Drakes, Ripley

For Emma’s birthday this year, I chose Michelin-starred Drake’s in Ripley, just south of Woking.

One of the things which puzzles me is why there is a dearth of top class restaurants in Surrey. The place is awash with rich commuters and the county is poorly served by the meagre offerings. I’m convinced that anyone brave enough to invest in the right fine dining restaurant can probably make a killing.

In that sense, Drake’s is the exception, having held a Michelin star for 12 years. I had dined at Drake’s once before many years ago and I was interested to see how chef Steve Drake’s cooking had evolved.

The meal is structured around a choice of tasting menus and being Emma’s birthday, I insisted that we have the longer Discovery menu.

The staff were friendly and created a fun atmosphere – I’m not a fan of places, which are too serious and over-bearing. They helped Emma choose from a long list of gins for her G&T.

I do love a good amuse-bouche and I was very happy when a plate of yummy bites arrived to kick things off. They were little explosions of flavour. This was followed by some great bread.

The tasting menu started with ‘leek, haddock, quail’s egg’, which turned out to be delicious soup enhanced with flakes of smoked haddock and a just-cooked quail’s egg.

Red mullet and samphire was next up. These classic English ingredients were paired with a mixture of African and Asian spices – cumin, saffron, black garlic and lemongrass but they worked harmoniously on the plate.

The next course of pigeon was one of our favourite dishes. The main ingredients were hidden under a roof of raw button mushroom scales. The gamey but tender pigeon went well with umami-rich cep aioli, mushroom and a creamy quail’s egg.

The theme of hiding ingredients for the big reveal continued with the next dish. Beetroot was served with Bosworth leaf, sesame and Douglas fir mayonnaise. Sweet and nutty with a floral finish were my thoughts.

The seafood course paired the freshest John dory with sweet, plump langoustine tail, needing nothing more than a hint of coriander oil herbiness and lemon thyme to play against them.

Main course was Cornish lamb, enhanced with shallot and anchovy purée and served with lamb fat carrots, pickled grapefruit rind and mint. The medium rare lamb was so tender and full of flavour.

Restaurants are trying to make the cheese course more interesting rather than just serving slabs of cheese (for another example, see my Casamia review). Here at Drake’s, they served whipped blue cheese on raspberry toast and topped with a pickled rose petal at the table.

The pre-dessert of hibiscus ice, cinnamon and Pedro Ximenez was a refreshing palate cleanser.

The final course on the tasting menu was mango cannelloni, passion fruit and Thai basil granita. Great complementary flavours with a good fruity hit.

For her birthday, they sent out chocolate truffles on a board with ‘Happy Birthday’ written on it. I also made sure to get Emna to order tea as I had seen the tea performance at another table (watch the video below).

Finally, a tin with scrummy petit fours arrived to round off the meal.

Drake’s has evolved since my last visit with a very contemporary style of cooking and plating. A great place for Emma’s birthday meal.

Food: ★★★★★ Service: ★★★★★ Ambiance: ★★★★ VFM: ★★★★★ Overall: ★★★★★

Price: The tasting menu isn’t cheap but good value for a Michelin starred tasting menu

The Clock House, High Street, Ripley, Surrey KT23 6AQ

Drake's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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