Food & drink editor, Olivia Greenway, selects some of the county’s finest artisan food producers
Surrey has a wealth of independent food and drink producers, but by their nature, they are often small or very new, so they can be a bit under our radar. You may be surprised to find that a little gem is just around the corner from where you live. Nearly all of these companies can supply directly online, but most encourage you to visit. So do pop in to see them – they’d love to welcome you.
Norbury Blue Norbury
Cheese was set up by dairy farmer couple Neil and Michaela Allam in 2001. Norbury Blue farmhouse cheese is the only cheese made in Surrey. The closed Friesian herd graze on meadows beside the River Mole below Boxhill and then go to be milked twice a day. Michaela tells SO: “Our cheese is unique but I’d say it’s a cross between a stilton and a continental blue. We make it from fresh milk produced on that day. It has a natural rind and is suitable for vegetarians. The family-size truckles weigh about 600gm.” Norbury Blue is supplied to quality food outlets, farmers’ markets and restaurants in Surrey and beyond. This lovingly handmade artisan product is not available in supermarkets. See their website for more stockist information.
Founder Steve Dodd had to quickly go from competent home brewer to commercial producer when he bought beer machinery from Old Scotland Farm near Shere and decided to base his planned micro-brewery there. From first setting eyes on the site in July 2011 to producing their first beer in November that year, it was a steep learning curve and lots of hard work. But with his partner Lee Nicholls, an old school friend, the pair made their dream of producing excellent beer a reality. Their signature is a beer bursting with flavour and heavy on hops. Most popular are ANOB, The Source and Falls Gold, the latter winning the Golden Ale Champion trophy of The South East in the CAMRA awards 2013-2014. Tom Wright, their brewer and drayman told SO: “We supply local pubs and restaurants within about a twenty mile radius. You can sample up to seven varieties at a selection of local pubs, or come here and try it for yourself. We sell all sizes up to party casks, holding 72 pints. Supplied with cradle and tapping kit, they are perfect for parties and weddings.” Open to visitors on Fridays from 1pm to 6.30pm and Saturdays 10am to 3.30pm.
Albury Organic Vineyard
Albury Organic planted their 12 acres of vines in 2009. In 2011, they had their first rosé and in 2014, that year’s vintage won gold at the United Kingdom Vineyards Association Wine of the Year competition. Their sparkling wines use the same production method as Champagne. Matured for two years, in 2015 their first vintage of Albury Estate Premier Cuvée won silver at the UKVA Wine of the Year competition. Albury Estate Classic Cuvée and Albury Blanc de Blancs followed with sparkling Silent Pool rosé the latest addition. Owner Nick Wenman – who lives nearby – is fulfilling an almost life-long dream of one day owning a vineyard. He told SO, “We are very small and only sell into the organic market and Surrey. English sparkling wines have won more awards in the past five years than Champagne and are competing with it head-on. Our wines are enjoyed at Le Manoir, Claridges, Drakes in Ripley and Lime Wood. Production of English wine is set to double over the next five years. Ironically, the English weather is good for sparkling wine production: it needs a cool climate; we have similar terroir – clay on chalk; and lastly we now have very skilled professionals working in the business. English wine is a top quality product.” Readers can test this for themselves by visiting the vineyard on Saturdays from 11am to 4pm, for tasting and purchasing.
Silent Pool Distillers
Silent Pool is a local beauty spot on the main A25 road from Guildford to Dorking. Who would have thought that the crystal clear water here would be the inspiration for a distillery? Silent Pool Distillers has only been established since late 2014, yet is already causing a stir, winning a Taste of the South East award for its Silent Pool Gin in March 2015. The company then won three awards at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in July and a gold award at IWSC in August. 2016 has been just as busy, with a gin developed especially for HM The Queen – English Rose Gin – to mark her 90th Birthday. Ian McCollouch, founder and Surrey resident told SO: “We have a lot of exciting news this year. The latest product is rye vodka, which we are selling as ‘Wry Vodka’. More of our popular pop-up dining events with Surrey Spice are planned here at the distillery. Our hour-and-a-half distillery tours with a talk run on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7pm and include a tasting. You can book a tour and buy all our products online, or in Waitrose and Majestic nationwide. But best of all, come and see us at Silent Pool.” Distillery shop is open seven days a week: 9am to 5pm during the week and 10am to 4pm at weekends.
Natalie Sutton’s artisan chocolates, made in small batches to order, are unique. “I’d never been given a box of chocolates I really liked, so I decided to make my own – the sort that I would want to buy.” Her 15 years working for Cadburys and Green and Blacks, have stood her in good stead. As she is involved in the production from start to finish, she has an overall eye on the quality. “Any fillings I use in my chocolates are derived from the natural ingredients themselves. I don’t use oils or essences.” Natalie only set up AuBel in 2014, but she’s already won a bronze, silver and gold award from the Academy of Chocolate and more recently a silver award from the International Chocolate Awards. Natalie will deliver locally, within five miles of her home in Ashtead or you can order online. You may also buy a selection at Greenwise in Ashtead and Fetcham. Shelf life of AuBel chocolates is about two to three weeks, if they are kept cool, and the bars for up to three months. It’s unlikely they will be resisted for that long.
The Harry Pie Store
Claude Harry and his wife Jenny have been making their delicious pies in Twickenham since 1986. The secret of the pies is the light and crumbly melt-in-your-mouth shortcrust pastry with six tasty fillings: poached salmon and dill; carrot with ginger; tomato and mozzarella; mushroom; leek; provençal. The ready-to-bake artisan frozen pies are sold in pairs and have no artificial colourings, flavourings or additives. The delicate pies are perfect for buffets and go well with salads. Jenny tells SO: “Although our pies may be cooked straight from frozen, I recommend defrosting first and then cooking in a moderate oven for ten to twelve minutes. They are sold in most farm shops in Surrey including Priory Farm, Secretts and Garsons and several delicatessens including Village Greens. Some are stocked in Waitrose in Banstead and Egham. We make a watercress special with smoked trout for Kingfisher Farm Shop (famed for its watercress beds) and this variety is also stocked in Ripley and Priory Farm.”