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The Retreat

Just a year since new owners revamped the food and spruced up the styling, this locals' favourite is back on the gastropub menu.

September and October are busy months for birthdays in the Muddy Surrey house so we tend to have a big family get-together to celebrate. A stylish gastropub with a versatile menu is top of our checklist, preferably somewhere mid-distance between us and the in-laws, or within easy access of the M25.

Step forward The Retreat in Staines-upon-Thames. It seemed a fitting choice as the pub too was celebrating a birthday – with it’s first birthday just around the corner after a swanky new makeover last year. What with its hot new come-hither look, and the recent appointment of a new head chef I couldn’t stay away.

THE LOCATION

You’ll find the pub on Staines Road, a little out of the town centre. To the nimble of mind, the pub’s previous incarnation as The Angler’s Retreat would strongly suggest a river setting. And while it is indeed only a couple of hundred metres from the river, there are no water views to be had so leave the rods and tackle at home.

THE VIBE

More than a mere nip and tuck, The Retreat went in for some serious surgery a year ago and she’s come out the other side shining like a new pin. It’s an old pub – it was called the Lucan Arms, after Lord Lucan, until the late nineties – and many of the original features have been retained in the refurb.

The update has resulted in a striking mix of old and new, quirky and contemporary, with a mix of Mediterranean and north African influences. It’s a substantial pub, mostly open plan, with zoned dining spaces. It’s very much a local vibe in here – not pretentious, definitely friendly and also welcoming to kids. We went on a Saturday at lunchtime and it was busy and buzzy.

SCOFF & QUAFF

A new head chef Daniel Donohue arrived in August – coming from the popular Running Horses in Mickleham. He oversees a menu that has plenty of choice, with Starters and Salads, Burgers, Pizza (from an authentic pizza oven), Grill (offering Australian beef from Tom Hixson at Smithfield Market), and the Classics, plus daily specials. There were six around our table, and we sampled meals from across the menu. Our starters order included sticky pork ribs, glazed goat’s cheese with beetroot and rocket, mushrooms on toast and salt and pepper squid. Mine was the goat’s cheese, and a mighty fine choice it was too. But I’d have been happy with any of the others – and so were the family.

For mains, my daughter went for the burger from the kids’ menu and my son chose the Milano pizza. I gave the illusion of being healthy and ordered the classic Caesar salad with wood fired salmon, while the others went for the Mac ‘n’ chesse, halloumi burger, and the Oxford Gold beer-battered haddock and chips. Again we were all pretty happy with our choices. No crumbs left on our plates.

Puds were a must – I didn’t order the salad for nothing – and between us we had the chocolate brownie, classic Eton mess, summer berry and white chocolate cheesecake and peach and raspberry crème brûlée. Another triumph.

KID-FRIENDLY?

Yep. Kids, and dogs too. If you fancy popping in after a long dog walk up the river, dogs are welcome in the bar area. There’s a bar menu if you want food, but between 3-5pm they serve only pizza and sandwiches. I’ll be the one dozing with my pooches by the fire – just give me a shove if it starts getting dangerously close to school pick up time will you!

OUT & ABOUT

Staines is pretty close to the trio of themed family parks in this part of the world, with Thorpe Park the nearest at only 10 minutes away, and Legoland and Chessington World of Adventures each about a 30 minute drive. Windsor Castle is less than 20 minutes away, as is Windsor Great Park. Henry’s old gaff, Hampton Court Palace is also just 20 minutes away. If trains are your thing, the Great Cockcrow Railway is five miles away in Chertsey.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: Relaxed dining – food is served all day so no rushing to get you in or out. Locals, families, relaxed groups of friends, casual drinkers and bar food nibblers. Veggies and kids both well catered for.

Not for: Day-trippers expecting stupendous country views, or expansive grounds. Anyone who thinks the former name brings water views – it’s a few hundred metres from the Thames. But you could still combine a lunch here with a walk along the river.

£££: Reasonable. Starters are from £5-£8; steaks are from £16.50-£30 depending on the size and cut, with sides all around the £3 mark. The burgers are £11.50 for halloumi, £12.50 chicken or beef, and £15.50 for Wagyu beef; and the pizzas are all around the £10. The Classics menu starts at 9.50 for the baked ham with double free range eggs and fries, rising to £18 for the 10oz bone-in lam leg steak with roast potatoes.

The Retreat, Staines Road, Staines, TW18 2RT. Tel: 01784 464839. theretreatstaines.co.uk

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