SUDDENLY, every free house serving good quality food is labelled a ‘gastro pub’.
It’s a term used too broadly these days.
And a dangerous one, which potentially removes the character of traditional free houses like The Owl at Kingsfold.
They may serve high-end food, but this is still your friendly village local with all those classic values in tack.
Since taking over in October 2010, owners Nigel and Jean White have poured their 30 years of experience into redefining the pub.
And they’ve created something unique.
Nestled on the fringe of Dorking Road, The Owl is teeming with charm.
But the interior, with its rugged oak beams and traditional ethics, has an underlying modern tone.
Open space dominates the dining area. This usually brings with it a cold, clinical feel. But not here. The venue is peppered with wooden furniture, open fire places and all the traits of the homeliest of homes.
It is perfectly balanced.
A huge bar sprouts off the dining area and into the foyer. It’s been cleverly designed to curve round meeting an intimate cubby, complete with original brickwork and seating far too comfy.
Adjacent to the bar, an ever-changing Specials Menu sets the theme for food which is surprisingly unpredictable.
Head Chef Christian Fletcher serves up a variety of ‘modern meals with a traditional twist’.
From your homemade beef burger with tomato relish and chips, to the more daring sticky lime half roast chicken with garlic mayonnaise.
My personal favourite, however, was the filo wrapped king prawns with a sweet chilli mayonnaise starter – priced at £6.95.
It’s a welcome change to monotonous pub grub. And while some dishes are exotic, they are never pretentious.
Most of their produce and drinks are sourced locally, which – at a time when independent businesses may be struggling – makes the pub a vital cog in the Kingsfold economy.
The pricing won’t leave you feeling like you’ve saved a few pounds. But it won’t dent your bank account either.
A main dish price mark of £10 to £13 is more than fair considering the generous portions and top notch quality.
While emphasis on food is great, their importance of village spirit is even greater.
That’s why The Owl holds regular themed nights, live music from local talent and much more.
An essential spark of life has been injected into a venue which now truly caters for all.
Nigel and his team have built that all important bridge between drinkers’ pubs and fine dining restaurants.
Gastro pub it is not. But instead, an independent free house that fuses the elements of both high quality food and your village local.