Chef Steve Drake held a Michelin star at Drakes for some 14 years, making the Ripley restaurant Surrey’s biggest foodie draw. This Dorking town centre venture, where Drake cooks in an open kitchen, seems likely to repeat the feat.
The vibe 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 mod cons, it sits within the timbered, low-ceilinged rooms that span Sorrell’s Grade II-listed brick schoolhouse. 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 go tasting or à la carte, you’re 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 are also warm and inclusive. Prices, although hardly low, 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.