On Tour with Grape & Grain

With craft gin, English wine and British brewers having a resurgence in recent years we are blessed in The Surrey Hills not only to live in an area of natural outstanding beauty but to have great producers who are bringing lost industries back to life.

If your date nights involve wine tasting on the sofa, a pint of artisan beer or mixing your favourite local gin and tonic then Grape & Grain Tours could be right up your street.

Less of a day date and more a shared experience and passion, Grape & Grain Tours are the perfect tonic for parents wanting something a little different. A weekend treat that you can enjoy together, learn about local producers, taste drinks you might not ordinarily try and still be back home for the bedtime routine.

We recently spent a very enjoyable afternoon with Grape & Grain on a mini-tour to find out what it was all about.

With Little Diner safely being cared from we head to the meeting point at Guildford Station, where we were warmly greeted by Joel Eastman, Owner and Tour Guide for today. Merrily we board the booze bus and Joel explains a little about Grape & Grains and what we can expect.

Born out of years of drinks industry experience and a passion to champion local food and drink producers of the region. Joel explains that our first stop will be Greyfrairs Vineyard, the 50 acres vineyard located on the slopes of the Hogs Back. Like I suspect many of you, we’ve driven past this Vineyard on an almost daily basis and muttered the words “We must pop in the one day and take a look”. Well today was that day.

Now in November the vineyards are not looking their prettiest. Harvest has been completed and all 128 tonnes of grapes ready for blending into more award-winning sparkling wine. The vineyard itself is predominately three varieties, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Greyfrairs use a unique blend to create a spectacular range of sparkling wine to rival any Champagne producer. We were lucky enough to taste five and all of them were delicious. Listening to owners Michael and Hilary Wagstaff you get a real sense of the dedication, love and vision to takes to understand the Surrey Hills climate to create fabulous wine.

After a tasty picnic lunch provided by The Godalming Food Company we head back onto the bus for a scenic drive to The Hogs Back Brewery.

Celebrating their 25th Anniversary, we’re met by Barrie who shows us around the brewery with such knowledge, generosity, and insight that I may well be convinced to start drinking real ale rather than wine. We learn about the ingredients it takes to create high-quality beer and lager plus the history of Hops in the local area.

The Farnham White Bine, was once the most sought after hop in the UK due it’s quality. The brewery is now reviving The Farnham White Bine in their 3.5 acre Hop Garden, the largest in Britain. Providing a sustainable source of ingredients but also keeping the British brewery legacy alive. As with all tours we end in the gift shop, which is a beer lovers paradise. With up 300 beers from some the UK best regional breweries and further afield. Moving swiftly onto the bus the for the final stop, I’m thankful we were on a schedule and not tempted to burn a hole in my purse. We’ll be back another day to visit the Shop.

Our final destination was Silent Pool Gin Distillery. Now if you’d have to living in a bubble not to have noticed Silent Pool Gin’s rise to fame in the past couple of years. They have been marketing aggressively and with good reason. We’re greeted by Tom the Distillery Manager who explains each part of the process. His down to earth enthusiasm is refreshingly in contrast to the perception I held.

 

He tells us legends of the pool, how the Distillery came to exist and their plans for the future. We sample some of the botanicals that give Silent Pool it’s distinctive flavour and learn about the machinery and processing by hand it takes to create each delicious bottle. Then obviously sample a view of the Distillery’s gins, including Silent Pool Gin, Albury Gin Cordials, English Rose Gin and any other that take our fancy.

Mr Diner and I are not wine buffs but we do know what we like. The tour was eye-opening, incredibly interesting and yummy. A great way to explore the local area and get away from the humdrum of family life. It was like we’d been on a mini-break.

Grape and Grain Tours officially launch March 2018. Unlike our whirlwind experience, you can expect a full day 10am – 5pm of exploring the Surrey Hills, tasting our local producer’s tipples and a gastro pub lunch. Priced at £99 this could make a perfect present for your partner (Gift Vouchers are available to buy now) or an alternative to a weekend away.

We would thoroughly recommend it. For more information check out www.grapeandgraintours.co.uk

 

 

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Bird in Hand, Mayford

 

When: October 2017

Where: Bird in Hand, Egley Road, Mayford, Woking, GU22 0NL

The Bill: £46.00 with 20% off the food bill

Memory: Generous, tasty gastropub with individuality and charm.

Rarely do Mr Diner and I get an opportunity for a day date. But we decided to take a day off work together to get some stuff done around the house without the ‘help’ of Little Diner.

