Chef Steve Drake held a Michelin star at Drakes for some 14 years, making the Ripley restaurant the biggest foodie draw in the whole of the Surrey region. Now he’s overseeing this Dorking town centre venture where he cooks in an open kitchen, and it seems likely that this restaurant will enjoy similar success.
The vibe here is modern fine dining, and everything from the setting to the cooking is supremely well-judged. So while that open kitchen might be gleaming with all of the mod cons, it sits within the timbered, low-ceilinged rooms that span Sorrell’s Grade II-listed brick schoolhouse. Elsewhere, puffy banquettes and pressed tablecloths are softened by bare beams and uncarpeted floors, while menus balance fascination factor with plain, simple deliciousness.
Bite-sized snacks of chicken liver parfait on ras-el-hanout meringue or beetroot cracker topped with bream ceviche kick things off, followed by airy pumpkin soup concealing a zippy mandarin sorbet that tastes like Christmas.
Menus are wilfully terse, so ‘quail swede and langoustine’ or ‘carrot tobacco’ leave diners guessing, but whether you choose to dine from the tasting menu or the à la carte, you are in safe hands – even an impossible-sounding broccoli mousse with kiwi and caper berries eats like a dream.
Classics like butter-seared scallop with cauliflower are gussied up with compressed cucumber and curried granola, while a Waldorf salad is reimagined entirely as a delicate, blackberry-based dessert.
Oenophiles will rejoice in a bang-up-to-date wine selection that doesn’t shun big-hitting classics and while service is formal, the staff here are also warm and inclusive. Prices are not on the lower end of the spectrum, but they seem remarkably fair for a well-heeled locale that now finds itself with a destination restaurant worth the trip for Londoners – and anyone from further afield – in search of foodie thrills.