Is this Surrey’s best-kept secret?
A bit of a hidden gem, the restaurant at Warren House offers intimate fine dining in sumptuous surrounds. Muddy nails three delicious courses.
On the outskirts of Kingston-upon-Thames, Warren House is an elegant country house hotel. It was built in 1865 for Hugh Hammersley, a wealthy banker, and until only 15 years ago has been a private home to a succession of wealthy bankers, aristocrats, American heiresses, politicians and humanitarians. If these walls could talk – guests have included William Gladstone, King Edward VII, King George V and King George VI.
Built in the Victorian Gothic style, it’s tucked away down a private road surrounded by four acres of formal landscaped gardens and despite its proximity to Kingston, feels more like a quiet countryside retreat. As well as a hotel – there are 46 rooms – Warren House, is a wedding and conference venue. But you don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to dine here.
Warren House is dripping in Victorian splendour – large rooms, huge chandeliers, elaborate fireplaces. There’s a grand and elegant vibe going on, and it has the feel of a sumptuous stately home rather than large stuffy hotel.
The main restaurant – the Persian Dining Room – is where lunch and dinner is usually served as well as breakfast for the hotel guests. It’s a big space, named after the stunning blue tiles from Isfahan that surround the fireplace, and has large windows which look out over the beautiful terrace and gardens.
Dinner is also sometimes served in the more intimate Wisteria Lounge, and this is where we ate. It was originally one of the reception rooms when Warren House was a home – and it is lavishly ornate with a highly decorative fireplace, large stone mullion windows, fancy woodwork and plush velvet. But despite the sumptuous surrounds, the vibe is friendly, relaxed and surprisingly normal.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The Warren House restaurant is open to non-hotel guests and offers classic but relaxed fine dining. The menu is not extensive – which I consider a good thing – and changes to compliment the season. The Wisteria Lounge is intimate and bijou – so there’s no bustling vibe going on. It’s more sedate, but by no means stuffy. I went for dinner on a Thursday evening and there were two groups of five or six, plus Mr Muds and I.
I started with the poached salmon tian which came with a horseradish cream fraiche which was harmonious, light and beautifully plated. My husband chose the goat’s cheese parfait with textures of beetroot and baby leaf salad – which as well as being exceptionally pretty, was also melt-in-the-mouth fantastic.
Moving on to mains, I chose the roasted rump of South Down lamb which came served on a bed of Egyptian couscous with Mediterranean vegetables. The lamb was cooked to perfection, and the combination of flavours was perfect. My husband went for the seared fillet of sea bream with a cockle and mussel fricassee, sautéd samphire and a lemon butter sauce. As a big fan of fish, evil food envy might have crept in if the lamb hadn’t been so good.
The starters are all at the same set price of £8.50, and the mains at £17.50 – or you can go for the three-course menu for £29.50. And yes, we made it the full three courses – purely for research purposes!! Tempted though I was by the warm bread and butter pudding, I was swayed at the last minute by the burnt lemon tart with lemon curd and vanilla ice-cream. It was a good choice! Mr M ordered the chocolate and hazelnut mille feuille with clotted cream, which he also enjoyed.
If you fancy making a night of it, you most certainly can – and let’s face it there’s something quite nice about stumbling upstairs to sleep in a lovely big four poster!
I’d say so. I’ve eaten here in the past with my teenage son, and neither we didn’t feel out place. Smaller children may not feel so relaxed in such a formal environment though – and the small menu may not cater to the tastes of kids.
OUT & ABOUT
The gardens at Warren House are worth a wander, or if you fancy stretching your legs a little more, Richmond Park is just a five minute walk away. Kingston-upon-Thames, with plenty of high-street stores, well as the Rose Theatre, is also nearby. For golfers, the exclusive Coombe Wood Golf Club is next door.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Romantic dinner, a special occasion get-togethers. As well as weddings and events, Warren House also offers private dining – which would be a great way to celebrate a special birthday or anniversary. There are private dining rooms to suit a group of pretty much any size, and plenty of catering options.
Not for: If you’re after a more casual dining experience, I’d swerve this one – it is definitely crisp white tablecloth territory. And despite Warren House’s previous history as a party house, a rowdy sesh will not fly in the intimate Wisteria Lounge. It has a serene atmosphere that you’ll want to savour.
The damage: Starters £8.50; mains £17.50; dessert £8.50, or go for the three course menu at £29.50.
Warren House, Warren Road, Kingston-upon-Thames, KT2 7HY. Tel: 020 8547 1777. warrenhouse.com