As a reward for a morning of hard graft, we decided to treat ourselves to a pub lunch. We’d heard great things about Bird in Hand so made our way to Woking. The great thing about day dates is neither of us mind driving. But with the school pick-up to do later that afternoon, I opted for the soft drinks option.

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I had already taken a sneaky look at the menu via the Bird in Hand website and had decided on what I was going to order before we’d even arrived.

The Lunch Menu not too dissimilar to the Evening Menu offers lots of choice and tempting dishes. The team has added their our take on gastropub classics with dishes such as Lightly Battered Cornish Hake, with crushed green pea & mint, rosemary salted chips and pomegranate molasses.

Naively we hadn’t booked a table forgetting that the Friday lunchtime service would be busy. Upon walking into the pub there we plenty of people enjoying the Friday feeling with a drink and light lunch in the bar area. With cosy nooks next to the open fireplace, high tables & stools and leather sofas the bar has a modern feel with rustic styling. We waited a few minutes for our table to be prepared so ordered our drinks at the bar. Mr Diner delighted by the range of lagers and local ales.

Drinks in hand, we made our way to the dining room. Continuing the rustic charm of the bar area the dining room is decorated with upcycled cargo crates, mason jar lighting and perfectly positioned planting, which all manage to catch the natural light via the skylights above.

We sat down and were talked through the Specials Menu. So after having a good idea of what I wanted to order before we arrived, I was thrown by the delicious sounding specials.

Mr Diner decided to go with the main menu, starting with Crispy Fried Whitebait, served with samphire, aioli, tomato concasee, radish and lemon. For me, I couldn’t resist the comforting Curried Cauliflower Soup with pea shoots and yoghurt from the specials menu.

When the starters arrived we were pleasantly surprised by the generous portions and slightly worried if we’d have room for the main course. Mr Diner’s Whitebait was perfectly crisp and the samphire added natural saltiness. The Soup with a warming heat from the Indian spices and texture from the pea shoots was delicious. But for me, much too big, I feared if I polished it all off I’d have no room for the next course.

When the main course arrived, I was very glad not to have finished the soup. The Pork Tenderlion, with calcannon, kale, roasted carrot & parsnip with a cider jus was every bit as delicious as it sounded and again a very generous portion. Mr Diner is something of a burger connoisseur and was not disappointed by the Bird in Hand Burger. A burger so large we didn’t think he’d get his mouth around it! And with a huge rosemary plant at home, we’ll be recreating the chips with rosemary salt.

With full tummy’s it was time to ask for the bill allowing ourselves plenty of time to collect Little Diner from school.

We saved 20% off our bill thanks to The Good Time Guide offer card but even without it, we felt it was great value for money. With something for everyone including a lovely Kids Menu, we’ll be back again. The pub is relaxed, friendly and clearly the kitchen team don’t just love to cook great food but eat it as well.  It’s no wonder it was recommended to us.

Although next time we’ll book a table – opps!  Don’t make the same mistake as us, you can book a table at Bird in Hand on their website http://www.birdinhandmayford.co.uk or call 01483 747374.

 

Teatime Treats

With it being #NationalCakeWeek is seemed fitting to share our favourite local Afternoon Tea venues. Freshly cut finger sandwiches, delightful petit fours and warm scones, endless cups of tea or fizz what could be better?

With so many venues to choose from we’ve narrowed it down to our five favourites.

So if you’re looking for a relaxed day date while your baby sleeps peacefully in the buggy next to you or having a little treat while your children are at school. Try one of these and let us know what you think.

Watts Gallery Tea Shop – Compton

Originally the Compton Pottery showroom, this Tea Shop retains its charm with a quintessential tearoom feel. With its vintage china and the bustling atmosphere is the perfect place to stop for an impromptu Afternoon Tea. While the Tea Shop doesn’t offer the cake stand Afternoon Tea, you can create your own from their delicious menu.

Watts Gallery China

The standout choice for us is The Artist Village Welsh Rarebit, with mature cheddar cheese, a touch of mustard, drizzle of Worcestershire sauce and a drop of Hogs Back Stout it’s delicious. Followed by the Homemade Scones, which are worth the trip alone. There’s large light plain, fruit or scone of the day to choose from all served with jam and clotted cream. It’s a hungry parent’s Afternoon Tea without with petite portions.

Dabbling Duck – Shere

Recently, Winners of The Surrey Life’s Food & Drink Awards Tea Shop of the Year, the Dabbling Duck is a must visit for local food lovers.

