I don’t know about you but I’m always on the look out for good, family friendly places to go for Sunday lunch, says Catherine Whyte
I’ve wanted to try out The Bell in Fetcham for a small eternity, I thought I’d take my sister (who was over from Dublin), mum and kids to try it out.
I was a little apprehensive, though. Given its excellent reputation – it’s in 2013’s Good Food Guide – I feared taking Sunday lunch would be uncomfortably busy and we’d get that horrible claustrophobic feeling that comes hand in hand with eating in a noisy, crowded restaurant (think Pizza Express). Service often suffers, too.
How wrong I was. We had the most relaxing of meals despite the fact that the restaurant was indeed full. But there’s a big difference between full and manic.
That comes down to good management and pub owners Mark and Penny obviously have a firm hand over the whole operation.
But it’s their daughter Amelia, who – as restaurant manager – deserves the credit. Obviously passionate about the job, she has trained at Drakes in Ripley, as well working with Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsey. What’s more, this year, she scooped the prestigious Virgin Limited Edition, Rising Star Award in Hospitality.
But what of the food? Well, as a vegetarian who likes a good Sunday lunch (a tart or nut roast, plus roasties, veggies and Yorkshire pud if possible) I blanch at the standard Mushroom Risotto option. I always rate kitchens that can be flexible, and The Bell’s was just that. The chef rustled up a freshly-made vegetable tart for me on the spot. So, that was full marks from me.
My sister was very impressed with her Portobello Mushrooms and Norbury Blue Cheese and salad main (£9.95); mum wolfed down her slow roasted 21 day aged West Country Sirloin of Beef (£13.95). The kids were given half portions – always helpful – and also finished the lot.
Puddings – we had lemon tart with a gin and tonic sorbet (£5.95), vanilla and almond rice pudding, plus some chocolate and salted caramel ice cream (£3.95 for two scoops) – were eaten with similar gusto.
My only criticism was the coffee. It was your average cappuccino, not particularly well made and rather bitter. But then finding good coffee in this country is always a mission.
The Bell doesn’t just serve food on Sundays and the dinner menu looks amazing, too. Hayleigh Cook heads up operations in the kitchen having cooked at the Officers Mess at Headley Court, and the Michelin starred Les Saveurs in London.
All in all, it’s a really nice, friendly family-run pub with no compromises on food. Vegetables are bought in from Secretts and as many ingredients are sourced as locally as possible.
Sample menus available to download from the website. Booking advisable – especially at the weekends.