That’s a genuine question, not an invitation to a duel on Woking High Street, or whatever is the epicentre of Surrey culture.

I just can’t see it as a proper county.  There’s no League teams (the support is all for Chelsea), their cricket team plays in South London, their breweries are tiny, all the big hotels style themselves as London, and no-one to my knowledge has ever described themselves as a proud man of Surrey.

At least Middlesex has Russell Grant as a champion.

Surrey – so what

The only purpose for Surrey I can see is making London beer prices look cheap.

I had a look at the pubs that make up my newly-pinked Surrey GBG chapter to see what might go in a Top 100.


And came up with a couple.  The basic boozer Royal Oak from last years’ trip to Knaphill, and the rural gem that is Newdigate’s Surrey Oaks, on the edge of the hills.  I might pop back to that one on the way down to Horsham.

More typical of Surrey is The Victoria, a “Pub Brasserie” in Oxshott, whatever that is.  At least in South London Surrey you get a train station every couple of miles, even if it isn’t included on your London Travelcard.


As is the norm, one photo tells you all you need.


Plush chairs, pleasing fire, historical touches, no beer mats, thin glass !!!

And that’s  the bar area; the rest is pure gastro dining.

Pashmina parlour

The beer range is equally revealing.


At least there’s no jam jars. And there was Hogs Back TEA down the line.  And despite the thin glass atrocity, it was perfectly decent (NBSS 3).

And that’s the thing.  Beer quality  in Surrey is nearly always good enough for the GBG, but rarely brilliant.  And you won’t see many mobility scooters, or drinkers, outside the M25 towns.

Tell me what I’ve missed*


*UPDATE : Well done Paul Bailey




67 thoughts on “WHAT’S THE POINT OF SURREY ?

  1. I thought it was created as the weekend bolt-hole for London bankers and stockbrokers…

    …but I’m just a Yorkshire lad ‘abroad’…what do i know…


  2. I lived in Surrey for four years in the early 1980s, and back then there were qiute a few surprisingly good and unspoilt pubs there. Probably all hopelessly gastroified now 😦

    For example, the Scarlett Arms at Walliswood, once a basic rural King & Barnes house.


    Now: “The Scarlett Arms often has themed food evenings.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess Hall & Woodhouse embody the collapse of the wet-led boozer; not sure I’ve ever been in a Proper Pub run by them. As you mentioned previously, some proper pubs just inside the M25.

      On reflection, Leatherhead isn’t bad,


      1. You question whether there’s any point in Surrey but would you really rather have a 642 square mile boating lake between London and Sussex ?

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I worked in Guidlford for 6 months in the early eighties developing nerve gas. There were some cracking rural pubs, many unspoilt, I can’t remember the names of them. Some of the town centre pubs were decent town pubs too. Although I was very much in my ‘flat pints are shite; all beer should be sparkled’ period (I’m ambivalent these days if the beer is good) beer quality was dubious and often very warm. The locals all tipped a bottle of pale ale into a half of bitter in a pint glass to make it more palatable and liven it up. The pub opposite where I worked in Worplesdon served a half decent pint of Friary Muck, when drinking at lunch time was mandatory, though four pints and back for an afternoon in the lab doesn’t seem such a good idea these days!


  3. “Surrey – so what”

    Maybe it was supposed to be called “Sorry” and they mucked it up?

    “thin glass ”

    As soon as I saw the photo I knew that was coming. 🙂

    “Tell me what I’ve missed.”

    No dogs? Or twilds? Or folks saying “*******” alot? 😉


    PS – “from last years’ trip”

    Dare I? Pretty sure you’re talking about just one year so the apostrophe needs to scoot over one letter to the left. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “and the county name is in fact an apology, a derivation of Sorry.”


      Just so you know, I pen my posts without looking at earlier replies so as not to be swayed with what I write. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fighting talk, Martin. Surrey is only a short drive away from this corner of Kent, and I happen to really like it. As far as I am concerned, Surrey is definitely a proper county. I might only be an honorary Man of Kent (I wasn’t born in the county), but I am fully prepared to fight my neighbour’s corner against a motley collection of northerners; most of whom seem to be permanently suffering from inverse snobbery. (In other words they’ve got enormous chips on their shoulders)

    Surrey has some great scenery, plenty of attractive towns and villages, along with some surprisingly unspoilt corners. Who cares if the county hasn’t got a team in the Football League? What’s so beautiful about football anyway? Money ruined the game a long time ago, along with the mindless hooligans with their loutish behaviour. (The county ought to count its blessings, if you ask me).

