Botley Hill Farmhouse, nr Warlingham
For years Botley Hill Farmhouse in Warlingham has been known more for its live cover bands than the food it served. And while I have been known to have enjoyed the occasional night out shimmying to some boy band (er, it may have been Fake That), I am very happy this 500-year-old pub is starting a new chapter and now focusing on the food.
If you don’t know Botley Hill, it sits on the Titsey Estate a few miles outside Warlingham village in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The views are breath-taking – but this former farmhouse-turned-tearoom-turned pub is sitting on the highest point of the North Downs so it’s gonna be nice, right!
New owners came in just under a year ago. They did away with the big ole marquee and tarted the place up, without losing any of the period charm. They installed Claude, a vintage Citroen van, at the gate to provide nourishment for passing walkers and cyclists, and just before Christmas they opened The Sheep Shed tearooms. I can’t vouch for the food at the tearoom (yet!), and nor have I tackled the cycling routes (though if you want to, you’ll find information on that here, but having eaten at the farmhouse three times in recent months, I’m certainly a fan of the food there.
It’s good quality nosh, at down-to-earth prices. The menus are designed to make the most of local produce (anyone for ice cream? This comes from the award-winning St Joan’s Farm in Reigate). And while we’re talking local produce, the ales are from local Westerham and Pilgrim breweries.
On my various visits, I’ve sampled a fair selection from the seasonal menu – I know, I am good to you. The first time I ordered pan fried sea bass fillet with roasted potatoes, which was lovely. My friend went for the starter-sized spicy Thai beef salad. She wished she’d asked for it as a main.
Next up was a family Sunday lunch, and the four of us shared the Botley Hill crayfish cocktail and the bread basket with balsamic and olive oil, and while bread may not sound much, it was moorish, let me tell you. Then for mains, I had the goat’s cheese and red onion tart, Mr Muds had the vegetable and halloumi skewer, Muds 11 the house burger with bacon, chips and slaw, and from the children’s menu Muddy 8 went for homemade chicken goujons with chips. Miss 8 declared hers “the best chicken nuggets she’d ever had” (and believe me we have here a little girl who knows her nuggets!), and Mr Muds was pretty pleased with his halloumi. I love a good tart and this one hit the spot, and the addition of bacon to my boy’s burger meant he, too, was a pretty happy camper.
But the best really was yet to come. It was crème brulee all the way, and this was stonkingly good.
My third visit was a bigger family affair with the in-laws along for the ride, and between us there was a half-roasted chicken, a sirloin of beef, a couple of tarts (me again!), chicken goujons (Miss 8 again), a leek and mushroom pie, and for the gluten and dairy free vegetarian among us, the chef went totally off-menu to produce a stir-fried vegetable and rice dish. All were happy.
The main entrance to Botley Hill is at the front, but the new owners have made more of the side entrance, spiffing up the garden path that takes you there. It’s a good idea as this is a bigger entry and it leads straight onto the bar from where you will be directed to a table. There’s wheelchair and pushchair access, but you’ll need to be selective about your table. It’s probably worth booking to ensure one that’s easy to get to. If it’s sunny, there are plenty of tables in the garden with views over those lovely hills.
Inside, the pub is full of character with (low) rustic oak beams and lots of nooks and crannies, including the grasshopper room, named after the Gresham golden grasshopper which is still an important symbol in the area around the Titsey Estate. This nook (or is it a cranny?) is also home to a grand old dame of a fireplace.
So, good food and a warm welcome – Botley Hill Farmhouse you can expect to see me back again.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Families, walkers, cyclists, Sunday lunchers, girly get-togethers, groups of friends, romantic trysts and events including weddings. The farmhouse offers private dining, and there are plans to build an oak and flint barn for weddings and events. It’s expected to be finished this autumn.
Not for: I’d recommend booking ahead if you have small children in pushchairs. This pub is charming for all its nooks and crannies, but it’s set on different levels so navigating wheels may be difficult.
£££: This is good food and there are a range of options so it doesn’t have to be expensive. Starters start at £2.95 for the garlic bread and go up to £7.25 for the crayfish cocktail. A main sized serving of Thai beef salad is £16.95 and the pan fried sea bass is £15.95. Steak, as you’d expect, is pricer at £21.45 for an 8oz sirloin and £22.95 for an 8oz fillet. The burger was £11.95.
Botley Hill Farmhouse, Limpsfield Road, Warlingham, CR69QH
Tel: 01959 577154. botleyhill-farmhouse.co.uk