Drake's, Ripley, Surrey GU23 6AQ - restaurant review
Fresh from retaining its Michelin star status, Drake's restaurant in Ripley has been creating quite a stir amongst Surrey's culinary connoisseurs. JOHN HUGHES found out why
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine 2008
Reviewed: Drake's Restaurant The Clock House, High Street, Ripley, Surrey GU23 6AQ: 01483 224777 ***
Inspired to dine at Drake's, in the picturesque village of Ripley, by the news that the restaurant has been awarded a coveted Michelin star for the fourth year running, I recently discovered first-hand why this is. Simple really - from first canap� to last petit four they offer a fine dining experience that is second to none, and a quality of food, wine, presentation and service bordering on perfection. The driving force... Chef and proprietor Steve Drake is clearly the driving force - he popped out to meet us, and even in those few fleeting moments, you could sense he is passionate about what he does, proud of his achievements and professional to the core. This is reflected directly in his culinary creations and evident even in the delicious home-baked breads (rosemary, cumin and onion, walnut) before a course had been served. He has coined the phrase 'artisan' to describe his approach to cooking, "using the best ingredients from the greatest suppliers and producers, some of which are local and some are not - for me it has to be quality first." So what to choose..? The a la carte menu offers just five starters and five main courses - so why was it so maddeningly difficult to make a choice? Answer: because you want to try them all. I started with roasted ceps, chicken wing, almond panna cotta and mushroom biscuit - a tantalising marriage of textures and flavours led by the ceps themselves, amongst the finest mushrooms money can buy. My guest's hand-dived scallops, seaweed tartare, cauliflower puree, granny smith and sherry were simply but effectively presented and equally satisfying. As a main course, I chose John Dory, roasted and served with mushroom casserole, herb gnocchi, braised onions and red wine sauce. Again, it was the various flavours complementing each other that made this a memorable dish and one that I would love to try and emulate at home if I knew where to begin. Our other main was Gressingham duck, cooked in various ways with winter vegetables and seared fois gras, a very clever dish offering exactly what it suggests and hugely enjoyable. A sweet ending... On to the desserts and although the poached pear, pistachio parfait, yoghurt sorbet and doughnuts was delicious, it was Steve's signature dish that stole the show - crme renversee with granny smith sorbet and dried apple tuile (crisp wafers of apple packed with flavour for something so thin). In between courses, we were treated to tasters of other courses, too numerous to mention here, but the pre-dessert offering was one to conjure with - rhubarb and basil crumble. An unlikely combination that to my mind shouldn't work, but it did! Why? You'll have to ask Steve.
Drake's wine list is, like everything else, superb - extensive, varied and comprehensive. I went with their recommendation of a red to complement the John Dory - Lake Chalice 2006, a pinot noir from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, medium bodied with a soft, full palate.
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If it sounds as if I'm gushing, I apologise, but not sincerely. I loved Drake's and would dine there again at the drop of a chef's hat. Expensive? Maybe, but then so is shopping at Harrods. If we're talking value for money, however, then no - quality comes at a price, as the Michelin man would be the first to acknowledge.
What we ate... From the a la carte menu - two courses �38.50, three courses �46 Starters Hand-dived scallops Roasted Ceps Main Courses Gressingham Duck cooked in various ways Roasted John Dory Dessert Granny Smith Poached Pear Wine Lake Chalice Pinot Noir New Zealand Marlborough �36 per bottle VERDICT Food & wine 10/10 Service 9/10 Venue 9/10
3 other top restaurants for you to try Alexander's at Limpsfield The Old Lodge, High Street, Limpsfield RH8 0DR. Tel: 01883 714365 Where competitively priced, exceptional food can be enjoyed in warm, friendly and unique surroundings The Dining Room 59a High Street, Reigate RH2 9AE. Tel: 01737 226650 Our very own Tony Tobin combines classic ingredients in new and imaginative ways on Reigate High Street The Latymer Pennyhill Park Hotel, London Road, Bagshot GU19 5EU. Tel: 01276 486156 As well as its spectacular cuisine, the Latymer also offers an astounding 220 different wines by the glass!