More than meets the eye

AT FIRST glance the newly restored Abinger Hatch is a picture postcard country pub.

Thursday, 30th June 2011, 10:43 am

This 17th century coaching inn with its rolling gardens and roaring log fire is a perfect destination - whatever the weather.

But there is more to this Surrey hostelry than first meets the eye.

For everywhere, there is also an irrepressible sense of fun.

The posters on the walls of the gentlemen’s cloakrooms are a perfect example of the pub’s sense of humour.

They also illustrate just how creative the relaunched establishment has become offering everything from Wimbledon days - to kids’ parties.

The pub’s personality comes from manager Jonathan Tye - who was formerly front of house manager at the famous Pont de la Tour and Chop House.

“It’s all about service and having fun,” he explained, when we visited to review. “We want to spoil you rotten.”

Bizarrely, coming to The Abinger Hatch for Jonathan is a bit like coming home.

Although he has worked around the world, most notably in Chicago, when he was a child he used to come on holiday to this part of Surrey.

He loves the area; and the pub - and is determined to offer the very best whether you are calling in for a pint, or bringing the family for lunch.

The kitchens are headed up by husband and wife team Wessel Van Jaarsveld and Andree Diamond, who joined from The Butchers Arms, where they worked for Michelin starred proprietor Stephen Bull and achieved Two AA* Rosettes and a Michelin Bib Gourman.

The emphasis is, wherever possible, to serve locally sourced organic produce. When we visited on a Tuesday in June, there was a set menu of two courses for £10 and three for £15.

An A La Carte was also on offer, with starters ranging from £5-£8; Mains from £10-£18.95; and desserts priced at £5.

We sampled both menus.

The dishes were not overly fussy in presentation. After all, this is rustic Surrey.

But the food was good. The asparagus and buffalo mozzarella tart was generous and rich; the smoked mackerel pate and toast, was exactly what you would expect.

For main we both plumped for the pan fried fillet of bream, with marinated aubergine and herb cous cous. The fish was right on the money.

For desserts, the mandarin crème Brule with palmier biscuit was smooth and delicious. The passion fruit jelly, shortbread and crème Chantilly was a great combination.

The menu itself was not wide ranging but it was unusual. The A La Carte offered only one red meat - grilled rib eye steak. The set had only one main meat course, pork chop, crushed Jersey Royals and apple compote.

Those looking for more traditional fare might have been disappointed.

But this is not your typical pub. Not only does it want to be different, it is striving to be the best.

Jonathan explained that they have enormous plans in the future, and they have already added an excellent outdoor garden bar.

Some of the ideas will take time to come to fruition.

Don’t wait for them to do so. A visit to The Abinger Hatch is well worth a visit today.

The Abinger Hatch, Abinger Lane, Abinger Common, Dorking, Surrey RH5 6HZ