    As for not possessing a large brewery, surely that’s a bonus, but if we want to be pedantic, Hogsback are actually quite a sizeable concern. Given Surrey’s proximity to London, and its reputation not just as the “stockbroker belt”, but commuter land in general, it’s not really surprising that many of the pubs have become gastro-type outlets, bit let’s not forget that the Good Beer Guide is precisely that, It is NOT a good pub guide!

    It’s your blog, I know, but please don’t knock a county, especially a rather pleasant and attractive one, just because it doesn’t fit in with your idealised view of the world.


  5. My local in Epsom isn’t in a chain, isn’t a gastropub either – in fact, it doesn’t even do food (although you can order a takeaway to be delivered there, a list of menus is kept behind the bar). Well that’s unless you count the bits of pork pie, cheese and pickled onions laid out on the bar on Sundays. Talking of Sundays, we have a meat raffle (with usually a few bottles of ale included as a prize too – jokingly called the ‘vegetarian option’). It generally has something local like Ranmore on tap, London Pride on as standard, plus two or three guest ales. Bar staff remember what you drink. Service can be slightly ‘inattentive’ at times, which could possibly put visitors off, but generally friendly. Bar snacks include scratchings, nuts and proper crisps, not those awful ones where you only get about three in a packet and they’re all ‘sea salt and balsamic’ instead of good old salt and vinegar (yes, I do judge pubs by their snacks as well as the beer).

    Decor is very basic, plumbing and wiring can be dodgy (odd really when so many trades drink there, you’d think they’d be able to sort it). Customers are a real mixture of people in terms of professions, backgrounds etc. and it’s a proper little local community hub, but welcoming to new people too. As a woman, it’s the only pub I’ve felt comfortable going to alone when my husband is working, as I know there’ll be friends to chat to and I feel safe there; certainly far safer than any modern chain pub/bar.

    It does show sport on several TVs dotted around which some people like, some don’t. Landlord sometimes cooks up a big pot of chilli/curry to feed everyone at half-time during big matches too. We have a jukebox, not piped music (again, some like that, some don’t).

    Pub also has a rather gruesome history for a bit of added interest. Anyway, I’m not saying it’s a perfect pub by any means, but it certainly doesn’t fit the image of a Surrey pub that you’ve painted. I see you did venture to Epsom, but didn’t do your research, sadly – or perhaps you wanted to find a pub that confirmed your bias? There are other non-gastro pubs in the area too. Shame you’ve written off an entire county!


    1. Hi Nic. I’m certainly guilty as charged with setting out to confirm my bias. Just remembered the Rifeman from last year, again a good boozer.

      I certainly don’t think Epsom or Surrey is all gastros, and gastros serve a purpose. There’s just been few basic boozers in the Good Beer Guide over the years.

      Places are all about people; thanks for your robust defence of your town.


      1. Hi Martin. Ah yes, The Rifleman is a good place too (or Moe’s as we’ve ended up calling it – the owner’s name and a nod to The Simpsons!). Interesting choice of beers there, definitely. Glad you found it as I don’t like people to think Epsom/Surrey is completely all ‘foodie’ pubs with the same, homogenous decor and beer as a secondary consideration (and I’m a Midlander by birth, so not just defending my birthplace) ☺ Sadly traditional pubs seem to be a dying breed but some do still manage to keep going – there is still a market for that down here, fortunately!

        I’m no expert as you are, so I have no idea if the beer is top notch or even quite good but, if you’re down this way again and want a more traditional pub, perhaps give the Railway Guard (or The Stranglers as the locals call it) a try. Ye Olde King’s Head might also be worth a look. It does do food but still a traditional-style pub. Again, no idea if the beer is GBG/CAMRA noteworthy there, but much more pleasant than the generic chains/bars in the town centre! Both are just on the outskirts of town.

