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The Running Horses, Dorking

Old London Road
Postal town: Dorking

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Reviews (Current Rating Average: 7 of 10) Add Review see review guidelines

Please Note: This review is over a year old.

Pub SignMan left this review about The Running Horses

This rather attractive Grade II listed former coaching inn has a pretty interesting history, having been used in the past to stable racehorses who would use the 'Gallops' area on Mickleham Downs for training prior to racing in Epsom. In fact, the pub's name refers to a two-horse re-run of the 1828 Epsom Derby, following a photo finish in the original race. The two horses that day lend their name to the two bars in the present day pub - the main bar is named after the eventual winner, Cadland, whilst the lounge bar is named after the runner-up, The Colonel. The Cadland bar is a fine example of a sympathetically refurbished rural bar room, with a nice dark wood servery greeting you on entry. To the left is the room's focal point - a mighty fireplace adorned with all manner of horse related paraphernalia including horse brasses, saddles, polo mallets, paintings, hunting bugles and, rather confusingly, a cricket bat. Some proper bench seating under the front windows looked particularly tempting, although a wander into the Colonel Bar to the right found some good lounge bar alternatives including smart armchairs and some more benches around a smaller fireplace, all combining to give the room a rather homely feel - I felt I should've brought my slippers. Old photos of the village and surrounding area are worth perusing and a few newspaper clippings relating to the pub had been stuck up as well. To the left of the bar there is a large side room which acts as a formal restaurant, complete with a greeter's podium. The room has some nice wood panelled walls and loads of formally set tables and presumably doubles as the breakfast area for those taking advantage of the accommodation this old inn still provides. There is a decent rear garden, but we took our drinks out to the picnic benches at the front of the pub, where we could watch the villagers leaving the village fete which had just concluded in the Rectory over the road.
The bar supported four handpulls which offered Brakspear Bitter and Oxford Gold, Fullers London Pride and Ringwood Best. It was a bit of a surprise to see two Brakspear beers on, so I tried the Oxford Gold, which was in decent shape, although perhaps a victim of the fine weather by being served a little too warm.
We only had time for a flying visit here, which was a shame as I got the impression that this was an interesting place with plenty to discover. Despite the obvious leaning towards food, this didn't seem to diminish the experience for drinkers, thanks to the discrete position of the dining room and I can imagine enjoying a few good pints in the homely front bars.

On 21st July 2016 - rating: 8
[User has posted 2466 recommendations about 2466 pubs]

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Ian Mapp left this review about The Running Horses

Beautiful Location - especially when there is a wedding on at the Church over the road.

Hard to get into. The front doors look bolted from the outside (but do open). I went around the side, fought my way to the bar, bought a decent Ringwood Bitter for £3.80 and took it to the tables outside. Then watched the wedding guests struggle to get in.

On 10th May 2015 - rating: 8
[User has posted 641 recommendations about 635 pubs]

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TW G left this review about The Running Horses

I feel this pub deserves a review on PG given that my last visit on 1 March amounted to a pretty comprehensive sampling of the Running Horses' wares, and on balance I have mostly positive things to report.

I decided to take my old mum here for her birthday celebration after she had spotted a glowing report of it in the latest Surrey Mirror. I've known the pub for 15 years but hadn't visited for at least 7 and had never eaten there. On the strength of the paper's reportage, we took the plunge in the hope of a fairly high-end, restaurant-quality feed, but in more informal, traditional pubby surroundings. Happily, that is essentially what we got.

Mercifully, the exterior has not altered, and most of the interior remains as I recalled - cosy and suitably clad in mahogany pannelling - with the exception I think of the restaurant area, which was apparently a conversion of the old stables and was decked out in a lighter airier decor (which didn't jar with the bar area as it is a separate room).

Drink-wise, a range of five cask ales from the Marstons portfolio were available; the Brakspear Oxford Gold was found to be well-conditioned - on the expensive end of the price spectrum (about £3.90) but then one would expect that here. Mother - ever the pusher-out of many boats - took an Appletizer initially, though I eventually pressed her to an Irish coffee from a good choice of liqueurs. Despite the quality of condition on the beer, I surrendered to red wine as an accompaniment for my main, as the list was reassuringly broad. The large glass of Rioja I received was at good temperature despite the chill of the day, and partnered by meal perfectly. Almost £7, so again not cheap, but hardly exceptional these days in this kind of venue.

