review by Sarah Ali Choudhury
It was my first visit to The Pear at Parley and due to commitments from his work, my husband was unable to attend with me and I was sceptical as to what it would be like going out on a Sunday night alone. It certainly isn’t something that happens frequently.
Having driven up the tree-lined driveway it was enchanting to see grazing horses on either side, and ahead of me was a delightful dining pub.
I had heard lots of wonderful things about the transformation of The Pear of Parley and I’d heard that the new owner, Mark Miller, had created an impeccable environment with al fresco dining.
On my arrival I was greeted by smiling staff and a jam-packed restaurant with people of all ages, who looked like they were having a great time with their family and friends. It gave an instant buzz to the atmosphere.
The dining area itself was beautiful. It was a rustic, yet stylish modern orangery.
What I found really pleasing to see was that people were not crammed into the room. All tables had space to move around, which is something fairly important to me in a busy restaurant.
The menu was swiftly brought over and I knew I would be ordering a Sunday roast for my main so opted for a light starter, cream of mushroom soup. Within 10 minutes I was served with two types of warm rustic bread; a seeded granary and a white bread, a knob of homemade butter and a beautifully presented, and delicious bowl of exactly what I ordered.
It was interesting to see so many people in one place and everyone looking so happy to be there. An area outside of one end of the restaurant was cleverly created for children to play, so parents could go in and out with their children while not disturbing anyone else.
I was sitting at a position where I could see the grounds and while it was early evening and the sun was setting, I could see people taking in the beautiful five acres of open woodlands with a picturesque riverside setting and views across West Parley.
After a busy lunch in the restaurant, they had run out of the vegetarian nut roast with vegan gravy, which I had thought about trying, so instead I ordered the roast sirloin of beef encrusted in French mustard and black pepper. I was asked if I wanted the beef medium rare or cooked through. It was nice to have the option, as I prefer my beef well done.
A huge plate arrived and was loaded with beef, roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, creamy, cheesy leeks, a Yorkshire pudding and smothered in gravy. The roast was accompanied by a dish of vegetables brimming with a colourful array of swede, cauliflower, green beans, courgettes, carrots, asparagus, broccoli and red cabbage.
The meal smelt delicious but there was no way I was going to be able to finish that huge portion as I knew I wanted dessert too. The beef was surprisingly tender and the roast potatoes were just how I love them, crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle.
I only got halfway through and felt it was time to stop because of the dessert I couldn’t wait to try.
When it arrived, the sticky toffee pudding was understated in the menu. It was by far the most delicious dessert I’ve ever eaten and that said, I was already full before it even arrived. Drenched in hot salted caramel sauce, and dressed with warm peanut brittle, there was a nice round scoop of homemade vanilla bean ice cream sat on some crumble, and the gold dust added more sparkle to what can only be described as a showstopper dessert.
I managed to meet Mark while I was devouring my dessert, who was ensuring all the customers in the restaurant were happy. I asked him about the interesting name of the dining pub and he told me about the earliest manuscripts when Parley was spelt ‘Pirige-Leah’ an Anglo Saxon name meaning ‘Pear Tree Field’.
He explained about the opening of the dining pub and the transformation it has been through.
Mark has had over 25 years of hospitality experience in the local area and he has put so much thought into this project and it is visible for all to see.
What I thought was going to be quiet night and a table for one turned out to be a beautiful experience in a stunning hidden gem.