2 Redstone Hill, Redhill, Surrey, RH1 4BL | 0871 917 0007 and all over the country www.toby-carvery.co.uk

Redhill has plenty of dining choices if you’re looking for the kind of evening out that doesn’t involve stiff napery and deathly silences. Having driven through a virtually empty town centre with the only people on the street being underemployed restaurant staff having a fag, we were surprised to find the Toby’s car park close to capacity.

Inside this converted Victorian railway hotel, you’re in a big, open room decorated with framed seaside postcards (saucy!) and various random gewgaws. It’s pubby. We arrived at 5:30 and it was two-thirds full with a mixture of couples and families. By 6:15 the place was rammed.

It’ s a carvery, and that, to most customers, means a roast dinner, but there’s a good choice of starters with fish eaters and vegetarians borne in mind. The Thai king prawns were plump and spicy – rather like the ladies in the postcards.

You can either order from, and be served at, the table from the ‘carvery alternatives` part of the menu or join the queue for the carvery itself. Getting the timing right requires a little luck and judgement to avoid being stuck in the queue, watching your party tucking into meals served at table.

My teenage sons, who prefer their food presented in a polystyrene tray from the local kebab house, had the cod in cheese sauce and the broccoli and brie parcels. You can’t expect positive feedback from surly adolescents, so their clean plates served to indicate that they ate well and enjoyed it. My wife and I had the roasts as they’d sold out of chicken, so we kept each other company in the queue. Meats (beef, gammon and turkey on this occasion) are carved for you and you then dig in to your heart’s content from a mountain of vegetables, including giant Yorkshire puddings for added comedy effect. People weren’t holding back; they were unashamedly there for a big plate of comfort food. It takes some skill to pile a plate so high and get it back to your table without mishap.

A well-chosen, sensibly priced range of wines (New World to the fore) are available by the glass, carafe or bottle, along with beers, ciders and a variety of non-alcoholic cocktails.

Pudding was, given the dimensions of the main course we’d put away, barely tenable but we soldiered on. Generously – sized sundaes, cheesecake and a choice of sponge puddings asterisked to indicate special access to the ‘ Legendary Toby Bottomless Custard Jug’. Sorry, I just couldn’t do it.

It’s a cheerful, democratic sort of place. The staff are organised, pleasant and attentive, always staying on the right side of making a nuisance of themselves (I particularly despise the cry of ‘any more drinks?’ repeated at four minute intervals which, thankfully, didn’t happen).

Toby understands its’ customers and what they’re prepared to pay and offers tasty, sturdy food and good service in return. We liked it and, given the numbers there – most of which I reckon were repeat business – others do too. Be sure to wear your roomiest garments.

Gary Hughes