The Percy Arms, Chilworth, Guildford, Surrey GU4 8NP

The Percy Arms (Pub, grill house and rooms) Image copyright © John Powell AVS ~ Albury Visual Services

This isn’t our usual style of review… It’s not just Saff and I or even just us and the kids, it was a group of seventeen* having a little get together in the beautiful Surrey Hills.

Just over a year ago (June ’11) We married at the stunning Trullo Fico. Puglia, Italy with fourteen close family members and friends and we decided to celebrate our first anniversary with a reunion.

The cow had been working flat out…Image copyright © John Powell AVS ~ Albury Visual Services

As mentioned before we decided to hold this celebration in Surrey and picked The Percy Arms for a couple of reasons…
Firstly, Saff’s childhood home is a mere stone’s throw away in Albury, her junior school just behind the pub, and she wanted to show my family where she grew up. Secondly the Percy has a few rooms so we could stay over. And thirdly the men’s and women’s Olympic road cycling was making its way through the local villages we wanted to soak up some 2012 atmosphere.

The Percy Arms Pub, grill house and rooms – to give it its full title, first came to my attention when my father-in-law said that there had been a serious fire at one of his locals. We then watched, via Facebook, its renovation and couldn’t help but be impressed by what they were trying to achieve.

Rooms and a view… Images copyright © John Powell AVS ~ Albury Visual Services

The actual pub is huge and there is an obvious South African theme. African art, statues and carvings with a few animal horns thrown in for good measure. The colour scheme is cool and modern, muted browns and creams while the furniture was chunky and rustic, we particularly liked the tin topped tables and thick woven cushions strapped to the benches with leather belts. This is not your typical English pub.

Apart from the bar there is a slightly more formal dining area (check the antler chandeliers) an area set aside for the Sunday carvery and a room that can be sectioned off for private parties or business functions.

But the best bit by far is the garden, there’s an upper lawned area with a nice sized decked patio (complete with BBQ) and over a stream accessible by a couple of little bridges is a children’s play area with benches and picnic tables.

The two master rooms… and some nice fluffy towels! Images copyright © John Powell AVS ~ Albury Visual Services

As we were shown upstairs to our rooms the manager explained that the previous guests had taken the keys, after a bit of rummaging through new sets we finally set foot in our rooms. Wow! The five luxury en-suite rooms are all accessible from a really stylish and cosy central lobby area, with more African influence.

Our two rooms, Ndola (named after the largest city in Nambia) and Tshukudu (a big private game reserve in, yes you’ve guessed it, South Africa!) can be shut off from the lobby and other three rooms making it ideal for families. We wish other hotels would follow this example rather than just throwing a bunk bed in the corner and calling it a ‘family room’ and charging double for the privilege!

Inside the room the decor is faultless, more authentic Africana artifacts and photos mixed with tartans, wool and leather to reflect the decor of the pre-fire Percy. Even the furniture, traveling chests and writing tables etc, reflect the feel and style of a colonial hunting lodge.

Our room had a massive king sized bed, a huge walk in power shower (big enough for six, not that you’d want to share) and, best of all, an amazing slipper bath. Although we did have a lot of trouble with the bath’s plug, it took about half an hour to get the plug to stay in only for it to pop out halfway through Saff’s midnight bath. We heard the next day that only the manager has ‘the knack’, shame he didn’t pass on that knowledge, or just have a bath that works. The same went for the shower, it turned itself off halfway through. The kid’s room had a similar feel, two plump single beds, en-suite bathroom and, to squeals of delight, a smart 3D TV.

The Percy has a great wine list, naturally with several South African wines, a good selection of beers, lagers and ciders and an amazing menu. Best to check when they are serving food though, the website said one time, the woman on the phone said another and when we arrived we were told food was to be served all day!

Food glorious food…

The pub claims it’s ‘already an institution for its steaks and cuts’, and like everything else, even the food has a South African twist, despite being under the new Scottish head chef, Ian Wilkie. We all decided to eat a late lunch/early dinner at around 4pm and were given the option to order from the ‘Snacks’ menu or the full menu. All of us chose from the short menu the Beer Battered Cornish Pollock £10.95, was a popular choice – three big fillets in crisp batter served with proper chunky hand cut chips. The grilled Cumberland Sausage Spiral £10.95 was full of flavour and obviously sourced from a great butcher.

