Pinnock’s Coffee House, Ripley, Surrey
I met my friend Sabine in the wonderful Ruben’s Bakehouse in Twickenham a week or so ago while buying some of their fabulous sourdough bread. Sabine is German and she told Igor, the baker who owns Ruben’s, that she’d been trying to persuade me to review more tea rooms for the blog as she liked going out to tea. I apologised and said I rarely went out ‘for tea’. Partly this is because I rarely eat cake and partly it’s because my freelance discipline means I try not to arrange outings during the day in the week when I feel I should be working. However, Sabine and I fixed a date to head out of London for tea in a place she knew and liked and wanted to introduce me to. It was made all the more exciting by her offering to pick me up this afternoon and our destination being a surprise. It made it seem a bit like a birthday treat – although my actual birthday isn’t until April! – heading off down the A3 towards Guildford to an unknown venue.
Cold and wet, it wasn’t the best day for an outing out of town but Ripley – our destination– is a pretty village, quite close to Wisley Gardens. I head to that part of Surrey fairly often but had not driven into Ripley itself. Sabine said she thought this was a good place for me as Pinnock’s Coffee House specialises in coffee and she knew I liked good coffee. They also bake some good cakes and have a little shop with some speciality coffee and teas, jams and biscuits. You can also have a light lunch there: sandwiches and salads and platters.
From the road it’s not very obvious what’s there and at first glance it just looked like an old house. But there was a small sign and as we got closer it was clearer it was a cafe. Inside, it’s full of charm, particularly upstairs. Downstairs is a fairly traditional cafe, albeit it in a pretty old building.
At the counter we put in our order before going upstairs. They serve a huge selection of coffees but only filtered. They have a special individual filter system. Beans are ground fresh for each order and then coffee made in their drip filter mugs. A blackboard contained a range of choices, all described fully, but I decided to go for the daily special: Ripley House Blend.
Then there was the cake decision. Sabine went for Victoria sponge while I chose an orange polenta cake.
It was a little difficult to view the cakes properly, housed as they were in a glass cabinet to the side, and we had to ask what they were as they weren’t labelled. It would have worked better, we thought, if they had the cakes at the front instead of the row of china filters. But in the end, the really important thing was that the cakes tasted good!
We headed upstairs to find somewhere to settle down and wait for our order to be brought. This was the special part of the trip, Sabine told me, and certainly it was a wonderful place to sit down in comfy chairs or sofas and talk leisurely, as we did – for almost 2 hours!
It was a converted gabled loft area and very attractive in a slightly worn, country way. You had to be careful not to hit your head on a beam as you made your way across the floor! We found two wonderfully comfortable leather chairs to settle down into. Ahead of us, past a Chesterfied sofa was a library area. Loads of books were packed along shelves, just waiting to be picked up and looked through. Sabine told me they encouraged you to stay as long as you like.
There was no great bustle of busy people in a hurry, mobile phones ringing, people having business meetings (so common in London cafes now), nor people sitting with laptops or iPads in front of them. Groups – mainly women – sat around talking as if they’d been there for hours and were in no hurry. Another area was a games corner with games left out for people to use.
Then our tray of tea and coffee and cakes came.
There was a slight hiccup as they’d asked me if I wanted hot or cold milk and I’d said cold, but assumed it would come on the side in a jug. They’d put some cold milk in it already with a little more in a jug, but I wasn’t happy as I wanted to taste the coffee before adding milk. So they took it away and came back with another. It was good coffee with a nice aroma and in the end I drank it black as filtered coffee is less strong than my usual Flat White or espresso and I didn’t feel I wanted milk. The cake was excellent. Fresh and moist and a good flavour. Sabine said her Victoria sponge was good too.
It was a great place for a journey out of the city. I wouldn’t head to Ripley just for coffee and cake in Pinnock’s – as I can get good coffee and cake closer to home – but I would definitely go again when in the area. And I can see in the summer when the days are longer and it’s warmer, it would be a nice place to go for morning coffee or tea and a walk in the surrounding countryside.
We went downstairs to pay and I had a look at the small shop. I can see for locals to the area it’s a great place to have on your doorstep and in terms of a quiet, relaxing place to enjoy a leisurely tea, a brilliant place to go.