WHERE TO EAT The Duke of Wellington, East Horsley
28.02.2018 / words: The Guide 2 Surrey
On the 8th March, the Duke of Wellington celebrates its first birthday since relaunching under the banner of new owners Peach Pubs, whose portfolio also includes the pretty excellent Richard Onslow in Cranleigh. It marks a welcome return to form for a beloved pub that had been passed around from one well-intentioned owner to another for the last ten years, but none had found the inspiration to do this remarkable building the justice it so clearly deserves until now.
Situated at the foot of the gorgeous Surrey Hills, the Duke has long been a favourite of walkers. In these colder months however, it would be hard to imagine a more inviting respite from the cold than the country comfort within. Two crackling fires greet us like a hug as does the Duke’s friendly team, and in moments we’re sat in the dining room pouring over the lunch menu with a glass of juicy Malbec in hand.
I admit that I struggle to recall what the place looked like before its refurb just over a year ago, but it’s clear that this incarnation has truly realised and enhanced the building’s charm and character to its fullest. Naturally, they’ve retained the original flint-and-mortar brickwork that’s an inherent part of East Horley’s architecture thanks to that Victorian visionary, Lord Lovelace. Comfortable and contemporary style weaves throughout the pub, with gleaming bronze and copper highlights, vintage prints, and colourful tiki wicker lamps for the lightest touch of quirk.
Peach Pubs have built their reputation on the quality of their food, offering humble, honest pub classics given some serious polish and using the best ingredients Blighty has to offer. The lunch menu offers a lean spread of options from the Great British cookbook with a little Asian and Continental flourishes thrown in for good measure.
We began with a simple yet unfailingly comforting winter salad which brought a poached egg oozing sunny yolk over delicious Clonakilty Black Pudding. Smoked haddock fishcakes came in a lovely, rustly crisp golden crust atop silky sweet creamed leaks given some mustard punch.
Mains brought a generous hunk of butternut squash, spinach and pearl barley wellington with roasted root vegetables and vegetarian gravy. I fell on a fish special of herb Crusted hake fillet, beautifully tender flesh beneath a herby crust over brightly coloured boulders of sautéed new pots, butternut squash and beetroot, all deep orange reds and earthy sweet flavours. Honestly, if this is how the kitchen handles such hearty winter fare, I can’t wait to see what spring and summer brings.
But not before indulging in that ultimate winter dessert: Sticky Toffee Pudding. Yes, I know it’s ubiquitous to gastropub menus, but the cosy nooks and soporific warmth of the Duke of Wellington practically demand the sweet, rich, immobilising indulgence offered by this Duke among Puds. And it didn’t let me down at all, with a very light sponge to suck up that glossy caramel sauce, and a generous blob of clotted cream beside it.
However, if you’re the sort who prefers to finish a meal with fine cheese, but don’t have the support or numbers to go full cheeseboard, the Duke has an ingeniously simple solution that I don’t think I’ve come across before. £3.75 gets you a ‘single smidgeon of cheese’: two decent wedges of your choice from their cheese options (we chose a punchy smooth Blue Monday from Blur’s Alex James), with some delicious, tangy chutney – fig in our case, apple and biscuits. Perfect for a cheese hit that doesn’t burst your belt.
The Duke of Wellington is one of those pubs you envy locals for their proximity to it, yet begs to be enjoyed at length over a long lunch, expansive dinner – or even for breakfast - should you make the trip. With an impressive list of cask beers, great wines and its closeness to some of Surrey’s loveliest countryside it’s a trip you should definitely make if you love nothing more than a traditional British pub, with great food and drink at its heart.
Food total for two = £64.75