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L'Auberge at The Onslow Arms in Clandon, Surrey

Clifford Mould found a real French restaurant in an unlikely setting

L'Auberge round tableClandon is a little village just outside Guildford, so perhaps you might not expect to find a real French restaurant in an olde worlde pub. But then surely the people of Surrey are really sophisticated metropolitans who sensibly choose to live just out of the smoke in this rural subtopia? The other night we joined four friends and took over a rather attractive circular alcove in a corner of what is quite a large and very comfortable dining room in this venerable inn. 

The menu has many of the usual classic dishes - potage du marche, a hearty leek and potato soup on that occasion - Les 6 escargots - excellent foie gras mi cuit with a crisp millefeuille of apple to provide a cutting edge. Very popular in our party was the soupière de moules et crevettes en croûte. When the pastry topping was broached, a miraculous aroma wafted up. And when the spoon went in, it dredged up a wonderful assortment of fishy morsels. Starters range from £4.50 for the soup to £9.95 for the foie gras.

Main courses had principal ingredients that were well sourced, so for instance the entrecote grillée was tender and pink centred, and accompanied by a carefully constructed gratin Dauphinoise and a lovely little courgette flan. The duck breast consisted of a generous number of perfectly cooked slices, with a good reduced honey sauce and a vegetable tart. The plates were nicely presented without being fussy, and the portions were substantial. Main course prices hover around the sixteen pound mark.

Puddings all cost £5.95, and the warm chocolate fondant was a great favourite. Creme brûlée passed all the tests for crisp topping, smooth centre and a good flavour of vanilla. The service is charmingly Gallic, and the wine list affordable and interesting regionally. 

The same kitchen serves the rest of the pub and there are good bar dishes available every day on a blackboard. Also there are proper omelettes, something you don't seem to find these days, but make an excellent light supper or lunch dish. Madame Poulard beware - the Onslow Arms is challenging the ascendancy of Mont-St-Michel.

French leave, in a Surrey village?

Apart from the good food, L'Auberge is making some real contributions to the life of the village of Clandon. Every few months there's a French market, with a traiteur selling sausages and pâtés, a caravan of cheeses, and stalls selling home grown produce and products. The chef, Laurent Malnuit, gives cookery demonstrations and courses, so that the local dinner party scene is prospering as never before, and to top it all there's Le cine club de L'Auberge, which meets on the second Monday of each month. I went along last week to see Jean de Florette - the princely sum of £15 covered a glass of Champagne and some nibbles on arrival, the film (plasma screen and excellent sound), and a two course supper afterwards. What a centre of local excellence this is!  

The Onslow Arms, West Clandon, Surrey. Tel: 01483 222447

website:
www.massivepub.com

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010


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