Filling a gap in the market for fine dining in the Surrey countryside – Stovell’s is ambitious for a Michelin star. Con Crowley visits this exciting new restaurant in Chobham
It took Fernando and Kristy Stovell three years to find the perfect location for their first restaurant. Having moved to Surrey, they scoured the county from Berkshire to the Sussex borders to find the right opportunity.
And then last year the Cloche Hat, a restaurant with a long history, tucked away on a country lane, a mile and a half from the village of Chobham, came on the market.
A stone’s throw from Weybridge and within easy reach of Richmond, Kingston and Guildford, the quaint 16th century farmhouse offered the chance, for the couple who have cooked together since meeting at Westminster College in 1997, to create a country restaurant worthy of a Michelin star.
Between them they have loads of experience: The Capital in Knightsbridge, when it held two stars, Jamie Oliver, where Kirsty was the head pastry chef, and more recently, they worked in private members restaurants at The Wellington Club, Knightsbridge and The Cuckoo Club, Mayfair.
Their reputation is now growing – Fernando has already made three appearances on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, most recently to demonstrate his signature crisp suckling pig, which I picked for my main course – and Stovell’s, which opened in late 2012, is living up to expectations.
The beauty of Stovell’s is that its owners are original and keen, yet at the same time they are offering traditional wholesome well-cooked food. They describe themselves as modern European, but their influences come from everywhere, including the local woodlands. Fernando is a great friend of, the forager and eccentric road kill chef, Fergus Drennan and is planning Saturday morning forages followed by lunch for locals and regulars.
However, don’t expect too many hedgehogs or fungi from the forests of Chobham – but you can munch on a pot of flowers (Mind Your Own Business) or choose the Lake District aged rib of beef chargrilled over a combination of compressed English hardwoods and served with horseradish and nettle cream. This is a seriously good cut, which I sampled on an earlier visit – red rare, and melt in the mouth.
And lets not get too parochial about the flavours of this place: Fernando is from Mexico, his wife comes from New Zealand and pride of place in the middle of the dining room was a whopping great leg of cured ham from Spain!
The thin slithers of pata negra, served with roots and pickles, made a delicious starter for my partner, while I had another of the chef’s favourites – caramelised Loch Leven scallops with a Hispanic twist supplied by chorizo and potatoes with a walnut dressing.
Other delights on the menu include foie gras, Berkshire roe deer and Beef Wellington, which my partner had as a main course, deliciously cooked medium-rare with truffle mash. For non-meat eaters, there are a few fish dishes and a vegetarian option.
Prices are reasonable – £30 for two courses and £38 for three, although the wine can bump up the bill. There is an £8 supplement for the cured ham and rib of beef, and £6 if you go for the chargrilled lamb medley – rump, best end, neck and belly. Lunches are even better value – offering two courses for £15.50 and three for £19.50.