Despite its location at 6 Christchurch Terrace just off the King’s Road, The Surprise – the latest venture from Geronimo Inns – has managed to steer clear of the cast from Made in Chelsea. Sure, there’s Sloaney Pony types galore – chaps in chinos, blazers and boat shoes, ladies-what-lunch with pashminas, pearls and big hair – but they’re authentic, old-school types rather than the trashy wannabes appearing on our TV screens of late. While the pub itself has been something of a long-standing local landmark, its recent reinvention – opened in March – now incorporates a first-floor dining room, with everything decked out in soft greys, complete with working fireplaces, overstuffed armchairs and dark wooden tables. There’s even an original ‘thunderbox’ in the loo – though safely navigating it can be quite the challenge, particularly after one two many glasses of red.
Its culinary output is, as you’d expect from the same group that brought us The Phoenix, The Duke of Clarence and The Northcote, is outstanding, with a menu of Brit small plates designed to share. Encouraged to try ‘at least five’ by our charming, charismatic hostess, we opted for the following; British cured meat board; Cornish squid lemon and mayonnnaise; pork cheek, black pudding and russet apples; shepherd’s pie with hogget shoulder; and a daily-changing rabbit ‘out of the hat’, which on the eve of our review was potted and served with jelly and melba toast. A significantly lighter way to enjoy supper, five plates proved to be the exact right amount and we left feeling satisfied but not overly-stuffed; perfect for maintaining the razor-thin, Chelsea-approved figure. Wrapping things up nicely was a baked cheesecake, though it paled in comparison to the Eton tidy; served on a slate plate, diners are given all the ingredients of an Eton mess but left, quite simply, to do-it-themselves. Which we did, happily and tidily.
Acting as a centrepiece for the local Chelsea community, The Surprise does exactly what is says on the tin with refreshingly good pub grub and a posh posse of regulars in a quiet residential nook. It’s totes amaze, yah.
Buy Hg2 London here