As a not-quite-your-typical Brit (my father is British and I'm a citizen but haven't ever lived in the UK) and a traveller who seeks out opportunities to 'live like a local' I recently leapt at the opportunity to do a week of house-sitting in the Surrey region of England with my fiancé.
I'd never been to Surrey but it sounded grand and when I did my research on Google (looking for local food, cider and wine as is my habit) I found that there were quite a few farms or farm shops nearby where I'd be staying as well as a few wineries. Challenge accepted! (I thought to myself). We'll make it a point to eat as much local food and try as much local drink as possible.
And I must say we gave it a really good effort.
Though we were without a car for much of our trip, our house was fortuitously located less than a mile from a lovely farm and farm shop called Flower Farm Shop. Flower Farm is more than just a patch of land and a farm shop, it’s a full-on fully functioning farm with lambs, cows, pigs and chickens, extensive veggie gardens, pick-your-own berry fields and a lovely café serving delectable baked treats, stellar cappuccinos, farm fresh egg scrambles and (what we heard to be) an excellent cream tea.
I can now say, with some authority, that the sausages at the Flower Farm Shop are some of the finest I've ever had (particularly the Lincolnshire and Cumberland sausages - we are suckers for a sage spiced filling!). And buying chicken or lamb straight from the farm it was raised on really does make it taste that many times better. We roasted (with herbs from the farm), broiled, sautéed and baked away for a whole week-trying something different every day-without ever needing a supermarket run.
My fiancé also couldn't get enough of the Flower Farm’s sausage pies and Godstone Brewers beer (made on-site!).
Next up though - our goal was to find a local restaurant serving up farm-to-table fare (why not? There are plenty of farms in Surrey!) for our special 'night out' over the weekend. We found one by chance, after booking a night's stay at the glammed up Shepherd Huts on Broomlands Farm in Oxted and seeing on their website that the hut owners also owned a nearby 16th century farmhouse restaurant serving primarily locally products. We made a reservation immediately.
What a good decision!
Botley Hill Farmhouse was everything we had hoped for and more. Particularly for an American and a Spaniard (my fiancé), getting to visit old fashioned historic farms and pubs like this in England, is a treat. So typically 'English' (at least in our minds)!
Everything from the sweeping views of the North Downs and grazing Botley Hill sheep, to the charmingly old fashioned yet comfortable, warm and tasteful décor and unique variety of smaller and larger dining rooms was picture perfect. To top off the fantastic ambiance and views, all of the servers at Botley Hill were smiling, welcoming, fast and professional and the food was flawlessly executed as well as surprisingly reasonably priced. Manuel had the duck leg and decadently creamy, layered potatoes dauphinoise (with a beer brewed right on-site at the farm) while I opted for a ribeye (beef from the local Estate) served with grilled mushrooms and tomatoes and a small portion of perfectly crisp and golden chips (or French fries to us!).
While I'm not typically the sort of person who orders a steak and fries at a restaurant we'd eaten so much chicken and sausage from the Flower Farm the preceding week I needed a change. And we'd opted for Botley's minced lamb and hummus with pita (with an option for gluten-free pita!) as our starter. SO delicious!
These guys had me at '16th century farmhouse' and 'farm to table' but they secured my undying devotion by having a phenomenal gluten-free menu (including burgers WITH the bun!).
*note: I have an actual allergy and am not a seeker outer of gluten-free stuff just for the heck of it so this kind of discovery really makes my day!
We left Botley Hill sadly after dinner, wishing we could stay all night but excited to spend some time at our little shepherd hut on the Surrey/Kent border at Broomlands Farm Our hut, though tiny, was adorably appointed and featured an incredibly comfortable bed as well as wood burning fireplace, outdoor barbecue and fire pit and a mini-kitchen for us to make tea and coffee in. We enjoyed an evening on the farm, by our little fire, while drinking local Surrey cider we'd picked up at Priory Farm earlier in the day.
In the morning we dug into our breakfast basket (which the owners normally drop off outside our hut at a prescribed time) to find croissants, fresh gluten-free bread for toast, four eggs, marmalade, a little yoghurt and a few berries. A perfect early morning breakfast before heading back to our (temporary) home to feed the kitty.
It’s safe to say we put on a few kilos after enjoying so much of Surrey's bounty. Though, to try to counteract our rapidly expanding (sausage and beer/cider) waistlines we did get out and hike or walk as much as possible. Top on our list of favourite spots were the hiking trails around Dorking (particularly the long hike to Leith Hill) and the views from Box Hill. If we'd had more time we would have loved to do more hiking as we now know that Surrey is just as great a spot for hiking and nature as it is for farm to table food and drink.
Note: we did take a day trip to London and a day trip to Canterbury during our stay in Surrey but both of us agreed we enjoyed our time at the farms, on the footpaths and hiking trails and eating/drinking locally best of all.
Tags: food and drink
Botley Hill Farmhouse