So what’s so good about Surrey? James Constantinou – star of TV’s Posh Pawn – gives us a personal tour of his home county.
Where’s home, and why?
Home is in Virginia Water. I love it here and, of course, we have the Great Park at the end of our road – fantastic restaurants coupled with peace and quiet. What more could you wish for?
What’s your earliest memory of Surrey?
My earliest memory was of the first morning here when I woke up to the sound of birds tweeting. I had moved from Bethnal Green in London’s East End and I felt like we had gone to live on Mars. We had trees and grass without dogs doo da on it… I was definitely homesick for many months while I acclimatised.
Apart from my fiancée’s lovely face every morning, I would say my other favourite view would be that from Richmond Hill overlooking the Thames and countryside. Amazing!
My favourite walk would be the one around Windsor Great Park with the lakes and wildlife. We often head over there as it’s on our doorstep. We are lucky to have it so close by.
What’s your favourite Surrey night out?
Surrey is probably best associated with village fetes rather than great nights out but as I’m becoming older, wiser and thankfully more refined, eating out is one of my passions. The theatre is one of my passions or I’d happily go for dinner at Stovells in Chobham, a quaint European restaurant set in the cosiest 16th-century Tudor farmhouse with a wood-fired grill. Owner and head chef Fernado Stovell is hands on with every course he cooks and serves to the tables, explaining each and every ingredient in great detail. I can happily be seen there for four hours on a Saturday evening. If I’m dragged to go for cocktails by Claudia, my fiancée, then Layla in Esher High Street is good for the over 30s.
If you could buy one building in Surrey, which one would it be?
I think it might be Hampton Court Palace – what an incredible piece of history to have on my doorstep. I’ve spent many a Sunday taking a nose about and getting lost in the maze. I could live upstairs and turn the ground floor into a pawnbrokers.
I would have to say Prestige Pawnbrokers in Weybridge… I’ve heard the owner is a lovely fella.
Favourite place to eat?
I recently discovered a not-so-well-known little Italian restaurant in Richmond called Non Solo Vino. It’s run by a lovely couple who make everything from scratch, all fresh. You don’t actually order the food, they just bring you course after course of different dishes to try. It’s only small and feels like you’re sitting in someone’s front room.
Best place for a first date?
I think the best place for a first date might be the maze at Hampton Court. If you’re not getting on too well, realise you are related or you’re having second thoughts, you could lose them at the second turn.
I think the Running Mare in Cobham is a fabulous little country pub to have Sunday lunch in. They do an amazing selection of roasts on Sundays with all the trimming and even load the bar up with roast potatoes whilst you are having a drink.
If you wanted to show someone the essence of Surrey, where would you take them?
I think we’d go for a brisk walk around Windsor Great Park followed by a coffee at The Bailiwick. We’d then head over to Hampton Court Palace and experience a bit of history, get lost in the maze and wander round the gardens before mooching down Bridge Road where all the beautiful little antique shops are. If it was a Sunday we’d head to traditional country pub the Running Mare for a hearty roast with all the trimmings and dinner would have to be at the lovely little French restaurant Petit Nantais in Hampton Court.
Where do you go to unwind?
To work. Unbelievable, I know, but it is my passion and something I love to do. I recently went on a three-week holiday to India and Thailand but we got caught in the storms and heavy floods so I’m not sure how much unwinding I actually did.
Favourite Surrey discoveries?
Polesdon Lacey in the summer with a picnic is a perfect way to spend a Sunday. The house is spectacular and the views overlooking the Surrey Hills are incredible. In the summer they have a quaint little Jazz band playing. If you’re a fan of vintage cars then the Brooklands Museum is on the site of the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit and houses collections of cars, motorcycles and bicycles, particular from the heyday of the track until it closed in 1939. For parents, the Rose Theatre in Kingston is a great little discovery with wonderful shows for the under 5s.
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