Eating out at restaurants is something I would love to be able to do more often. I especially love seeking out new places to eat in London, even though I live in Surrey.
Anyone that knows me will have heard me complain many a time about the lack of good restaurants in Surrey. What irks me most of all is the lack of good cheap eats that aren’t chains. And the lack of diversity. No Vietnamese, Caribbean, Japanese, Mexican etc.
I am becoming more and more aware of just how much good produce there is in Surrey but I am not sure how well it is represented outside of farm shops and farmers markets although I was delighted that my favourite local butcher, William Dyer has recently won an award for his pies.
Part of my problem, I know, lies in the fact I cannot afford to eat out on a regular basis. By the time I have paid for a babysitter and eaten a meal, the price tag is simply too high to do this on a regular basis. Plus, having had so many dire meals in the past, I want the guarantee of a good food experience, which takes me into London.
There is so much potential here in Surrey, so many ex-Londoners like me who would love to explore the fine foods of Surrey at reasonable prices, much in the way that Bristol has succeeded in becoming a hub of well priced food destinations, but I am yet to be convinced.
I am going to try to incorporate much more of the local and seasonal Surrey produce in my upcoming supper clubs and have already started to seek out butchers and cheese mongers as well as potential coffee suppliers (of which there are many, strangely!).
One restaurant that I was invited to review recently, Henry’s Grill in Esher, Surrey is aiming in the right direction with its three core beliefs. Sourcing. Society and Environment. Henry’s Grill sources local, seasonal food, ethically produced meat and dairy as well as sustainably sourced fish. It aims to recycle as much waste as possible and to be mindful of both water and energy wastefulness. The restaurant also gives back to the community thorough charitable contributions from certain dishes on its menu.
Henry’s Grill is ‘brother’ to the successful Henry’s Kitchen in Hampton Court. Both restaurants have been awarded a Two Star (out of three) Accreditation Certificate by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) for their eco-friendly and sustainable initiatives.
Reza Amini, owner, Henry’s Grill, says “It’s important that everyone does what they can to save the planet, so I wanted to create a second sustainable restaurant in Elmbridge borough. I am so pleased to be returning to Esher High Street as it’s where I started my restaurant career many years ago. At Henry’s Grill we use local ingredients and incorporate many sustainable features such as our beautiful bar made from recycled glass.”
It is admirable what Reza is trying to achieve with his restaurants philosophy, so long as all of these beliefs do not detract from quality of the food, which should always be the most important factor when eating out.
The restaurant’s interior walls are made from reclaimed Surrey timber; tables from recycled wood and recycled glass is used in the bar area. Menus are printed on recycled paper and light fittings are energy-saving LEDs. The look is spot on for this kind of venture, although on a sunny day it would be key to secure yourself a table at the front of the restaurant.
Henry’s Grill is huge. It would take some doing to fill this place day in day out. So, the atmosphere on our arrival was a little lacking but the welcome was warm and inviting.
I was with a friend, a fellow chef, and we were there to do some menu planning whilst eating and exploring the vast menu at Henry’s. For me, the menu was too large. There should be no need for such an enormous menu in any eating establishment. Henry’s could do with cutting the menu in half. I get frustrated trying to decide between too many dishes and the process takes far too long. I would rather have read a short menu and been offered a couple of specials.
We both started with a mixed mezze (vegetarian) platter for two with hummus, grilled halloumi , falafel, dolmades, guacamole, tsatziki, grilled bread and a vegetable quesadilla. The highlight of this starter was the halloumi. It was beautifully char-grilled, softly smoked and a delight to eat with the grilled bread and a dollop of the hummus. Falafel were a treat too. Shaped into patties with a crispy coating, they were light, well seasoned and a winning addition to a vegetarian starter. The rest of the mezze platter was not noteworthy. Again, I would rather have had an outstanding hummus and tsatziki than lots of little bits that were simply ok. I do think the key is the wonderful flavour of the charcoal grill. Perhaps a few char-grilled vegetables could feature to lighten the heavy load?
Moving on to mains, I had the Piri Piri chicken with coleslaw and chips and my fellow guest had the goat’s cheese salad with caramelised onions and mixed pulses. First thing to note was the epic portions we received. Neither of us ladies are particularly large so we both found the portion sizes a little off-putting.
The chicken had a well spiced Piri Piri sauce and the chicken tasted very much of the char-grill but the skin was not crisp. Such a shame as I am addicted to rotisserie style chicken skin. If it had crunch, I would have demolished every morsel of that chicken no problem. The chips were good and crunchy, well seasoned and perfectly cooked. The coleslaw was lacking oomph and heavy on the mayo. I would have preferred a good crunchy side salad.
The goat’s cheese salad was also rather generous, but this was a little more forgiving. I didn’t see the benefit of the pulses, nor of the chunks of roasted parsnip being in the salad. I would rather have seen the goats cheese served on some tasty garlic croutes. Again, it would have been good to include some char-grilled vegetables here.
We skipped desserts due to the generosity of the previous courses but enjoyed some coffees and the service throughout our meal was efficient, attentive with just the right balance of friendliness. I just wish there had been more customers as the set menu lunches are very good value indeed.
The food at Henry’s is competitively priced, set lunches are only £9.90 for two courses with mains on the region of £11-£15 with steaks and fish coming in at around £20 – £30. I see no place at all for the “classics” section on the menu and I feel the focus should definitely be on the grill. I would combine the two grill sections and include the burgers in there, reducing the menu size. One or two daily specials could perhaps feature the dishes currently on the “classics” section.
I definitely see potential for success at Henry’s Grill. It has a wide range of food to suit all tastes and there is an honesty and integrity to what Reza is aiming to do here. A competitively priced restaurant with big ambition. I am sure that with a few tweaks, Esher will see success where Daylesford failed.
The restaurant is open all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week with live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
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I was invited to review Henry’s Grill as a guest. All opinions are my own.