From Water’s Edge To Town Centre | The Jetty, Harbour Hotels, Guildford
Last year, we took a trip to Christchurch to stay in the Harbour Hotel, where we missed out on eating at their prestigious restaurant, The Jetty. Instead we endured a less than impressive meal in their Upper Deck restaurant. We do wonder how the evening could have panned out if we had planned it better.
Now we had the chance to find out (kind of), as what was the Radisson in Guildford has been transformed to form part of the Harbour Hotels group and they’ve bought The Jetty with them too. Unlike the Dorset outpost, this branch is not situated on a pretty seafront but in a town centre. Not just any town though – Guildford, not only is it picturesque but its also awash with high-end retailers rather than pound shops.
The Harbour Hotel Guildford is unfortunately right at the top of town, far away from any actual people and any decent places to go. OK, so there is G Live, but most of the action (and people) are in the lower part of town. Saying that, this part of Guildford is perfect if you’re coming by car – it’s inundated with car parks.
I grew up in Guildford so I know the area well, however it’s been a while since I had a walk through the town – I tend to visit the villages in the Surrey Hills where my family are. On this trip, I decided to get the train and wander up the famous cobbled high street to The Guildford Harbour Hotel to see what’s changed.
A lot has changed – mostly a hell of a lot more restaurants (albeit, chains), the town centre seems busier than I remember and bulging with hungry locals on a weekday lunchtime.
I met my dad in the lobby of the hotel, incidentally, he joined Ade and I for after-dinner drinks when we came to visit back when it was a Radisson, not long after it had opened and the paint was barely dry.
The place has been transformed and is awash with colour, sightly eccentric but not too OTT – still stylish with somehow remaining an air of calm and serenity despite the brightness. I was curious to see what they’d done with the bedrooms and spa but we were here to eat.
We waked through the Long Bar with its eye-catching 120ft marble top bar – a stunning space but sadly more or less empty. The Jetty was also fairly quiet, I know I’ve already said it but I can’t help but wonder how busy it would be if they picked up the hotel and plonked it down in the bottom of town, by the river would be pretty apt.
My dad was sleep deprived and I was recovering from a migraine so we skipped booze and kept it simple, opting for some water instead. I always request tap water wherever I go, no matter how posh the venue. Unfortunately, this tap water had a rather unpleasant taste to it so I went for a refreshingly zingy watermelon and lime mocktail, whilst my dad ditched his H2O for some sparkling bottled water instead . These aqua issues aside, they’ve certainly gone to town on their drinks menus – possibly too much choice.
We decided to go for some ‘Jetty Bites’ rather than starters, knowing my dad has quite a sweet tooth, I wanted to make sure we saved room for dessert. Intrigued by the ambiguous Meaty bites (£4.95) – my dad decided to order them just to see. They turned out to be a little glass pot of confit duck infused with mint (a random but pleasant combo), some bresaola and prosciutto.
I couldn’t resist the Cockle popcorn (£3.95), it’s not very often (or ever) that I’ve seen it on a menu. My dad wasn’t keen but I couldn’t get enough of these teeny lightly fried morsels, even better with a dousing of vinegar.
For a main course it was only ever going to be Fish and chips (£14.50) for my dad – one of his all-time favourites. Sustainably sourced fish in gluten-free batter, light and fresh with proper hot fluffy-centred crunchy chips. A shame he doesn’t like lobster as they had a battered version on offer too – that’s not something you see often (or ever).
After much deliberation I went for the Paella (£18.50) – a colourful mix of chicken, cured chorizo, squid prawns, mussels and monkfish, loved the plate, loved what was on it. Paella is a dish that is easy to get wrong, it could so easily have been a disappointment, luckily they got it spot on.
I failed to mention my dad’s dislike of menus, ironic really as it’s down to him that I had a fondness of restaurants from a young age. He used to take my brother and I to a great family run Chinese restaurant in a nearby town called Cranleigh. The tables surrounded a dance floor so after dinner my dad and I would have a twirl and show off our disco moves, never been to a place like it since and probably never will again.
I chose my dad’s dessert – an Espresso Martini Sabayon (£5.95), it had his name all over it. He adores coffee and ice cream so I just had to get it for him. Luckily he was as pleased with it as I hoped. One of my rules when ordering from a restaurant is to choose something that I wouldn’t cook at home – the Passion fruit soufflé (£6.95) was calling my name.
I doubt that I will ever be bothered to attempt one myself, another plus for ordering it was that we’d give our stomachs a rest whilst it was doing its thing in the oven. Oh, it was perfect, so soft and light, despite the waiter making a gaping hole in the middle and filling it with passionfruit sauce. The sweet stuff didn’t end there, we stayed for tea and coffee, a serving of petit fours accompanied our hot drinks and my dad tried his first ever macaron. A momentous occasion – fanfare please!
Service certainly couldn’t be accused of being tardy, we were barely left alone. The staff were charming and hard-working, nothing was ever too much trouble. The menus could do with a little streamlining (and shrinking) though, those awkward oversized ones are just a pain, our table barely had room for drinks – OK, slight exaggeration but you know what I mean.
The Jetty is a much-needed upper-end yet accessible restaurant for Guildford, certainly worth the 17 minute walk from the main station and the set lunch menus from £12.50 are just too good value to be ignored.
3 Alexandra Terrace High Street,
Guildford, Surrey GU1 3DA
Telephone: 01483 792 306
Book a table online
Nearest station: London Road Station (6 mins walk)
Guildford (17 mins walk)
We ate as guests of The Jetty, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.