Muddy eats: The Plough Inn, Coldharbour

This week the Muddy Surrey team came down with a dreadful bout of lifestyle envy. It came about unexpectedly, but hit each of us with a powerful force. We had been to sample an out-of-the-way pub that had a long-standing reputation for being a lot less than brilliant.

That, of course, was before Becky and John Hopper took over and waved their magic wands. Okay, some heavy-duty building tools and a couple of paintbrushes may have also been waved around, but The Plough Inn, in the tiny village of Coldharbour, near Dorking, has been transformed and is now a glorious pub and B&B, with a barn for private venues and its own micro brewery. It’s gorgeous. And I wanna run it!

The pub re-opened after the refurb midway through last year, offering a menu that’s a few notches above standard pub fare. The decor is cool and classy country pub.

Next door there’s The Shop at the Plough, which has become a favourite stopping off point for the many cyclists that tackle these Surrey hills. The shop serves tea, coffee and fresh pastries, and sells a wonderful selection of local food. There’s also a bicycle repair kit for cyclists who are unfortunate enough to need it.

Upstairs at the pub, there are six rooms that have each been redecorated in the kind of way I’d have liked to have done my room, but didn’t quite have the nerve. They’re classically vintage, with a touch of quirk, and pretty damn gorgeous.

Leith Hill is just down the road, so you could easily pack your walking shoes and make a weekend of it. But I know you’re dying to know about the food. And the first thing I have to tell you is that as much as possible this nosh has been locally sourced. It’s a small menu, but in my opinion that’s a good thing. I’d much rather a smaller choice of six excellent dishes, than 25 average ones. There are vegetarian, gluten free and child-size portions available, so pretty much something for everyone.

I chose the caramelised goats cheese salad as a starter to share. It comes with sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts and is dressed in a port syrup. Nothing not to like here people. It was lovely. There are sharing boards, which we could have gone for, but I was still on a health kick and trying not to be greedy.

That, of course flew out the window when I moved on to mains, and then pudding. For mains I had the crab claw and tiger prawn fresh tagliatelle. I’m a sucker for fresh pasta, and I wasn’t let down. It came in a chilli, garlic and coriander butter, which wasn’t too buttery and had the perfect amount of spice.

The other Muddy Surrey chose a panfried seabeam from the specials board. It came with roasted butternut squash, quinoa, tomato and a mushroom sauce. It looked fab, all stacked up in a clever tower, and got a definitive thumbs up.

Forgetting the health kick, I ordered coffee crème brûlée for pudding, and again I wasn’t disappointed. Paired with Belgian chocolate ice cream and shortbread, it was gorgeous. I also had coffee, and it’s worth mentioning that it was damn fine coffee, which you can’t always say about the stuff you get in pubs.

I’d recommend The Plough Inn for people who are looking for somewhere to eat in a pretty village with a walk nearby. Leith Hill is not far, with a wooded walk to the gothic tower at the top which on a clear day has great views out over London to the north and the English Channel to the south. Denbies Wine Estate is also quite near, so you could make a day of it and stop off for a spot of wine tasting before lunch at the Plough.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: Couples looking for an escape weekend in an idyllic area; Sunday lunchers; dog walkers as the inn is super woof friendly; local drop-inners. There’s a stonkingly lovely garden backing onto fields, and in the spring/summer the terrace will be an atmospheric place to hang out and it’s all on one level and child-friendly.

Not for: Hard to know who wouldn’t like it really but I suppose those who are looking for something more starchy and formal might err towards the established Surrey big guns.

££: Mid-range I’d say. Starters begin at £5.95 for the homemade soup, rising to £7.95 for the smoked duck breast salad or the king prawn and Scottish smoked salmon. Mains hover around the £13-16, with extras for £3.50. The desrerts are around the £6-7 mark. If you’re lunching, there’s a selection of sandwiches for £6-7.

The Plough Inn, Coldharbour, nr Dorking, Surrey, RH5 6HD. Tel: 01306711 793. ploughinn.com

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