Food is our common ground, a universal experience.
Food is our common ground, a universal experience.
Travel Stories and Guides by Table Magazine
A collection of travel stories and guides by Table Magazine and contributors from around the world.
Weekend Trip | Surrey
As we make our way into autumn we start to think about all those wonderful harvest vegetables, freshly baked apple pies and chilly afternoons spent outside. We've asked our friend Tom Ganley to give us a tour around his neck of the woods in Surrey. Follow along as he and friends travel around the hills of surrey.
A saturday in surrey
From the rolling greens of the Surrey Hills to the sleepy, sprawling commuter suburbs, Surrey is a complex home county with many dimensions. It’s a rich patchwork of people, places and amazing local bites. No weekend romp can ever do justice to the diversity of tastes, treats and titbits that Surrey has to offer, but after spending a couple of days here with friends, family and favourite food finds, I’m serving up a slice of my old neck of the woods and a taste of the flavours that painted my childhood.
A cafe bakery in Reigate that’s already become a cornerstone of the Surrey food scene. Spend some time exploring local cafes and farm shops and you’ll likely find their various breads filling the shelves…if you get there in time to grab them that is. Run by husband and wife team Rosie and Chris, this gem of a bakery is an artisan operation with a big heart; tucked on a corner opposite Priory Park and a short walk from Reigate high street. The moment you enter Chalk Hills, you can feel the love and care that’s been kneaded into every corner of the cafe. It’s cosy, comfortable, full of character and always filled by a loyal fan base who come back time after time. Whether it’s their air-cooled breads, freshly ground coffee, famous Barry’s tea or full flavoured pastries, there’s something for everyone. They’ve even recently collaborated with Crumbs brewery, a local operation who transform their leftover loaves into Rye Rubies, Bloomin’ Ambers and Sourdough Pales. It’s clear to see, smell and taste that this delightful little bakery is powered by people. People who have a true passion for what they do, and who want to share it with as many others as possible.
I’m glad they’re the sharing type. I always make sure to pop in whenever I’m in town. And you should do the same.
Take a short drive west of Reigate towards Dorking and you’ll notice a change in topography. Here the Surrey Hills dominate the landscape and you see why the county is considered England’s most wooded. These stunning hills are a go to destination for hikers, cyclists and, to many people’s surprise, home to the award winning Denbies Wine Estate.
With its chalky soils, south facing slopes and suitable climate, this terroir is reminiscent of the Champagne region, making it the perfect spot to grow a wide range of grape varieties. Since planting its first vineyard in 1986, Denbies has gone on to compete at an international level; winning England’s first ever gold for a rose, multiple golds for their sparkling wines and an international gold for their Noble Harvest Dessert wine. Nestled under Box Hill and the UK’s oldest natural woodland, Denbies has a lot to offer. Its vineyard tours are fantastic, its restaurant is top notch, its on-site gift shop, farm shop and brewery are great to nose around and, best of all, its wines are phenomenal. The views aren’t bad either. With 7 miles of public footpaths drawn over the site, you can spend a good few hours exploring every corner of the estate and see the grapes up close, lighting up like little lightbulbs glowing in the summer sun.
On our way out, we picked up a bottle of their famous Surrey Gold and went on our merry way.
Sat on the highest point of the North Downs Way, this pub is a bit of a hidden treasure and one you won’t forget in a hurry. Take a seat on the terrace and take in the best countryside that Surrey has to offer. Located on Titsey Estate, Botley Hill is a magnet for the best local produce. From breweries to orchards, the pub is all about supporting suppliers and sharing a taste of the surrounding area, including fruit and veg from their on-site kitchen garden. With sheep dotted in the distance and buzzards hovering in the field alongside, we ate a glorious summer lunch, bathing in the last of the August sun. Between us we took down rich, tender olives, sprinkled with sea salt, silky asparagus and ricotta Tortelloni, flavourful Mediterranean Raviolini and a vibrant feta and superfood salad. As well as the fantastic food, drink, views and walks, Botley Hill also offers on site accommodation in the shape of snug shepherd’s huts. Well worth a stay if you don’t feel like leaving quite yet…which I would understand. All I can say is if you’re looking for postcard Surrey, Botley Hill will definitely deliver.
The final food stop on our journey came in the form of Priory Farm. Based in South Nutfield, this scenic spot has seen a lot of change over the years. From starting life as a pig farm, it’s evolved into a successful diversified attraction complete with cafe, flower shop, farm shop, fishing, discovery walk and more. Owned by family friends of ours, this place has always been a regular destination when I’m home and holds a lot of memories. We were on a mission to create the perfect picnic, so we only visited the farm shop on this occasion. We stocked up on grapes, cheeses, chutneys, peaches and few other tasty treats. We had to leave pretty sharpish. Partly because we were tight for time, but also because if you spend too long in the farm shop I guarantee your eyes will get too big for your stomach. Their shelves are stocked with a bounty of the best around, including, you guessed it, Chalk Hills Bakery bread. With our basket of glorious grub in hand, we headed onwards.
Our final destination - Tollsworth Manor. A beautiful living, breathing manor farm house built from stories and the best things in life. Located in Chaldon, Surrey, this idyllic spot is home to arguably the best garden in Surrey, as well as cats, dogs, ducks, a Shetland Pony and, as luck would have it, my extraordinary grandparents. With some parts of this grade 2 listed house dating back to the 1300’s, the structure has been on a real journey to become the magical place it is today. After taking it on as a youth hostel ruin back in the early ‘80s, Granny (Carol) and Man Man (Gordon) have transformed the space and elevated it beyond the physical world into something really special. You can learn more from Man Man, who holds regular talks about the property and would be more than happy to tell you the story over Granny’s famous rock cakes and hand-picked elderflower cordial. Each year the two-acre garden is opened to the public through the National Garden Scheme, to raise money for St Catherine’s Hospice. People travel from all over in their droves to enjoy the astonishing work my grandparents have done, and are never disappointed. It’s a priceless place. A place that connects people. A place that brings people together. It’s where I spent most of my childhood and I’m proud to call it home. There’s really no better place for a picnic. With our spread on the table and domestic wildlife all around, we sat and ate and drank as the sun began to set. It was a fitting end to a fantastic food filled day.
If you have any other suggestions please leave a comment below, we are always looking for new local finds and love hearing about some of your favourite spots!