The Talbot Inn
With bucketloads of charm, this stylishly rustic inn in Ripley offers above average gastropub food at sensible prices. Shall we?
The Talbot Inn is in the pretty village of Ripley, just off the A3 and only a short hop from Junction 10 on the M25. The coaching house has an impressive history – and lays claim to some equally impressive guests. The in former glory days this historic coaching inn has also hosted such distinguished guests as Audrey Hepburn, and sometime before her Lord Nelson is said to have romanced his mistress Lady Hamilton.
The exterior of The Talbot Inn – with its vine covered old red brick – suggests a warm, period charm within. And it doesn’t disappoint. The atmosphere is relaxed, confident and cosy.
At 500 years old, the Inn is steeped in history and this is reflected throughout with an abundance of period features – including creaking floorboards.
There are several separate areas. The main restaurant flows from a cosy space with dark timber floors and bookshelves under a stunning copper ceiling, to a the more modern, light-filled room with a wall of glass doors overlooking the garden terrace.
Then there’s the bar, which feels a very much like a cosy village pub complete with low beams and roaring fires. Once settled by the fire here, you’ll struggle to get up. Good job they have 43 boutique rooms, if you want to scoff, quaff and stagger to bed.
Out of the bar and across the hall – and past the check-in desk for the inn’s rooms – is another intimate low-beamed room that’s chock full of period features. This room would be brilliant if you wanted a space for a private get-together. Although if you’re after something larger, The Talbot Inn also hosts weddings
Each of these spaces has been cleverly linked by repeating the same furniture themes – velour chairs in ochre, plum, green, red and a stunning teal that I’m a tiny bit in love with. And no, I didn’t swipe the throw cushions, but I was a little tempted!!
SCOFF & QUAFF
Executive chef Chris Henderson has prepared a menu that combines timeless British classics with European and Asian influences. As you would expect, food is prepared using the best local, seasonal ingredients, as well as herbs from their own garden.
When I visited last week, we were ordering from the new menu – and I was impressed with its diversity: from pan fried calves liver with smoked streaky bacon, mash and wilted spinach, to sesame tuna steak in an oriental scallop broth with noodles and baby bok choi.
I started with the pan fried scallops on a cauliflower puree, while Mr Muddy went for the grilled halloumi, with quinoa, cumin roasted carrot and sweet potato salad with a tomato and shallot dressing. Both were deliciously light, but also full of flavour.
For mains I went for that sesame tuna steak and it was gorgeous – although it was a little messy to eat. I wouldn’t suggest you order this if you’re on a first date, or wearing a white top. Happily for me, neither applied to me so I felt quite at ease tucking in while mopping the rich oriental broth from my chin. Mr Muddy chose the grilled fillet of seabass with crushed herb potato, kale and a prawn bisque – and it came out looking like a work of art. The silence at the table said it all thought really. Both were good choices and we scoffed accordingly.
For puds, the massive temptation of the brand new Naughty Nelson was offered – so new it had yet to be added to the menu – and so tempting it had to be ordered. A supremely elegant glass bowl of chocolate brownie, raspberries and salted caramel combined with ice cream, cream and a hint of Bailey’s liquor. It felt decadent for a Friday afternoon – but boy was it good.
Children are welcome here – and in the summer there’s a large garden for the kids to burn off some steam. Inside, there are high-chairs.
OUT & ABOUT
Ripley is just a few miles from RHS Wisley and Painshill, so there’s plenty to do if you planned to make a weekend of it – or you could just cosy up on one of the delightful nooks with a large glass of red and all the weekend papers. And relax!
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Anyone looking for restaurant quality food in cosy and relaxed surrounds; those who are looking for a pitstop after a long wander around the RHS Wisley or Painshill gardens; city visitors in search of a cosy getaway with bucket loads of period charm. It would also be a great place for a group of friends over a leisurely Sunday lunch or evening meal. And families are welcome too – on Bank holidays the Talbot regularly hosts family fun days.
Not for: It’s more restaurant fare than simple pub fare, so if you’re after something a bit more basic – perhaps The Talbot isn’t for you.
The damage: Starters are from £5.50 to 9.50 or £16.95 for a sharing platter; Mains start at 11.50 for something like the Cumberland sausage and mash rising to £18.50 for a roasted rump of lamb. Steaks are from 19.50 to 23.95. If you’re really pushing the boat out, the 14oz Chateaubriand with confit cherry tomatoes, triple cooked chips, a Béarnaise sauce and crispy onions is £48.95. Puddings are from £5.95 to £6.50.The Talbot Ripley, High Street, Ripley, Woking, Surrey, GU23 6BB. Tel: 01483 225188