A room for two
Ripley: a pretty village just off the A3 with what seems like more than its fair share of great places to snarf down a good bit of grub, including Muddy Awards finalists Drakes restaurant and Pinnocks cafe. The Talbot Inn, is the latest to join their ranks after a recent potted history.
The pretty 250-year-old inn has recently gone under the scalpel for major facelift surgery, and has come out looking pretty darned spiffy – in a stylish and tasteful manner. A few nips and tucks, maybe, but the new owners have been faithful to her history – despite the £1m refurb price tag.
I went to the great unveiling a few weeks ago – taking one of my besties with me for a bit of a mid-week girly get-away. Glad rags in the overnight bag, sunglasses on, wind in our hair – it was all very Thelma and Louise. (Except nobody got shot, our room was much nicer than their motels, and we didn’t drive off a cliff – so perhaps not so much T&L after all!)
Anyhow. You want to know about The Talbot, not Thelma, although I should point out here that in former glory days this historic coaching inn has also hosted such distinguished guests as Audrey Hepburn, and sometime before her Lord Nelson and his mistress Lady Hamilton. Ohhh, I say – I am in good company.
The opening was a late afternoon early evening affair – and all very relaxed. We were shown to our room, then treated to afternoon tea and Champagne in the main dining room while a jazz band played.
Several Champagnes later, I thought it was time for a little nose around place. The Talbot is covering all bases – it’s vying for the trade of local drinkers in the bar (I met a couple of them – they’re pretty nice folk) as well as people looking for a some top nosh (enter executive chef Martin Blunos, with his two Michelin stars, and celeb status from his time on the telly). There’s also a wedding venue, including a small chapel, and conference facilities.
In terms of the main and original building, there’s an unusual juxtaposition going on. There’s the bar, which feels a lot like a (stylish) village pub, and another intimate low-beamed room that’s part of that ensemble. The period features are in abundance here – with cosy fireplaces and nooks and crannies, soft squashy chairs and throw cushions all about the place.
… and then there’s the more modern, light-filled dining room and garden terrace. Cochrane Design, the London based interior design company has linked the areas by repeating the same furniture themes – velvet chairs in ochre, plum, green and red. And as part of the refurb, dark timber bookcases have been built in the dining room.
The dining room – called the Copper Top Restaurant, for its stunning copper ceiling (that’s it above) – offers a menu comprising ‘modern flourishes alongside time-honoured British favourites’. A typical Sunday lunch menu includes pan-seared scallops with broad bean puree and black pudding; toasted rarebit doorstops with a confit of vine tomatoes and red onion marmalade; and honey and mustard chicken skewers and celeriac remoulade. For mains there’s roasted monkfish tails with herb butter and crushed charlotte potatoes; wild mushroom risotto and mizzuna; and local topside of beef with seasonal vegetables, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and red wine sauce, among others
It sounds good, though I can’t really vouch for the food. We managed to snarf a few canapes – and they were certainly delish – but between the Champers and the nosing around, we missed the more substantial fare. I did chat for a long time to Martin Blunos though, and he promises he’s overseeing a fab team of chefs.
The opening shindig wrapped by about 9pm… so I did what any self-respecting Mudette would do: I moved to the bar and ordered more wine. (All in the name of research you understand!) The bar was pretty quiet by this time, with only a couple of locals and Mr Blunos propping up the bar. My friend and I took our place in a cosy nook, and had a good old catchup.
And then to bed…
There are 43 rooms at The Talbot, nine rooms are in the Coaching Inn, which is part of the original old building. The rest are in the Ripley Wing which is at the back of the site, behind the terrace and garden. There are 15 deluxe rooms – made up of double, twin and singles.
I stayed in a Deluxe Twin Room – which was stylish and comfortable. Neutral walls, simply designed furniture and crisp, white Egyptian cotton sheets mixed with velvet chairs, sumptuous elongated headboards, and old framed artwork. The beds were comfortable, too.
As the owner of a new puppy, I was also interested to find out that there are pet-friendly rooms available for a supplementary charge of £10 per pet, and while I’d recommend this as a great get-away sans kids, if you really must bring them, they can provide Z beds or cots for a small extra charge.
Breakfast is served downstairs in the main restaurant – and it gets a 10 of 10 from me. You can help yourself to cereals, fresh and dried fruits, yoghurts and pastries from the glam looking side table… or order from the menu. There’s a choice of porridge, pancakes, eggs, the full English and the Talbot cooked breakfast, which includes black pudding and mushrooms with the other usuals. I went for eggs Florentine and it was gorgeous.
Ripley is just a short hop from RHS Wisley (the Wisley Flower Show is on from 6-11 Sept) 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 all the weekend papers. And relax!
The Talbot Inn, High St, Ripley, GU23 6BB. Tel: bespokehotels.com/talbotinn