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1877 at Wotton House

You'll find your fine dining nirvana at this quintessentially English mansion house set on a 13-acre estate near Dorking

Looking for somewhere really special to go for lunch or a spot of dins? The 1877 Restaurant at De Vere Wotton House certainly makes a jaw-dropping first impression. Think turning up on a blind date and finding Ryan Gosling waiting at the bar. Well, hello!

THE LOCATION

This exquisite 17th century mansion house is a few miles out of Dorking on the Guildford Road at Wotton. It’s set on a sprawling country estate in what was once the seat of the Evelyn family, whose son John, a famous botanist, designed England’s first Italian gardens in the estate’s grounds. (Yes, Mr Evelyn was also the inspiration for the name Crabtree and Evelyn.)

If you’re looking for wow-factor – it’s here in droves. A sweeping driveway leads to the stately red-bricked hotel, and if you’re arriving on dusk you’ll be dazzled by the pretty garden lights. Entry is via grand double doors. I can’t remember if a doorman greeted us on our way in, but it’s quite likely he did.

THE VIBE

The interiors are just as swanky – with lofty domed ceilings, opulent chandeliers, panelled walls and sumptuous rugs.  There are eccentric little touches that I loved: a gilt-framed mirror with a hologram bearing the words ‘There’s a ghost in the…”; hat adorned antlers; and quirky vases and ceramics.

The whole place has recently undergone a £6m refurbishment with the addition of another 17 suites to the accommodation, taking the number of rooms to 125, and while I didn’t tour the hotel I’m told they rooms are all tastefully decked out muted shades of greys and greens with plaid soft furnishings.

You might expect a place of this grandeur to be a bit uptight and starchy, but on the midweek evening I went with my Muddy colleague Tracy, there was nothing of the sort. The restaurant was busy, and though I’d half expected us to be the youngest in the room, I was pleased to see a good mix of diners in this formal space.

SCOFF & QUAFF

So let’s eat shall we? First thing to let you know is that service at 1877 is dazzlingly good; attentive without being obsequious, friendly but not over-familiar. You might worry that a hotel and restaurant with such stateliness could be a teensy bit intimidating but both Tracy and I were struck by how warm the whole experience was. That goes for our welcome, the service, the ambience and the dining room itself.

To start, I went for the asparagus with Parmesan, almond and truffle oil, while Tracy had the salmon gravlax with beetroot, dill and horseradish. They were both gorgeously presented and delicious.

Then I scoffed the roasted fillet of hake with cauliflower, spinach and grape (doesn’t it look gorgeous)…

While Tracy had the pan fried fillet of seabass with spiced lentils, artichoke and chervil.

We’d planned to leave it there, but our charming waiter talked us into pudding. For me the lure of Prosecco strawberry floating fruit jelly with lemon meringues was too much; while Tracy ordered the chocolate trio volcano with salted caramel lava. And they were as different as chalk and cheese: the jelly all light and fruity and the choc and salted caramel pudding a delightfully rich creation.

We were hoping to to stroll off all that deliciousness in the Grade II listed gardens afterwards, but the heavens opened and we had to had to leg it straight back to the car. But I’ll be back at a later date to nose around the hotel, spa and grounds.

KID-FRIENDLY?

The hotel welcomes children: there are six family rooms and various kiddie games – but for me I’d be leaving the kids at home.

OUT & ABOUT

Aside from the 13 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, Leith Hill and Box Hill are not far if you want to take in a more strenuous walk before lunch. Denbies Wine Estate, the National Trust’s Polesden Lacey and the charming market town of Dorking, with its eclectic vintage and antique shops, arts and craft stores and boutiques are also only a few miles away.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: a posh family lunch or a romantic dinner.  Impressing an older relative – need to placate your mother-in-law? Voila!

Not for: Scruffs – this is fine dining, so you need to dress to impress. And you may be made of sterner stuff than me but I wouldn’t go with toddlers who like chucking food and hate sitting still –  too stressful in such swanky surroundings.

The damage: Starters are from £5.95-£7.95; mains started at £15.95 rising to £25.95 for the grilled sirloin steak with sides at £3.50 each; and puddings were £4.95-£7.95.

1877 Restaurant at De Vere Wotton HouseGuildford Road, Dorking RH5 6HS

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