radiators and timber panelling. Also the wonky floors and walls.

SCOFF & QUAFF

After enjoying a lovely hour or so watching the world go by in the sun, we moved into the dining room to eat. Once the courtyard and stables of the inn, the dining room features ancient exposed beams, oak parquet floors and oak panelling. There’s quite the feeling of country manor dining room about it.

The Running Horses has just announced the appointment of a new head chef, Martin Wright, who has come from the Tulse Hill Hotel near Dulwich. He describes the menu as a celebration of pub classics with a touch more sophistication. And you know what – I couldn’t have put it better myself.

To start I went for the potted sea trout and horseradish with rye bread, while Mr M went for the orange and tarragon smoked salmon with capers, cornichon, lemon gel and toasted rye bread. Both came out beautifully presented and delicious.

Next up, I ordered the 30 day dry-aged rare breed sirloin steak with tripe cooked chips, roasted shallot and roasted vine tomatoes, Mr M went for the pan fried sea bass with sea vegetables, sweet corn and sun-blushed tomato broth. Big thumbs up all round.

I could barely manage puds after all that, but – trooper that I am – forced one down so I could present a comprehensive review! For me, it was the blueberry cheesecake and for Mr M it was the rich chocolate marquise with honeycomb and salted caramel ice-cream – both a delightful way to end the meal.

PILLOW TALK

There are six rooms – five above the pub and the sixth in a separate gatehouse just 50 metres away. Each of the rooms is named after a famous British racecourse – my room, Ascot, had a view out over the window boxes to the pretty Norman St Michael’s church across the road. It’s all so very English.

There’s a real sense of luxury in the rooms – from the original fireplaces, country antiques and plump armchairs in rich reds and greens to the button-back linen headboards and sumptuous Hypnos mattress on the beds. The ensuite bathrooms are decorated in  there free-standing roll top baths, rain showers and luxury Nobel Isle toiletries. There’s also a Nespresso coffee machine, for those who need an early morning coffee before breakfast.

KID-FRIENDLY?

Kids would most certainly be welcome here – but whether you want to bring them along is another thing entirely. The pub sits practically on the Old London Road, with outdoor tables and chairs out the front – great for watching the Lycra clad cyclists and 465 bus go by, but probably not that great for small children.

OUT & ABOUT

You could spend a couple of hours just wandering around the charming Mickleham village. Box Hill and the South Downs are just a mile away – for walking or cycling – and England’s largest vineyard, Denbies Wine Estate, only two miles away, offers wine tours and tastings. National Trust properties Polesden Lacey and Hatchlands Park are also nearby.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Cyclists, romantic breaks, get-away-from-the-kids nights out, walkers.

Not for: This is quirky and cool country style, not sleek and urban. There’s not much going on here, so if you’re after a bit of town or city action, head somewhere else.

The damage: Doubles are from £89 a night, and The Gatehouse is £99.

The Running Horses, Old London Road, Mickleham, Nr Dorking, Surrey RH5 6DU. Tel: 01372 372279
therunninghorses.co.uk

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