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Muddy eats: Bears at the Packhouse, Farnham

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So, you know the feeling. You’ve had your hair done, you’ve been waxed within an inch of your life, you’ve got a new outfit, your skin is dewy, your eyes sparkly, you’ve got your swagger going on. And People. Are. Checking. You. OUT.

We all get a feel good day now and again. But believe me, Bears, the new restaurant at The Packhouse in Runfold has got it going on 24/7 right now. Because this already popular lunch spot has had at little facelift, and is looking red-carpet-ready.

The Packhouse, if you don’t know it, is a vintage emporium set in a gorgeous 400-year-old, Grade II-listed former hop kiln just outside Farnham. You can read my review of it here.

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Formely Café Fig, Bears recently opened in the space that was used to be occupied by the gift and homewear brand Culinary Concepts. Bears is run by the same chef, Rupert Butcher. (Rupert? Bears? Is this just a coincidence? I think not!)

Bears serves modern British-European fare across breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, as well as an evening dinner service. Last week, I popped in for lunch – and I was very impressed.

First of all, despite being open only a few weeks, it was bustling. The restaurant is set over two floors – with a mezzanine overlooking the ground floor. The decor is in fitting with a restaurant on the same site as The Packhouse – with quirky vintage like an metal framed bike decorating the wall, and stunning chandeliers.

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Each of the tables was set with collection of growing herbs in terracotta pots, sitting on traditional Moroccan tiles. It was crisp and modern, with a quirky edge.

The day menu includes breakfast options – full English, eggs Benedict, avocado and feta topped with a poached egg, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, among others – and from what I could see they looked pretty good.

I love this kind of thing for lunch, but the other options were also pretty tempting. There’s a light bites section with options like homemade soup and tart of the day, as well as sandwiches (crispy bacon and Brie anyone? Or perhaps you’d like Chorizo avocado, humous and rocket) that included gluten-free options.

Being the oinker I am though, I moved straight to the mains menu and went for the full-size portion of wild mushroom risotto with tarragon and marscapone, topped with rocket and parmesan. My friend chose the roasted vegetable and butternut squash couscous with goat’s cheese.

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The risotto was gorgeous: not claggy and gloopy, nor dry and sticky. It was smooth and creamy without being too rich. I’d order it again. Or, perhaps I might go for the couscous because it looked divine and also seemed like a slightly healthier option. My friend said it was lovely.

There was a lot on this menu that appealed to me: slow cooked 12 hour pork belly, the chef’s pie of the day, burgers and fish and chips. Personally, I’m not crazy about chicken, but if I did eat, it the corn-fed chicken breast stuffed with a spinach, cream cheese and wild mushrooms, is probably what I go for.

There are also sharer options, and some lovely sounding salads, plus a children’s menu (bear cubs, natch) that impressed me with the choices that will appeal to kids, but keep mums and dads happy too (no chicken nuggets here peeps).

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: families, relaxed gatherings with friends, a pop-in lunch or dinner if you want quality food without the pretention, girly gatherings. And as it’s part of The Packhouse, this is a great place to come for a day out. Afternoon teas are also available (£19.95 for a traditional afternoon tea for two or £29.95 for a sparkling afternoon tea for two) as well as scones and tea cake.

Not for: those looking for white table cloths and formal dining. This is cool, casual and quirky.

££: Good value for the quality of the food. My musroom risotto was £11.50 and the roasted vegetable couscous was £9.95. At the top end you’ve got 10oz ribeye steak for £18.95, the slow cooked pork belly was £14.50. Sharers plates are between £12 and £14.50. The breakfasts were between £4.95 (sauteed mushrooms with whole grain mustard) and £7.50 (full English). The kids meals were all around £4.95.

Bears Restaurant, The Packhouse, Tongham Road, Farnham, Surrey, GU10 1PJ. Tel: 01252 884 089. bearsrestaurant.com

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