Surrey Food Chat hits foodie heights at Dorking’s Emlyn restaurant


Two award-winning chefs and a butcher walk into a Dorking restaurant alongside cheesemakers, supper club organisers, a brewer and Surrey Life… fascinating, insightful and inspiring foodie chaos ensues. Matthew Williams was in the middle of it all…

Having been one of Surrey Life’s top restaurant picks of 2015 (read the review here), I was delighted when Emlyn restaurant’s head chef Nick Sinclair posed the idea of the first Surrey Food Chat event.

“Do you think you could bring a few people along,” he said, probably expecting me to bring some drinking buddies, family or other occasionally conscientious reprobates I might know.

I sat back for a second, reached for the Great Big Book of Surrey Life Contacts™ and thought: “well, I’ve got a few ideas…”

So it was, that we found our motley ensemble seated in an intimate corner of the restaurant inside Dorking’s historic Burford Bridge hotel.

In the long run intended as a series of foodie events for those with any interest in local food and drink, rather than an industry round table, as such, it proved a captivating evening.

Nick and his team’s inventive dishes introduced Norbury Blue cheeses and Hogs Back Brewery beers in a series of intricate twists and turns - but that was only half the story…

Foodie stars

Alongside the stunning food, we also had the opportunity to delve into the Michelin star mind of fellow guest, Steve Drake of Drake’s restaurant and The Anchor pub in Ripley; hear from the winner of best local menu at last year’s Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards, Daniel Britten, who spoke about his new project at The White Horse pub in Hascombe; listen to Simon Taylor from Surrey Hills Butchers (yes, another award winner!) share his passion for sourcing prime cuts at his thriving Oxshott business; discover the inspiration behind Ashtead Secret Supper Club's globe trotting menus; learn more about beer matching from Hogs Back Brewery’s Nick Burne; and go behind the scenes with cheesemakers, Neil and Michaela Allam from Norbury Blue.

Suffice to say, the company and conversation was the perfect pairing for the dishes that came flowing out of Nick’s kitchen – and the idea seems to have gathered wings, so fingers crossed Surrey Food Chat will become a regular event.

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But, before we get ahead of ourselves, it was home-made breads and butters that kicked things off on this occasion – and the marmite variation of the latter proved to be just as much of a conversation starter as it did when Surrey Life first reviewed the place (did someone also mention a love of strawberry jam and marmite, or was that just us mishearing?!).

A starter of celeriac and Hazy Hog cider braised apples was given added punch by delicious walnuts and powerful Norbury Blue, all accompanied by a bittersweet glass of Hazy Hog cider.

The main course then focussed on a stunning 45-day aged cut of Angus beef that had been lovingly cared for by Simon at Surrey Hills Butchers. That very special meat was taken onto another level entirely by an unbelievably good croquette of braised rib with blue cheese, as well as a crumb consisting of dehydrated onion and more of that earthy blue. Special stuff. Combined with onions and wild garlic, it was a dish that dreams are made of - both technical and home from home cooking, all at once. Hogs Back’s Hopping Hog IPA provided the background music on this occasion.

Leading towards a grand finale, Nick’s spectacular cheesecake went to town with the ingredients on offer. A Dirty Vicar (Norbury Blue's other creation) cheesecake was combined with chocolate and ale cake (using Hogs Back’s A over T barley wine), ale ice cream (with Hogs Back’s OTT ale), malted milk puree, nut clusters and, pushing things all the way to their delectable conclusion, a little additional Dirty Vicar cheese (can you ever have too much?). A somewhat surprising but hugely exciting dish that left every box ticked (including a few you’d previously been unaware existed!). It was Hogs Back’s Montezuma’s Chocolate Lager that proved a real hit on this occasion, with its unexpectedly light complexion and complex flavours.

The top tier

That couldn’t quite be that though, could it? As a satisfied table relaxed back in their seats to discuss favoured pubs, restaurants, producers and gossip (that may well find its way to the pages of Surrey Life soon), platters of Norbury Blue’s finest were brought forward, including their eponymous cheese, their Dirty Vicar and two deliciously smoked – and to my understanding, first of their kind - varieties as well. Of course, it wasn’t port that provided the supping here but Hogs Back’s A over T.

When I first met Nick Sinclair last year, he made the bold comment that he wanted Emlyn to be considered among Surrey’s very top tier of restaurants, alongside the likes of Drake’s in Ripley and Stovell’s in Chobham.

Judging by previous experience and the reaction around the table on this particular night, he’s not only some way along the path to achieving that but he’s also created another monster with this gem of a Surrey Food Chat idea. Watch this space…


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