We would be forgiven for thinking that Surrey with is wealth of financiers and top business professionals would have a plethora of fine dining places. In reality, this desert has few oases that stand out, so the most reliable course for gourmets is to dine in London. There is one oasis though in the village of Chobham. Just over two years ago, the Cloche Hat, a local restaurant that had come to the end of its life, was acquired by a young couple by the name of Fernando and Kristy Stovell. In the ensuing period the restaurant - Stovells - has gained a reputation that has earned plaudits from the national and local press. It offers a modern European cuisine (whatever that really is) supported by the usual flummery of' top quality locally sourced sustainable materials'.
We have made four lunch time visits since the restaurant opened in 2012. The first lunch shortly after the place opened was with our younger relatives, was indeed a joyous occasion. Everything was as it should be – perfect! The opening salvo was the Pata Negra hamon set in its nickel plated carving cradle. If one has never eaten a well-cured Spanish ham then this is the place to try it. Our somewhat fastidious concern was that it was left uncovered on all the subsequent occasions that we saw it. The a la carte menu is broad enough to satisfy most tastes with excellent scallops as a favourite starter. Without doubt the best main dish was the cote de boeuf char grilled over hard wood. The last time I went with two business colleagues (June2014), all three of us chose the cote de boeuf that is normally ordered as two servings. This posed a challenge for the waiter, and no doubt the chef and we suspect that what was served was a cote for two persons cleverly sliced for three people. What were we charged? I confess that I have no recollection. The most disappointing dish so far was the roasted guinea fowl surrounded by tiny raw root vegetables.
Other slight aspects of concern were the absence of a knowledge waiter or maitre d’hôtel to advise us on the wine list and the cost of a bottle pre-prandial house champagne at the bar - £64 seemed excessive even though it was by Ruinart. I would have thought that the proprietors could have found an artisan champagne of good quality at a more attractive cost (as is common place in good French restaurants.
All in all, a promising start that deserves success and perhaps a Michelin star if more interest is taken to seek out client comments.
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