Dabbling Duck

Served from 3pm onwards, expect a beautifully presented Afternoon Tea on white linen and vintage china. Everything is freshly made to order so booking is essential. Starting from £20 per person, you’ll be treated to a selection of finger sandwiches, warm savoury tart, scone with clotted cream & jam, a selection of dainty cakes and of course a choice of tea or coffee. For those looking to add something extra, you can also opt for a Prosecco or Silent Pool G&T to replace your tea.

Habour Hotel – Guildford

Located in the Habour Café, Bar & Grill, you’ll find an Afternoon Tea menu to suit everyone. Served from 12pm – 4.30pm, you’ll find some unique options to choose from.

Mr Diner takes some convincing to go for Afternoon Tea as he doesn’t have a particularly sweet tooth, so the Gentleman’s Tea is perfect for him. Cured meats, cheese, sausage roll, scotch egg, fried pickles and crusty bread make a great alternative. And with a choice of Peroni, Meantime Pale Ale or Guinness there is nothing too girly about it. The Gentleman’s Tea is priced at £19.95.

The Tea Terrace – House of Fraser, Guildford

Visit the Tea Terrace at the top of House of Fraser and not only will you be treated to their famous Afternoon Tea options but also fantastic views of central Guildford.

Using the traditional formula of a 3-tier cake stand, with the bottom reserved for sandwiches, the middle tier for delicious scones and the top for delightful cakes. You can’t go wrong. Tea Terrace offers four options on their Afternoon Tea menu, Traditional, Indulgent, Celebration, and even a Gluten-Free variant.

Tea Terrace Events

And if your children don’t want to miss out on the fun, they often run themed events such as an Alice in Wonderland Tea Party or Magical Princess Carriage tables. See their Facebook page for the latest events.

Foxhills – Ottershaw

For an extra special treat, take a drive to Ottershaw and visit the beautiful Foxhills.

Enjoy the Victorian architecture, roaring fireplace or patio of the Manor Lounge where Afternoon Tea is served. With a traditional Afternoon Tea priced at £22.95 or a Champagne version at £32.95, it could make a lovely birthday present or special occasion treat. Gift vouchers are available. Or if you’re feeling like a day of R&R, why not combine with a Spa experience.

Foxhills

Have you got a favourite that we haven’t covered? Tell us all about it and share with our growing community on Facebook.

Missing Date Nights

As the summer months fade into Autumn, I’m looking back and have realised we haven’t had a proper ‘out-out’ date night since July!! How did that happen?

Although I would have loved to attend some of the outdoor cinemas, festivals and numerous other events that have taken place over the summer. The reality is, trying to fit in play dates, family commitments, general home errands into the weekend is tough. There never seems enough time. Then there’s the cost of babysitting on top of the date night!

We’ve focused on dates at home for the past few weeks. Still making sure we spend some time alone together. Eating good food, drinking great wine and talking. And while that’s been great, I NEED TO GO OUT!

I’m not sure what it is, that drives this need. When we became parents we knew things would change and going out wouldn’t be on the cards as much. Don’t get me wrong I love staying at home most of the time. Being relaxed (by this I mean wearing jog bottoms, not brushing my hair and not wearing any make-up obvs), checking on Little Diner while he sleeps and watching our favourite movies or tv shows.

But what’s so great about leaving the house with Mr Diner, knowing that we’ll be getting home no later than 11pm as we’ll be up early the next morning and spending the whole evening talking about our child?

Well for me it’s this.

When we’re out we experience an intimacy that we don’t at home.

He says how lovely I look when we’re ready to go, even though my hair has been blast dried so we’re not late, my make-up done in under 10 minutes as the bedtime story took longer than expected and I’m freaking out the Uber says it’s 1 minute away.

We hold hands walking to a bar, he gives my bum a squeeze when ordering our drinks and he puts his arm around me as I knock back a glass of wine in a bit too quickly saying “That’s why I married you”. All this tells me he cares and still fancies me.

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It’s when you talk over a good meal about plans you’re making together for the next few weeks, months or years. Yes, we talk about our child but in a way that shares our deep love for Little Diner and learning to do this parenting malarkey as we go.

When we get home, let’s be honest, as soon as the babysitter has left the nooky is better after a good night out. Like you used to do before kids, not making time for it, planning it to get pregnant but just for the urge and love of it.

It’s not about a fear of missing out (ok may be just a little bit) on the latest bar openings, fantastic local restaurants or that everyone seems to be having more fun than us. It’s about connecting, wearing that wedding band with pride and investing in us.

