The Surprise - Gastro Pub in Chelsea
6 Christchurch Terrace, Chelsea,¨ London, SW3 4AJ
When tasked with reviewing The Surprise in Chelsea, I was happy to be on my way to mingling with the Sloane ranger set (for a change from my usual East London scene). What I found upon entering the gastro pub (part of the Geronimo Inns group which also owns the like of The Duchess of Kent in Islington) was a warm and cosy hub abuzz with what we could only assume were local patrons who have long since staked their drinking seats. You may feel a little like an outsider when you first breeze through the door but not to worry - there is a well chosen wine list to ease you into the swing of things. The Surprise is divided into 3 areas; pub and sofa seating on the right of the central wood bar, restaurant area to the left and additional dining area on the 1st floor. We first made our way up to the more secluded dining area on the 1st floor gorgeously decked out in lush curtains and jewel tones... However, once we realised we were the only other couple to venture upstairs we decided to eat downstairs among the masses.
Rustic wooden seating and pale pastel walls complement The Surprise perfectly.
Ambience & Décor
French country décor with a slightly surprising (had to do it, sorry) nod to Dalis surrealist work in the paintings and wall art (among which was a rather larger than life knife and fork set) - the only thing missing was a melting clock over the bar counter. That said, the décor is very laidback and comfortable; an eclectic mix with muted tones and pillows strewn about haphazardly. An antique fireplace serves as the focal point of the restaurant, directly in front of which is the overstuffed sofa which we chose to make our "table" for the night. This was a different dining experience altogether trying to balance our plates, glasses and wine bottle on the small revolving stools in front of us (antique Singer sewing stools, in fact!) but added to the informal ambience.
3 distinct areas of seating and lounging make up The Surprise in Chelsea.
Clientele & Atmosphere
We were in the company of one or two furry friends but they were very well behaved and only added to the charm of the place. *Let me clarify on this so as not to offend anyone - I was referring to sweet little dogs, not burly men with too much facial hair. Also in our company was Francis of the ever popular and slightly nauseating Made In Chelsea series. Looking dapper in his suit, he was just stopping in for a couple of pints and small plates with friends. The clientele was bona-fide local - think loafers, pastel coloured trousers and Barbour jackets - you just have to love it! Most were popping in for after work drinks and lingering on to sample the tapas style offerings but there were also some families dining and of course a few dates speckled here and there.
Food & Drink
My first thought when surveying the menu online before dinner was that this must be the answer to tapas for the English palate! Manageable portions to share and share alike with a date or friends. It's recommended to order between 2-4 plates per person, depending on hunger or, in our case, gluttony. So let me go through our order... We had the gorgeously gooey [Stinking Bishop] macaroni and cheese (blue cheese is melted on top of this already heavily laden portion), chicken liver and foie gras with fig (ace mix of sweet and savory), warm scotch egg (fantastic with the piccalilli on the side), rabbit in the hole (still not sure what this was but the mash was great and very creamy), calamari (amazingly fresh with a squirt of lemon) crispy pig cheek (loved the apple sauce accompaniment) and the seared wood pigeon (unfortunately, Im not much of a fan of gamey meat). It was hard to choose from the wine list but in addition to our bottle of Villa Antinori Rosso we had some champagne to start the night off and a sweet glass of ChÃ¢teau Eyssards as a nightcap. The only thing I regret from this dining experience is that, to my utmost disappointment, I was far too full to sample the desserts which looked stunning. Instead, I watched a little girl and her mother devour a couple of sumptuous (and messy!) dessert plates with envy- it looked like the Eaton tidy and the pear tart tatin. I will definitely go back to try the pear dish as well as the divine sounding dark chocolate fondant!
The Surprise can be found on Christchurch Terrace in the trendy Chelsea.
A lovely find just off the trodden path. You might never stumble upon this jem tucked away in Chelsea if you didnt know it was there but it is certainly well worth discovering! I would especially recommend The Surprise for a lazy Sunday lunch with the calming yet buzzy atmosphere and laid back attitude. Also stop by for the tapas style dining if you are looking for some good home cooked oldies and a glass or 3 of great wine.