With its position on Outwood Lane in the Chipstead Valley, which offers some great walks up the escarpment and into Great Solom’s Wood, the Rambler’s Rest could be almost the perfect walker’s pub.
For decades, dating back to the time when Gordon Pirie was in his pomp, South London Harriers have gone out on their Sunday morning, stamina-building runs for cross-country and marathon training in this area. They would cover plenty of territory in a couple of hours’ cantering south from the Comrades’ Club in Coulsdon.
So after our Sunday morning’s walk, the Rambler’s Rest beckoned with its offer of lunch and a warm welcome.
Unfortunately, though, this country pub is too typical of many of its type, which have been given a fashionable makeover, wiping away years of character in pursuit of “style”, while now it seems even less attention is applied to the food on offer.
Certainly, that’s what we found last Sunday, when we arrived hungry and, encouraged by the pub’s recent Tweets offering a roaring fire, we were keen to try the place again. Our last meal there had been disappointing. Had things improved?
It was barely 12.30, and already the main dining area was full. Two tables in the bar area were empty, with forbidding “Reserved” signs. Oh well, we never book anyway. But hardly the “warm welcome” you’d hope for.
The best we could find was a smallish table in a draughty annex, where in an impressive looking fireplace, a fire was defiantly unlit. Every time a member of staff pushed through the double doors into the courtyard outside, we got a blast of icy air.
We’re probably prejudiced, but anywhere that charges £3.75 for a pint of ale is clearly getting too much gullible custom.
And as for the roast beef Sunday lunch (at £13.75 a plate; pricier than the average pub meal, so you’d expect something above the average), we could not have been more disappointed had we gone to a local budget carvery.
We’d deliberately asked for the meat to be served pinkish. We might as well as not have wasted our breath. The food arrived suspiciously quickly (ie. not necessarily freshly prepared; more likely to have been sitting somewhere ready to go). It looked appetisingly piled high, though that proved to be just an illusion, too.
A huge, overblown Yorkshire pudding topped it off. On closer inspection, this covered a multitude of catering sins.
There was barely a couple of slices of beef beneath. The meat was an unappetising shade of grey. Gristle veined each slice of meat.
The dish-like plate was actually quite small – maybe two-thirds the size of a regular dinner plate? – to trick the eye. And beneath the beef were a couple of massive, but part-cooked roast potatoes. With some cabbage (which was OK), almost raw brussel sprouts (does anyone like sprouts?) and also under-cooked carrots (no, there were not fashionably al dente; they were almost cold), that was our meal. Gravy? Someone must have forgotten to add any.
It was all disappointing, tasteless and over-priced. Not recommended.
- Woodcote and SLH try to get their plan on track (insidecroydon.com)