Reviewing Salt Pig restaurant in Dorking
- Credit: Archant
Celebrating its first birthday this month Salt Pig is found in a beautiful grade II listed building on Dorking’s famous West Street. Matthew Williams visits to find a restaurant that’s growing in confidence
Lined with antiques shops, Dorking’s West Street has long been a prime destination for people searching out hidden gems and forgotten treasures – and, opened in March 2018, Salt Pig is clearly looking to add another food and drink gem to its collection. To hammer their intent home, they painted the grade II listed building’s frontage a striking navy blue and, well, it looks fantastic as you walk or drive along the picturesque little street.
While Salt Pig isn’t perhaps a ‘heavyweight’ contender yet, they’ve set their stall out to be a “warm, independent, family-owned restaurant” and Surrey needs a few more of them.
Spread over three floors of the historic property, Salt Pig is two levels of day-to-day bistro-esque dining with a third intimate private dining floor. We stroll in out of a miserable evening, where the cold, wet and wind appear to be sweeping the streets of people – and, yet, the welcome inside is immediately warm.
I first met Salt Pig’s manager, India De Silva Jeffries, while she was running the wonderful Cellar Magneval wine bar in Woking, and it quickly becomes clear she’s lost none of her passion.
We’re led to a windowsill table where Surrey Life’s junior restaurant reviewer, four-year-old Iona, immediately splits her time between observing the passing street and rain drops on the colourful window pane – and, if pushed, chatting to her folks!
As you’d expect from the name, pork dishes are showcased throughout although they are far from centre stage and are liberally sprinkled with creative vegetarian and vegan options, such as beet tartare, duo of cauliflower, mushroom and truffle arancini.
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It’s also clear that Salt Pig is constantly working on sourcing new local suppliers, and the likes of Hill House Farm at Beare Green, Tillingbourne Trout Farm and Kingfisher Farm Shop at Abinger Hammer and The Gin Kitchen, who are based just outside Dorking, take pride of place on the menu.
In fact, we begin our evening with a G&T featuring Salt Pig’s own gin, which has been created by India and the team at The Gin Kitchen. Coupled with crispier than crisp pork crackling wallowing in a bed of apple sauce, it’s a civilised way to proceed.
Iona, connoisseur that she is, immediately goes off-piste and orders garlic bread with baked beans – something I’ve yet to find in any of the leading cook books, but perhaps a lead dish of a hipster restaurant in Hoxton in the future. My wife Sylviane’s starter of Tillingbourne Farm smoked trout with horseradish crème fraîche and sourdough comes on a bed of Surrey watercress from Kingfisher Farm Shop in Abinger Hammer. It’s light, fresh and tasty. My pig’s head croquettes are rich and crunchy and I could happily eat a bagful with the russet apple puree biting through the meatiness.
So, guilty admission here: we also can’t resist trying the beet tartare among our first batch of dishes. Sylviane’s French sensibilities having instantly lasered in on ‘tartare’, we’re compelled to order it even when we realise it’s a vegan twist on an old favourite. It’s a tasty and playful dish that we thoroughly enjoy. Not a game changer, perhaps, but a reminder to keep an open mind.
On to the mains and, suffice to say, they’ve mastered crackling at Salt Pig and my pork belly comes equipped with its very own body armour. It takes a couple of cracks with my knife but opens up to beautiful meat and is a fine dish. Sylviane enjoys her salmon so much, I don’t get to try even a forkful.
There are some interesting ideas taking shape at Salt Pig. There’s a lovely team and there are enough flourishes in place to lead me to believe their ceiling is a lot higher than where they currently are – and that’s not meant as a disservice. Salt Pig is good already but, as the team’s confidence continues to grow, it could be excellent. This pig is learning to strut…
2-4 West Street, Dorking, RH4 1BL; saltpigrestaurant.co.uk
What we ate
• Salt Pig pork crackling, £6
• Salt Pig crispy pigs head croquette, russet apple purée and celeriac remoulade, £8
• Tillingbourne Farm smoked trout, horseradish crème fraiche and sourdough, £7
• Beet tartare, horseradish cream and vegan egg yolk, £7
• Salt Pig pork belly, celeriac fondant, russet apple, baby turnip, king cabbage and red wine jus, £18
• Salmon gravlax salad, salmon caviar, saffron egg yolk aioli, baby sorrel and British vegetables, £18
• Banoffee cookie sandwich, £7
• Selection of four British cheeses, £11
• Salt Pig G&T (standard double), £12
• Château Carbonneau Rosé Lulu 2017, France, £6.50 for a 175ml glass
• Pinot Noir, Paparuda 2017, Romania, £6 for a 175ml glass
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