        Happy supping!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks Nic. Appreciate the tip.

        By the by, Epsom feels a real town, as I wrote last year. Some of the suburban places west (Oxshott, Claygate etc) do seem nothing more than a station, offie, gastro and estate agent surrounded by gated houses. Is that fair ?!


  6. Surrey’s not overly blessed with good pubs, but the Royal Oak isn’t even the best pub in Woking so perhaps there’s more to it than you think.


    1. I’m sure you’re right Ed. I’ve enjoyed good pre-match pints in the HG Wells and that Railway Club (and even the Ember Wheatsheaf, but I don’t mention that).

      Nothing I’d pick in a Top 100 out of 10,000 pubs visited though. What have I missed ?


      1. I don’t recognise the existence of bottle beers so I don’t care if they do those elsewhere ! (never been fussed about geographical authenticity). Perhaps a Doom Bar at source is my non-GBG challenge.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes – I’d be keen to try that too…
        At the Furze Dale Brewery, I do bottle (home-brewed) beers for convenience (but CAMRA says they’re real ale anyway – so that’s ok) and sometimes I make some up in the evil (5 lire) keg…
        …little hope of me drinking a full cask at home through so don’t bother with those…


      3. Yes indeed but odd they are not offering them on the website. That post is 2014 and I guess 3 years is a long time in a fast moving mega business like MC so they could changed their policy on tours.
        Still – the decent taste of Sharps Wolf Rock at Sadlers pub was encouraging (even for keg) and I assume they still maintaining a line of quality small batch beers.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Your descriptions of posh gastro pubs in Surrey make me think of the chapter in George Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying where the main character and his girlfriend go on a day-trip from London to another Thameside town, “Crickham-on-Thames” (a fictionalised Henley-on-Thames), where they end up eating in an expensive hotel restaurant.

    “It was Crickham-on-Thames, one of those riverside towns which live for the boating season and go into hibernation for the rest of the year. It straggled along the bank for a mile or more, and it consisted entirely of boat-houses and bungalows, all of them shut up and empty. There were no signs of life anywhere…

    But behold! here at last was what they wanted, for just beyond the bridge, down a sort of private road, stood a biggish, smartish hotel, its back lawns running down to the river…It was a vulgar pretentious place, all gilt and white paint–one of those hotels which have overcharging and bad service written on every brick…this was the very opposite to the cosy pub they had been looking for. But he was very hungry. Rosemary tweaked at his arm.

    ‘It looks a beastly place. I vote we go on.’

    ‘But we’ve got to get some food. It’s our last chance. We shan’t find another pub.’

    They went in, resolved to be firm. But there was an expensive smell in the draughty hallway–a smell of chintz, dead flowers, Thames water, and the rinsings of wine bottles…They saw a door marked ‘Saloon’ and pushed it open, thinking it must be the bar. It was not a bar, however, but a large, smart, chilly room with corduroy-upholstered chairs and settees. You could have mistaken it for an ordinary drawing-room except that all the ashtrays advertised White Horse whisky. And round one of the tables the people from the cars outside–two
    blond, flat-headed, fattish men, over-youthfully dressed, and two disagreeable elegant young women–were sitting, having evidently just finished lunch. A waiter, bending over their table, was serving them with liqueurs.

    Gordon and Rosemary had halted in the doorway. The people at the table were already eyeing them with offensive upper-middle-class eyes.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Matthew, I wish I could write like that. May nick that “disagreeable elegant young women” line and use it out of context.

      Life would be very boring if all the pubs in the Beer Guide were like the Blue Bell in Levenshulme, even for Pub Curmudgeon and me 😉


      1. The first time I did a crawl of the 7 Beer Guide pubs in central Stockport (2002) I thought they were all like that ! Two Sams, Olde Vic, Crown, Railway, Spread Eagle, Tiviot – wow.


  8. “Even Kent is an under-sized lorry park for Dover.” Many a true word spoken in jest, Scott. The way certain, rather important negotiations are going, could well lead to such a fate coming to pass.

    Oh, wait a minute, the Transport Secretary announced the other day that the UK’s post-Brexit borders will be even more open than at present. In which case?????


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