Monday, 1 August 2011

Review: The Black Swan at Ockham, Surrey and Painshill Park

The Black Swan at Ockham
After a boozy evening of what I can only describe as a bar/restaurant crawl along Maiden Lane in Covent Garden it was clear that my saturday-morning hangover was potent yet manageable.  I couldn't really face an outing taking me back into the hordes of summer tourists in London but luckily the A3 is only a mile away and the Surrey Countryside outside the M25 only a 20 minute drive.

At around 12:30pm we pulled off the A3 and down a little country lane to Ockham Common (philosophy fans - this is the birthplace of William of Ockham, the proponent of Occam's Razor).

Ockham common itself used to be the site of a WW2 airfield and despite the noise of the nearby A3 it feels very quaint and rural.  It would appear that the new Spielberg film War Horse filmed its battle scenes here but that isn't the only link to the cinema.

The interior of the Black Swan was the pub in An American Werewolf in London.  Don't go there now expecting them to have kept the interior faithful as it has had a full-on gastropub makeover.  Even the bikers that periodically turned up looked confused so I can only assume this is a recent thing!

A really good sign was the amount of cars continually pouring into the carpark as we drove up.  Most of them were serious Chelsea Tractors which in my humble experience is normally a sign of good food.  After squeezing my Peugeot 206 between two behemoths we chose to sit inside to get out of the midday sun.  Many people were enjoying the fantastic garden and decking area and I began to get serious food envy from the BBQ pork sandwiches that were being delivered outside.  A good sign of quality inside as well - 4 real ales including the wonderful locally brewed Shere Drop

The Meadow
Food blogger fail #1. Never order fish and chips in a pub you intend to review and expect to write anything interesting about it - oops. On the other hand the fish was fresh, and the batter nice and crispy (with a touch of ale added I think). Tartare sauce was coarse and chunky and both this and the terrific mushy peas had a homemade vibe. The menu here was actually pretty extensive with what looked like good example of various terrines (Rabbit, Smoked Trout and Prawn etc..)

Better still was an absolutely fantastic example of Pear Tarte-Tatin with Rhubarb Ice-cream, advertised with a 15 minute wait it was well worth delaying arriving at our next destination.  Fantastic caramelised pears were topped with what I think was pear-peel fried in butter which was an almost savoury counterpoint to the rest of the dish.  It tasted of the countryside and I could eat it once a week for the rest of my life - it was that good.

Pear Tarte-Tatin with Rhubarb Ice-cream

Just down the road in Cobham is Painshill Park - apparently one of the finest 18th Century Landscape Parks in the country.  In a decrepit state in 1980 it was purchased by the Borough Council and a charity setup to see to its renovation and return to grandeur.  For £6 or so per adult it was lovely way to walk off a heavy lunch!

Entrance Bridge over the River Mole to Painshill Park

The Crystal Grotto

The outside of the Grotto

A Grey Heron

Pictures of Lillies


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