The historic cobbled streets, quaint town buildings and myriad shopping opportunities offered by Guildford have made it one of the most popular towns in the English county of Surrey. Set among picturesque countryside, yet conveniently accessible from London, many visitors find it is wonderful for a relaxing day out. Best of all, it has an excellent food scene. Here are just ten of the restaurants and cafés to visit.
The Tea Terrace
If you ask any local where the best place is in Guildford to experience the classic British tradition of afternoon tea, their response will almost certainly be, “The Tea Terrace”. Few cafés manage to combine high-quality baking, stylish décor and inspiring views quite as delightfully as this one. The five-floor climb to the top of the House of Fraser department store is well worth it to discover this pale-pink haven with its cupcakes, sponges, sandwiches and scones, the latter having been named ‘the best scones in Britain’. Be sure to sit by the window to enjoy the panorama of historic Guildford.
Another great venue for an exotic meal is La Casita, a much-loved Spanish restaurant. In an authentic and homely setting, visitors can savor giant sharing terrines of fresh paella, satisfying meat and fish mains or some traditional Spanish tapas, rounded off by a filling dessert from the extensive menu. The tapas selection is particularly rich and includes plenty for vegetarians, vegans and diners with nut allergy. If you and your dining companions have varying needs, this dining spot is an excellent choice. To enjoy the dishes without taking too much from your purse, try the ‘Tapas for a Tenner’ offer, available all day every day except Saturday.
Mastercheffans visiting Guildford may be excited to hear that the town boasts a restaurant run by a former contestant, Daniel Britten. After gaining experience at several exclusive London venues, he set up his own restaurant in November 2013. Right in the shadow of the picturesque Guildford Castle, Britten’s is a gourmet heaven, with an intriguing and adventurous selection of modern British dishes on offer. Customers have been unreserved in their praise, voting the restaurant top in three categories in the OpenTable Diners’ Choice Awards 2015.
For those who want a lower-key meal that still conveys a taste of authentic British cuisine, Glutton and Glee is a cozy delight. A small, patriotically decorated café conveniently placed among Guildford’s shops, it provides breakfasts, brunches and lunches all made from fresh, local ingredients – perfect for anyone dreaming of a proper “full English”, sandwich or cupcake. Sitting inside is relaxing, but if the stereotypical British rain holds off, visitors can also choose to enjoy the secluded outdoor terrace. While this is a fun place to eat, the owners take food very seriously, sourcing ingredients with care and enthusiastically supporting organic, fair-trade suppliers.
History-lovers, romantics and gourmets alike should relish a meal at the Angel Dining Rooms, where the lofty ceilings and architectural flourishes of the town’s former ballroom also house the freshest of modern cuisine. With several seasonal menus on offer, the restaurant is able to satisfy diverse tastes, and is proud of its commitment to ensuring everything is sustainably and ethically sourced. The food represents the best of British culinary innovation, and does not come cheap. But if you want a treat that is expertly cooked and exquisitely presented, you would be hard-pressed to find a better restaurant in Guildford, as the restaurant’s several awards attest.
Appropriately enough for a restaurant whose name means ‘in the alley’ in Italian, Al Vicolo can be found nestled in one of the many quaint, narrow side streets you will discover around Guildford. The restaurant has a Sardinian theme, so expect to enjoy deliciously melting cheeses (including the famous Pecorino), grilled meats, juicy seafood and lovingly crafted pasta, along with some exciting regional variations on the typical Italian desserts. Of course, there is an excellent wine list from the Mediterranean island available too. With only five tables, this popular venue fills up quickly, so make sure to book in advance to experience its charm.
The short drive or bus ride from Guildford town centre to the peaceful suburb of Merrow is worth it to discover Ashuka Tandoori, the area’s premier Indian eatery. Promising an inspiring East-West fusion experience for the seasoned consumer of food from the subcontinent and for the uninitiated alike, it has a vast menu of curries, rolls, fritters, meat cuts, rices, salads and breads, ranging in price from around £5 to £95 (for the Chef’s special Kurzi lamb). A great way to sample a variety of these tasty dishes is to attend the £9.50 Sunday lunchtime buffet, where visitors can pick and choose from 15 appetizing options.
Visitors whose tastes are inspired by food from further East should try Beijing, one of Guildford’s favourite Chinese restaurants. Located in a quieter part of town, it merits a special trip because of the superior quality and range of its offering, including everything from traditional pork fillets and braised duck to several varieties of ‘sizzling chicken’, not to mention a plethora of different types of noodles and rice. The design and décor are also extremely impressive. With sparkling chandeliers, sleek furnishings and sophisticated colors, an evening out here will thrill the eyes as well as the palate.
Named after one of the most beautiful towns on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Positano is a Mediterranean treasure right in the heart of Guildford. Whether it be pizza, pasta, meat or fish, all the time-honoured favourites of Italian cuisine can be savored here. The restaurant is known for its warm, friendly atmosphere and consistent base of returning customers. It is also has much reason to attract history-lovers, since it is situated in one of Guildford’s most atmospheric locations in The Elizabethan building. With its majestic gateway, is thought to have once been the home of the Town Mayor, and still boasts the charming beams and wood panelling of another time period.
While Guildford as a town has a huge amount to offer, no visit to Surrey is quite complete without exploring the wonderful countryside. On the East side of Guildford, the famous Surrey Hills are certainly not to be missed, but on the West side, a lovely destination is the picturesque village of West Clandon, which is also home to the Onslow Arms, one of the county’s finest traditional pubs. Their award-winning menu encompasses hearty roast meats, grilled fish, inventive vegetarian options and warm, filling puddings. Relax outside on rare days of sunshine or tuck yourself away inside the historic building, either way this will make an enjoyable getaway.