Food-wise, I have mostly positive praise. Our starters - scallops and mackerel parfait - were ideal palate-pleasers, and there was similar unanimous agreement over the mains - ribeye steak and lamb shank, both reaching us in generous portions. Nothing pretentious; hearty, tasty fare yet refined enough to rival many a restaurant chef's output. Gluttonously, we opted for two desserts too; creme brulee and lemon tart (both of which were found in fine form) and a shared chocolate tasting plate - too much really but sufficiently light to finish pleasingly unbloated.
The downside? The desserts did take an age to arrive - it must've been 25 minutes, which was only passable as it allowed more of our first two courses to digest before embarking on the sugary stuff. Also, the so-called chocolate 'fondant' was a fraud - that often trepidatious moment of cutting into that choccy cakey casing ended up in disappointment as it was liquidless throughout. Tasty as it went, but not a fondant! Tricky to perfect, but at these prices I think it legitimate to expect perfection. These were I should stress kitchen issues only; we received excellent service from two highly presentable young waitresses throughout our stay.

Nevertheless, the last comments were footnotes overall and the Horses proved that whilst its claims to serve "the best food in Surrey" may be a little bold, it should yield an enticing dining experience, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the pub for drinks or meals. Four courses apiece and four different drinks plus service romped home at £112. Enough, but by no means unusual for what we had.

I noticed accommodation is available, which would be interesting to try. I should also make mention of the toilet facilities - a sordid but necessary aspect of all serious pub reviews - they were in good nick and clearly the place is kept in a clean and presentable state as one would hope.

Clientele always need a mention too. In this case, plenty of affluent Land Rover and Jag types in the civilised but not snobby bar area but not exclusively so; the restaurant had a mixed set of folk who were all obviously well-to-do, but not arrogant about it. I didn't feel at all conscious of any classism here which was encouraging - if you appreciate what's offered, can pay for it, and behave, then I'd say you're in.

All in all, very favourable. The licensees have apparently been here for 18 years and have built the Horses up to its present reputable position; provided standards are kept high and no complacency creeps in, brisk business should be assured.

On 4th March 2013 - rating: 8
[User has posted 5 recommendations about 5 pubs]

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. Wittenden left this review about The Running Horses

I’ve known this pub on and off for the past dozen years,and it retains that wonderfully Surrey air of a select house. This is by no means condemnatory: I’ve always been made most welcome.
A substantial late medieval building, white faced with black detailing in a row of similarily aged houses opposite the church in a village just off the A24. Benches to attract the many walkers in this part of Surrey, a venerable door opening into a small bar:flagstones,dark carved oak,open fire, a smaller bar opening off to one’s right.In a back room, many tables elegantly laid up for dining.
On our most recent visit, early evening on a bitterly cold February Wednesday, the bar was comfortably busy with drinkers enjoying a pre prandial pint, a low hum of conversation and the rustle of the Financial Times.While I’m sure that food and accommodation provide the bulk of the business, this remains a real pub,where dogs and walkers are welcome.

On 29th July 2012 - no rating submitted
[User has posted 243 recommendations about 242 pubs]

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Just a quick pint, then I'm off left this review about The Running Horses

Traditional 16th-century village inn, with two small bars retaining a lot of character (and one supposedly having a 'highwayman's hidaway') plus a separate restaurant to one side. The food certainly looked good, but when you get your packet of crisps 'decanted' out into a smart ceramic bowl you just know that anything substantial is going to be expensive. Also offers accommodation (five rooms). Five real ales available on handpump - Pride, Youngs Ordinary, Seafarers, Spitfire and Wadworth Henry's IPA (in good condition). Unlike some other local establishments, the notice on the front door welcoming walkers but requesting them to take muddy boots off before entering was polite in tone and overall I liked this pub.

On 13th February 2011 - rating: 7
[User has posted 6002 recommendations about 6002 pubs]

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Malden man left this review about The Running Horses

The name recalls a dead heat finish in the 1828 Derby between Cadland and The Colonel. An attractive looking village pub situated a short turn off the A24 and not far from Box Hill. The main bar is ahead on entering, a comfortable carpeted area with a large inglenook fireplace, lots of horse brasses and other horse related paraphernalia including saddles, bridles etc. A ceiling beam has a number of tokens from race meetings. Beyond the bar, to the left is a more formal restaurant with linen tablecloths. To the right, a separate room called "The Colonel Room". I assume therefore, by default, that the main bar is "The Cadland Room" but I didn't notice a sign to that effect.
Outside seating at the usual wooden benches to the front where there are views of the village church opposite. Accommodation available, good walking country here and Denbies Vineyard close by.
The beers were Pride, Young's Ordinary Bitter, Gale's Seafarers, HSB and Shepherd Neame Spitfire.
A pleasant if fairly upmarket pub with upmarket prices to match. A pint of Seafarers (3.6%) and a lime and soda came to an incredible £5.80. How such a mark up on a soft drink can be considered acceptable I really do not know.

On 5th September 2010 - rating: 5
[User has posted 1687 recommendations about 1663 pubs]