What it’s like at The Flintgate in Weybridge
- Credit: Archant
Having made their name in Surbiton, the team behind Big Smoke Brewing Co have expanded their brewery from a small pub garden shed to a huge state-of-the-art site in Esher – and their pub estate has grown with it. Matthew Williams visits The Flintgate in Weybridge to see if they’ve retained their magic touch
When I first stumbled across Big Smoke Brewing Co back in 2014, I was immediately won over by the unique charms of the the brewery's pub, The Antelope, on Surbiton's tree-lined Maple Road. It looked like an old school boozer but the lines of beer taps (including offerings from the little microbrewery which was found out the back in a shed), the blues music and records, and the intriguing almost street food menu all told a different story.
Unsurprisingly, in a world of increasingly homogenized pubs, they stood out like a sore thumb and quickly drew crowds of people looking for an alternative option - as well as a festival selection of beers. The project, which is backed by Greene King, has grown exponentially since then. The beer is now produced in a 5,000 square foot state-of-the-art brewery in Esher, and the company now has a growing list of pubs including The Albion in Kingston, The Flintgate in Weybridge and The Hole in the Wall in Chichester.
I'd been intrigued by The Flintgate in Weybridge ever since it opened its doors in November. Could Big Smoke Brewing Co continue to export their particular brand of magic, I wondered?
Found opposite Oatlands Park Hotel, down the side streets of Weybridge (parking is limited), it has a very different feel to The Antelope when we arrive. The beer and cider taps are there and the selection looks fantastic (18 keg taps, 10 cask lines and 5 ciders in all, I'm told) but the surfaces are a lot shinier and, if the music is there in the background, it's certainly harder to hear over the acoustic hubbub of an extremely busy Wednesday night. Not that I'm going to moan about a pub being busy, of course, it's great to see.
Settled down at our table in the restaurant part of the pub, which stretches out further than you'd imagine from the outside, the noise bounces around in a way that makes it a touch difficult to hear even your partner across the table at times.
It's nothing a few acoustic boards couldn't sort out though and the general look and feel of the place is very welcoming, as are the staff who were rushed off their feet by several big bookings during our visit. It does make things a little chaotic at times and orders are occasionally misplaced, but the staff handle anything that goes awry calmly and attentively.
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As I've been looking to have a few tasters of Big Smoke Brewing Co's beers again for a while, I start off with a refreshing Cold Spark, a light pale ale packed with flavour. A perfect way to kick things off, with my succulent fried chicken and garlic mayonnaise starter.
Sylviane goes for a blood orange gin and mixer with her chicken liver pate with toasted brioche and chutney off the specials board.
The place is absolutely buzzing and it's definitely the kind of venue you want to head to for a fun-packed evening with friends or a lively date night, rather than, say, a cosy evening - but that's all good, there are plenty of the latter elsewhere.
For a main, I'm tempted by one of the steaks (as there's a special offer on Wednesdays) but instead swing towards the BBQ rack of house smoked ribs. While they're not up to the spectacular standards of The White Hart in Witley, for example, they're an enjoyable melt-in-the-mouth offering with a drop of Big Smoke's Muscovado Brown Nitro Ale (delicious, and a safer bet than its name might suggest).
Sylviane opts for the house burger - a seriously meaty patty topped with smoked brisket, swiss cheese and pickles - with a glass of Pinot Noir. It's almost an alternative Sunday lunch in a bap, and I happily help to finish off this particular monster.
To finish off, we share a zesty lemon and lime cheesecake with vanilla ice cream, which I enjoy with a Forests of Azure blueberry wheat beer. As you may have gathered, this place isn't trying to kick Tom Kerridge off his fine dining perch but it's all tasty stuff and perfect drinking food.
All in all, we enjoy our visit to The Flintgate. To me, it doesn't quite have the magic of The Antelope but then that's an extremely high bar for me and one set by personal taste. I'm also visiting under very different auspices, which can certainly affect anyone's experience of a place.
It's strikes me as being an excellent addition to the Weybridge food and drink mix, and the full tables would suggest others feel likewise. I, for one, would certainly love them to open a pub in my hometown of Redhill one day. Hint, hint.
The Flintgate, 139 Oatlands Drive, Weybridge KT13 9LA; theflintgate.co.uk
What we ate
- Starters: Fried chicken and garlic mayonnaise, £5.50 / Chicken liver pate with toasted brioche and chutney, £6.50
- Mains: BBQ rack of house smoked ribs with hand cut chips and coleslaw, £16 / Big Smoke beef burger with smoked brisket, Swiss cheese and pickles, £14.50
- Desserts: Lemon and lime cheesecake with vanilla ice cream, £6
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