The Traditional South African Boboti £11.95, is a must have. Malay spiced ground beef steak backed with an egg and served with the amazing ‘Mrs Balls’ chutney’.

Saff and I shared a Percy Surf & Turf board £14.95. Consisting of a massive and moist Boerewors scotch egg (on a par with The Thatched House), BBQ ribs (a little dry), mini Cumberland sausages (loved the sticky sweet honey & mustard coating) and a half pint of shell on prawns.

One thing that all these dishes had in common was the portion size – MASSIVE… We were also debating whether the BBQ chicken £10.95, was actually half an emu! Even my kids portions were huge, Oliver’s risotto could have easily served an adult and I would have been happy with Charlotte’s steak & chips, both £7.95. It was nice to see a few different options on the kids menu, rather than the usual junk.

As the drinks flowed and afternoon turned to evening a few of us decided to have a dessert, just because we could… Of all the desserts that we tried, the Sticky Toffee Pudding £5.95, was the clear winner. My brother even commented that it’s the best he’s even had!

By about 9pm all that we’re left of the reunion was Saff, I, the kids and the Surrey based family. We decide to have another bite to eat, Oliver went for the kids’ fish and chips (I think he remembered the size of the portions from earlier) while Charlotte went for a plain small cheeseburger (although the cheese was forgotten!).

Burger that!

Saff also went for a burger, this time the Smokey Joe £11.95. A monster patty in a brioche bun with smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and thousand island dressing. The mess she made whilst eating it was captured rather un-kindly on camera by my father-in-law. I was still full and opted for a light and crisp Percy Caesar salad £9.95, with chargrilled chicken, bacon and parmesan, delicious!

I wish I’d had enough room for the Ribs n rump £21.50, if only to try the monkeygland sauce… Next time? Or maybe not…

The only down side was that we had to work around the old crockery and tea cups that hadn’t been cleared away from a couple of hours earlier, a few things they need to work on here. Another little error… I went to settle my bar tab, only to find out that all the drinks from my father in law’s tab had been added to mine, this could have been a real problem. Rather oddly, the rooms are not even featured on their website so I can imagine they sit empty a lot of the time, a great shame.

As the bell for last orders rang we made our way up to our luxury rooms and climbed onto bed to sleep off the excesses of the day. As soon as my head hit the pillow I was out for the count and the next thing I knew it was morning and the kids were tapping me on the shoulder so pleased that they had made me a cup of coffee (fresh cafetière, no instant here) – just what the hangover doctor had ordered!

Looks like a full English, but it’s a full South African

Breakfast, which strangely has to be pre-ordered the night before, is served between 9 and 11am. Not so good if you have an early start, luckily we weren’t in a rush and Oliver and I really enjoyed our Eggs Benedict while Saff found her South African Breakfast a brilliant change from a full English, with a nice little kick. She particularly liked the Boerewors sausage, Chakalaka (a spicy side dish made with beans, peppers, tomatoes and onions) and Pap (polenta chips). Time to check out…

Then to make the weekend even better, we made our way to watch the women’s Olympic road race and even managed to get our hands on an Olympic torch. We had an amazing time with our family and friends and staying at the Percy was the icing on the reunion cake, they just need to iron out a few hitches and it’ll be a successful pub.

For room prices call them on 01483 561765.

Spot the difference! *Just in case you were wondering the additional three guests were made up of my nephew, 10 month old Finnley (who was ‘in transit’ for our wedding), the newest member of the family, four-month old Aston (who was ‘made’ on or around the wedding party night – too much information?) and Saff’s sister’s boyfriend (who was on active service in Afghanistan last year). Both images copyright © John Powell AVS ~ Albury Visual Services
The Percy Arms,
Guildford, Surrey GU4 8NP

Tel 01483 561765,

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Nearest station: Chilworth

Image © John Powell AVS  ~  Albury Visual Services