6 Christchurch Terrace
Tel: 020 7351 6954
The Surprise is part of the Geronimo Inns Company, who own a large collection of pubs gathered over the years. These failing old school boozers have been transformed into modern fashionable eateries and drinking spots. Their look is cunningly relaxed, often using what’s there already, stripped floors, stained glass windows etc. It is very effective and as you walk in the vibe is relaxed. The staff were relaxed too.
Positioned in one of the quieter areas set behind the King’s Road The Surprise is no exception. The scrubbed table beckoned as I waited for my companion for the evening, C. She hails from this part of town and immediately recognised the brand and felt quite at home. I had taken the liberty of ordering a bottle of Malbec Finca Sophenia E.S. Vino. At £22.50 this is outstanding value. They also sell it by various glass sizes.
C perused the menu with her usual critical eye and after a bit of chopping and changing decided on smoked mackerel on toast. For me it’s the only way to eat this strong flavoured oily fish served with a wedge of lemon. It was punchy without being overpowering and we enjoyed it. I went for a ham hock terrine that came with toast, which was very good and had all the trademarks of being made by an experienced hand in the kitchen it had just come from.
We also tried aubergine fritters with honey. These were less successful. They should have been a bit crispier and arrived with honey drenched all over them. This, in my view is a presentation mistake as the honey softens the crispiness and had the honey been in a bowl or jug you can administer as much nectar as and when you like. On advice from our waiter we tried a small bowl of honey mustard chipolatas. C wasn’t overly keen but I thought they were fab. I had to work very hard to not eat them all. They were that kind of Christmas on a stick snack that if somebody told you how many you had just eaten you would deny it only to look down and see 20 cocktail sticks staring you in your fat cheeks as evidence.
The Chelsea crowd, are always an interesting lot to observe. The young living off trust funds or still drawing from the bank of mum and dad (how else could they live in an area where a flat can cost millions?) their manners are always top notch and they have a confidence that probably sits too high in their own estimation but they make for good company in a space like The Surprise.
Mains fell into two halves. I really enjoyed mine and C was less keen on hers. I went for what is becoming a gastro pub staple of flat iron steak, green peppercorn sauce and hand cut chips (I’m sure they are cut with a knife of some sort really).
This was as good as the good can be, tasty, succulent and as soft as you like. The sauce was a winner too with bags of powerful pepper breaking through the softening cream. C had gone for a special of the day; pork Stroganoff served on mash. C thought the Stroganoff was a touch on the salty side and I agree but it was passable and mash seemed fine.
Things improved for C as we entered the dessert stage of the evening. I went for the safe option of cheese, which worked for me but C selected the mild mannered sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream. It sounded so ordinary but it was delicious with oodles of salted caramel sauce making it an island on the plate (well for the short time it was on the plate). This was a stand out superb concoction of a sweet, delicate sponge with kick ass sauce. Totally brilliant and worth a return trip for (it’s on the main menu, I hope they don’t take it off any time soon).
The meal came to a close and we wandered up the King’s Road to Sloane Square Tube to venture our respective ways. I think I probably enjoyed the meal more than C did which is sometimes just the way of things. Expectation and an early fault can put one on guard making it hard to relax. Maybe the way to overcome this is to make sure you have a trust fund or still draw from the bank of mum and dad, that way if you don’t like it you can call on those expensive manners and just return it politely and ask for something else.