The Abinger Hatch, near Dorking
I’m a bit excited about The Abinger Hatch. This pub, taken over and spruced up two years ago by the lovely couple Andy and Sarah, manages to tame a tricky beast – to be both an approachable local and a destination pub. And oh what a destination.
Let me tell you about it. It’s in Abinger Common, a few miles out of Dorking, and if this ain’t one of the prettiest spots in the whole of Surrey, then I don’t know what is (answers on a postcard please!).
It’s not on the beaten track… in fact it’s decidedly off the beaten track, down a couple of country lanes that have been carved from the hills with banks that are now covered in moss. And on a recent outing to The Abinger Hatch, just when I thought I’d taken a wrong turn there she was, smoke wafting invitingly from the chimneys.
I went with Mr Muds and the mudlets a couple of Sundays ago. It was one of those the-sun-is-shining-but-it’s-still-bloody-cold kind of days – a little on the deceptive side when you probably don’t quite dress warmly enough. So when we went for a walk after we’d eaten, it was a bit short-lived. Next time I’m bringing thermals so I can enjoy these local walks.
But more about the walk later, I want to tell you about Andy and Sarah, and what they’ve done with The Abinger Hatch. The couple live upstairs with their teenage boys, and from the minute you walk through the front door, you feel a bit like you’re walking into their home. It’s warm and welcoming. Dogs loll under tables, or between stools at the bar. There are sofas by a roaring fire (you’ve got to be quick to nab a spot on one of those though), fresh flowers in vases, local art on the walls and nic nacs positioned around the place, a little as they might be in your own living room.
Sarah told me that when she and Andy took over the pub, they wanted to make sure it was family-oriented, and they wanted to makes sure the locals felt it was their pub too. Check. And check.
On New Year’s Eve, the couple threw a huge party at the pub and invited the whole village. They put food on, and the place filled with locals. Well you would go, wouldn’t you, if you lived nearby? I wish I had an Abinger Hatch as my local. I love that spirit.
But what of the food, I hear you ask. Ah yes, the food. Well, I can report that the gastronomic delights hit the spot too. For a starter, we four shared the smoked mackerel pate (£6.50) which came served with small toasted ciabatta and a small salad, and the calamari with garlic mayonnaise (£6.50). There was a bit of a tussle to have the last calamari ring, and fingers may have been licked to get the last of the pate from the little glass dish.
Being a Sunday, and still on the chillier side, we went for the winter warmers. Mr Muds went for the nut roast (£12.50), thumbs up from him; Master Muddy – the dedicated carnivore in our number – went for the slow roast shoulder of lamb (£14.50); Miss 9 – the least adventurous foodie – went for the children’s sausage with fries and peas (another plate left clean) (£4.50); and I went for the Hatch fish pie (£11.75). See the pictures below… and check out those Yorkshire puds. I’m always impressed by those. Just can’t seem to make them myself.
For puds, the mudlets were very keen to fly solo, and Miss 9 went for the sticky toffee pudding, Mr 11-and-three-quarters went for the cheesecake and Mr Muds and I shared the apple tart tartin with rum and raisin ice cream. It was the ice cream that clinched that one for me, being quite the fan!
Once you’ve gone and scoffed a great three-courser, there are plenty of opportunities for walks nearby. We took Andy’s advice and went through the church yard opposite and followed the footpath. We didn’t go far, because I was the numpty who didn’t pack a warm coat, but we wandered far enough to take in the spectacular views. And aren’t they just…
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Foodies for Sunday lunch, friends and family relaxed get-togethers. Those who like a local vibe with added style. Dogs are welcome, so it’s a great place to come after a local walk. And in the summer there’s a great outdoor barbecue area, and across the road there’s a large green which is perfect for dog walking, and a playground. If you’re planning a Sunday lunch, I’d book to make sure you get a table.
Not for: I haven’t eaten here in the evening but can imagine it has a cosy but upmarket pub vibe, so if you’re looking for a romantic restaurant it might not be for you. Kids are welcome, but those with whopper buggies may want to re-think as it gets quite busy.
£££: Great value. Starters around £6, Sunday lunches £12-15, kids meals £4.50 and for an evening meal £12-18.