Editor's note: as of September 2016 the head chef is Fred Clapperton, previously sous chef here. As of January 2017 it was renamed The Clock House.
Drakes of Ripley has held a Michelin star for ten years now. Chef/owner Steve Drake had a classical training, working in kitchens under Nico Ladenis and Tom Aikens, as well as a brief stint at the iconic kitchen of Marc Veyrat in Annecy. He worked with Marco Pierre White at The Oak Room and as sous chef at Aubergine under Gordon Ramsay. He won the Roux Scholarship in 2001.
The restaurant is in a parade of shops and has a pleasant garden at the back with terrace seating in good weather. The restaurant offered a three-course lunch menu for £34, and a tasting menu for £70 at dinner or £59.50 at lunch, as well as a further tasting option at £90. If you opt for à la carte then three courses cost £65. There wss also a vegetarian tasting menu, which was priced at £90 per person.
The wine list was substantial in scope, with over 340 bottles from as far afield as Uruguay and Georgia. The list ranged from £18 to £695, with a median price of £66 and an average markup of just under three times retail. Examples were Réserve de Gassac Sélection Guibert Pays d’Hérault 2013 at £25 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £12, Lethbridge ‘Menage a Noir’ Pinot Noir, Geelong 2013 at £58 compared to a retail price of £20, and Riesling Spätlese, Hermann Dönnhoff Oberhauser Brücke 2011 at £98 for a label that will cost you £32 in a shop.
A trio of nibbles preceded the main meal. Curry meringue with pickled mushrooms and liver parfait was excellent, the spicing very subtle and the liver flavour coming through well. Blue cheese and sesame biscuit was topped with pickled peach, sweet cicely emulsion and garnished with a slice of Monmouthshire ham. The vinegar from the pickling cut nicely through the richness of the cheese. Finally, a brown rice cracker was topped with avocado purée and anchovy emulsion, which was fine but perhaps the least interesting of the three (16/20 average for the nibbles).
Bread is made from scratch in the kitchen, a choice of white sourdough and red pepper brioche. The sourdough had a good crust and I particularly liked the brioche, which had nice texture and avoided the over-metallic taste that can easily happen with red pepper (16/20). The first course was cherry wood smoked tomato with watercress foam, poached quail egg and a garnish of Virgin Mary crisp topped with black garlic purée. The tomato flavour came through well and the egg was accurately cooked, the crisp adding a useful extra texture (16/20).
Crab came with parsnip, marigold, curry cream and sorrel ice. The crab was fresh and high quality, the curry flavours providing a polite suggestion of spice, the sorrel contrasting nicely with the shellfish (17/20). Pigeon breast was poached, then carved and then pan-fried to finish. The legs and claw were slow-cooked, and accompanied by fricasee of sweetbread, black olive praline, sorrel and salted cherries. The sweetbread was excellent, the bird itself carefully cooked, the cherries an interesting accompaniment to give a little acidity (16/20).
Turbot came with asparagus, summer truffle, shrimp wrapped in kohlrabi slices, all with a miso and kohlrabi milk. The turbot was properly cooked and the shrimp and kohlrabi interesting, though for me the milk accompaniment was a little bland (15/20). Lamb from Cornwall came in three forms: the belly was slow cooked, the loin roasted, the shoulder slow-cooked with cumin. The meat came with parsley and garlic purée, caramelised onion and Pink Fir potato cooked in lamb fat. The lamb had good flavour and I particularly liked the shoulder, which had just enough cumin to liven things up without being overpowering (16/20).
A pre-dessert of chamomile panna cotta came with compressed pineapple, cucumber espuma and cucumber crumb. The panna cotta had good texture though from a personal viewpoint I am rarely convinced by the wisdom of adding a vegetable to a dessert (14/20). The main dessert had variations of cherry and almonds. Cherry parfait was accompanied by fresh cherry, cherry meringue, an almond mousse, almond crumb macaron and almond milk ice team, with a little lemon verbena. This quite elaborate dessert worked well, the mix of textures providing a pleasing overall effect in the mouth (16/20).
Coffee was fine and service was excellent throughout, unobtrusive and efficient. On this occasion I was being taken and did not see the bill, but if you went for the à la carte and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical price per head would be around £90. This is fair for what is sophisticated cooking based on good ingredients.
Further reviews: 01st Aug 2009