It has to be said that it was a bit of a mission getting to Guildford this evening to meet my friend Tina. We hadn’t met up in a while but she’s one of my oldest friends – as in known for longer than most others – and having postponed this get-together from last Thursday so I could go to the Chelsea Flower Show with Jonathan, despite the horrendous weather forecast, I didn’t want to cancel again.
The UK has been hit by violent thunderstorms with heavy downpours of rain over the past few days. It was fairly peaceful as I set out from Twickenham, driving on to the M3, branching off to the M25 and then the A3 to Guildford. But gradually the slightly ominous looking clouds turned greyer and then the skies suddenly opened. It was the kind of storm that’s sometimes referred to as ‘biblical’. If I tell you that coming home, when the skies had cleared and the rain drained away, it took me just under 35 minutes to do the journey, you’ll understand that it taking me 1 hour 45 minutes to get there was seriously bad. The roads were so flooded entering Guildford, I thought that if the rain continued I might be stuck there for the night. But as it happened the rain did stop; the skies even cleared a bit. And it was really lovely to see my friend. And the meal was just as fantastic as she’d promised me. The March Hare was wonderful.
The restaurant is at the back of a pub and I had to make my way through a crowded bar area to the dining area. This was simple but attractive; tables nicely spaced out. It was 6.45 and we’d booked for 6.00. Tina had been waiting patiently for me for 45 minutes (fortunately in this mobile phone age I was able to update her of my slow progress). The early evening menu supposedly ends at 6.30 but there was no problem about still choosing from it. My journey was sympathised with and ‘of course’ we could use the set menu.
The set menu is available until 6.30 from Monday to Saturday. As it was headed ‘May Set Menu’, I guess it changes each month. That’s always a good thing, especially if it’s a local place you like to go to regularly, and it shows the restaurant is respectful of the seasons. You could have 2 courses for £11.95 and add a third for an additional £3.50. There were 3 starters, 4 mains and 3 desserts to choose from. There were also extras: nibbles like olives and bread, and some sides you could add on.
I chose Potted Smoked Mackerel, Horseradish Crème Fraîche & Toasted Baguette for my starter.
Simply but nicely served, it was a delicious creamy pâté. I really enjoyed it and it reminded me it was something I used to make a lot years ago – clearly I have to make it again!
Tina chose Pea, Mint & Marjoram Soup that was the most glorious colour, and also good.
Slightly unusually for me I chose a vegetarian main: Spring Vegetable Risotto with French Beans, Peas, Broad Beans, Courgettes, Asparagus & Sugar Snaps with Gran Padano Cheese. It might not be very springlike outside, but I couldn’t resist this lovely combination of spring vegetables. It reminded me of the Risotto Torcello I had at Locanda Cipriani three years ago, where the risotto varies according to what vegetables are in season, and contained a similar mix. This kind of risotto in Italy is often called Risotto Primavera – Spring Risotto – just like mine tonight. The March Hare’s was wonderful – such a fabulous mix of vegetables and cooked to a perfect al dente so they retained some bite and their individual flavours, but coming together into a wonderful whole.
Tina’s Grilled Dab (flatfish), Hispi Cabbage, Sauté Potatoes & Lemon Butter looked fabulous too. That would have been my alternative choice and I momentarily wondered if I’d made a mistake … but the risotto was too good to regret.
We both had small glasses of white wine. Neither of us wanted dessert but we had coffee to finish and the final bill, with tip, was £45.10.
It was a really excellent meal. The service was very friendly and wonderfully efficient. What a great place. We didn’t linger too long … we wanted to head home before it was dark because of the flooding. But fortunately almost all signs of flooding had gone by the time we left. But we said we’d go back soon. This is a great find in Guildford thanks to my friend.