Modern european cuisine at it's most inventive and inviting, Stovell's is a high-water mark for Surrey dining...
It’s relatively easy to walk into a place like Stovell’s with every intention of eating a meal with a normal degree of self-possession and composure. It’s just a meal after all, right? Sure, the pleasant cottage exterior feels right at home in the countryside around Chobham and the dining room’s crisp, linen elegance belies the easy moves of the waiting staff and the happy noise of its happy clientele. So as we took our seats we felt prepared for what was, by any preconception, going to be a very enjoyable meal in nice surroundings. But probably nothing to lose our minds over.
A few hours later, as we emerged back into the warm night, it was clear from our goofy, blissed out grins that we might have just enjoyed one of the best meals of our lives. A dazzling adventure in tastes, textures and techniques that left us more than a little punch-drunk and very grateful that not all the UK’s most talented chefs reside in a place called London.
A dazzling adventure in tastes, textures and techniques that left us more than a little punch-drunk...
Although these two did and for a long time. Chef proprietors of Stovell’s, Fernando and Kristy Stovell first met at Westminster catering college, and went on to become veterans of famous London kitchens from the Wellington to Cuckoo and a series of prestigious private clubs and clients in between, all the while rubbing toques with some of the best talent in the industry. In February 2012, the half-Mexican, half-English Fernando and New Zealander, Kristy, opened Stovell’s (formerly the Cloche Hat) in Chobham, bringing together their fierce talent for progressive European cuisine and a love for natural, local ingredients. Since then the restaurant has garnered two rosettes with a third imminent, and has been voted 42nd
best restaurant outside London. It’s fair to say that the Stovell’s star is rising and that, of course, can only be down to the sheer quality and flair found in the kind of dishes we got to try this evening. Oh, and some truly outstanding service too.
Visit Stovell’s and you'll probably order your starters and mains from their enticing and ever changing a la carte menu but after that, I suggest you leave all expectation at the door. Such is the passion –and generosity- of the kitchen and front of house for their food that you may well be feted with a few extras along the way. From gorgeous home-made breads with smoked butters (pictured below-left) -and a crafty little dish of beef dripping-, a wonderful ‘crystal bread’ and fermented chorizo, canapés of pickled white beans and a soup of smoked white bean, delicate infused crisps and – simply a mandatory experience at Stovell’s- wafer-thin slices of heavenly dark and fatty Iberico ham, sliced from a haunch that gets wheeled among the tables of diners like a slightly inebriated and over-friendly relative.
"...some of the most luxuriously buttery foie gras I’d ever tasted, drizzled with its own pan juices..."
For the proper starters though: some of the most luxuriously buttery foie gras (below-right) I’d ever tasted, drizzled with its own pan juices and complemented by roasted cobnuts and toasted brioche proved an early uppercut to the senses. A carpaccio of beef came alive in a fresh and zingy rosemary dressing with deep, sweet notes from the Chobham honey.
A surprise pre-main course of a pearlescent fillet of roast halibut (below-left) with pickled fennel and cockles was garnished with the bounty of one of Stovell’s favourite pursuits: foraging. The little sprigs of wild garlic flower and borage flower (and probably a fair few others) brought a sweep of unfamiliar yet intriguing flavours to the dish.
By this point, I confess I was pretty much a mess; so blindsided by this procession of skillful flavours and cunning presentations was I that well-honed behaviours and pretensions gave way to rookie fluffs like buttering bread with a fish knife and failing to identify a potato from a potato. Still, whatever: I was having fun. Stovell's likes you to have fun.
For mains, a shimmering pink pan-fried sea trout was matched with brown shrimp and a grilled and delicately pickled cucumber (the Stovell’s seem to be enthusiastic as well as expert picklers of things). Our other course was a handsome disc of meltingly tender pulled pork (above-right), puffy, aerated crackling with more wild herbs, all in a heady moat of sherry vinegar jus and macerated prunes, the sharpness cutting through the meat like a rapier. Incidentally, this dish sang when paired with Jake’s Orchard Hush Heath cider, suggested by our fantastic head waiter, Oli, who exemplifies the attentiveness, knowledge and charm that characterises Stovell’s front of house crew.
Desserts followed another mid-course treat offered by the kitchen but I confess I was so dazed and exhausted from frantic note-taking by that point, I can’t remember for the life of me what it was. I do recall a gorgeous dark chocolate mousse spiked with sesame, on a stripe of salted caramel.
£38 bought three courses per person which is a steal for the kind of giddy, culinary thrill ride offered by Fernando and Kristy and their team at Stovell’s.
Stovell’s, 125 Windsor Road, Chobham, GU24 8QS
To make a booking call Tel: 01276 858000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org