So time to book a babysitter and get that #datenight on the calendar in ink.

10 Under A Tenner

Date Nights don’t have to be expensive; they’re about spending time with your other half away from everyday distractions. Here’s 10 idea’s to try under a £10 (or there abouts), let me know if you try them or if you have any other ideas. 

  1. Listen to Love

Subscribe to Spotify? Love Apple Music?

If you were a child of the 80s and 90s (eek!) you’ll remember creating mix tapes for your childhood sweetheart. Every now and again, why not create a Playlist full of memories. Music stirs the senses and takes you right back to a special time. It’s so easy and before you know it you’ll have a couple of hours of great music and lots of “Remember when….” conversation. Grab a drink, turn it on, turn it up and enjoy the trip down memory lane together.

  1. Day Date at Trash Canteen

Join the #hatefoodwaste movement and head to the new Trash Canteen. They’re doing a fantastic job using surplus food from partners such as Waitrose and local allotment patches. With the know-how of Smokey Joe’s they serve up delicious, healthy dishes every day of the week, 11-3pm at the Boileroom in Guildford. Follow them on Instagram for the dish of the day.

Get involved in your community, get a tasty meal and pay-what-you-feel.

  1. Learn something new

Just in time for the Strictly season to kick-off, why not try out the beginners dancing lessons in Argentinian Tango or Swing at The Stoke, only £10pp. It could open up a whole new hobby or simply be hilarious.

  1. Classic Movie and Popcorn – with a twist

Sitting down on the sofa to watch a good movie with your partner isn’t exactly new, but making your own popcorn to munch on while you watch could be fun.

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Popcorn has become so popular as healthy go to snack, but it’s often aimed at children. So if Dark Chocolate, Olive Oil & Sea Salt or Fennel Seed & Chilli popcorn sound good to you, check out these homemade recipes from BBC Good Food

  1. Get outside and see the Surrey Hills

We live in a beautiful part of the world, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in fact. But how often do you go further than your local park or speed along the Hogs Back without giving our stunning landscape a second thought? It’s easy to take it for granted.

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There are lots of Walks and Hikes in Surrey that a beginner to a seasoned rambler can take advantage of. Visit Surrey details some of the best.

For an easy but pretty walk to start you off, head on up to St Martha’s Church on a clear day. The views are stunning and it’s a quiet spot for a couple to enjoy. With Autumn round the corner, there’s not better time for enjoying our beautiful countryside.

  1. Watch Top Gear being filmed

For the Top Gear fans, register your interest here to be added to the waiting list and ballot to be part of the audience for the next series of Top Gear. Filmed at Dunsfold Park it would make a memorable #datenight and is completely free. Giving you some spare cash to pop into the Three Compasses pub first for a drink. And if you don’t like cars, may be seeing Matt LeBlanc up close wouldn’t be so bad.

Top Gear

  1. Check out Guildford’s Mirco-Brewery

If you haven’t heard of the The Little Beer Corporation then I’d suggest you get yourself down to their Brewery for a tour. Passionate about variety and quality of their beer on this tour you can to expect to taste around 10 beers and understand the unique flavouring and style.

The brewery promise for it not be your average tour, it’s interactive and can take up to 2 hours. Normally taking place on a Wednesday evening, but get in touch with them directly to find out times and dates as the tours depend on numbers 01483 497201 or use the online booking form.

  1. Workout together

If you have a gym membership you probably don’t go together and tag team childcare. Why not set aside one workout a week, where you can head to the gym together and have coffee afterwards. If you have a gym buddy perhaps you could becoming babysitting buddies as well and return the favour so you’re not spending on childcare.

Park Run GU

Or why not register on the Park Run website and have a weekly run together in Stoke Park. It’s a 9am start every Saturday morning. You’ll probably have been up for at least 3 hours already so it’s not that early and that’s the exercise done for the day.

Dating without the calories and with a surge in endorphins your parenting and other stresses will feel less so.

  1. For Bookworms

Why not attend the Waterstones Book Club that meets the last Wednesday of every month at the Guildford Store. Read the book, discuss what you both thought over a few glasses of wine at home then share with the Book Club. Follow Waterstones on Facebook for Book Club updates.

  1. Dine in for £10

And if all else fails, head to M&S or Waitrose when they run the next dine in for £10 offers. Tasty food with minimal fuss. Or grab key ingredients and cook up something special together. A couple that cooks together stays together.