Drakes is within an elegant building in the High Street of the village of Ripley in Surrey. We were ushered onto the terrace at the back on this summer’s evening to browse through the menu and relax in the pretty garden. Steven Drake has worked with some of the top London chefs over the years, including stints at Nico’s and Marco Pierre White, before branching out on his own.
The wine list stretches to 15 pages, and covers the New World nearly as much as the Old World. Trimbach Cuvee Frederich Emile 2000 was listed at £89 for a wine that costs around £35 to buy in the shops. At the higher end of things, Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay 2005 was £126 for a wine that will cost you around £40 to buy retail, while the magnificent Batard Montrachet Etienne Sauzet 2003 was £388 compared to a retail price of around £144. Breads were made from scratch, slices of three different flavours. A white rosemary bread needed more rosemary, but cumin and onion bread had plenty of clear flavour, as did walnut and raisin, all with good texture (16/20 on average, dragged down a point by the rosemary bread).
We tried the tasting menu this evening (£60, compared to a three course a la carte at £46). Initial nibbles of goujeres of blue cheese and marinated salmon with dill were a pleasant introduction to the meal, the salmon in particular having just enough dill to enliven the salmon but not enough to overpower it; for me the goujeres would have been better if they were a little larger, giving more cheese taste relative to the pastry (16/20). A cocktail glass of tomato essence with a single cherry tomato was refreshing, the tomato having fairly good concentrated flavour considering it was apparently an English tomato (15/20).
The menu began with warm, seared duck foie gras with coconut sorbet, pineapple crisps and a little pepper. Conceptually this worked well, with the exotic fruits and spices contrasting with the richness of the liver, and my slab of foie gras had smooth texture (my companions had some veins remaining); still, for me this was a 16/20 dish. My favourite dish of the evening was a single diver scallop from Cornwall, served with braised pig cheek, a couple of ceps, and a pear and saffron relish. The star of the show was the scallop, served whole, large, sweet and perfectly cooked (18/20). Quail breast was served with a crispy potato wrapped around the quail leg and liver parfait; the parfait had very good flavour but I found the quail a fraction dry (15/20).
Roasted sea bass followed, served with a well made spring onion tortellini and a lemon grass froth that worked well with the fish, giving just the right amount of acidity (16/20). Main course was neck of lamb, roasted and served with a carrot and orange puree, tender tongue, orange salt and cumin gnocchi. There were some quite strong flavours here, which worried me when I saw them on the menu, but they worked together surprisingly well (16/20).
The dessert I fancied was off, so I finished with cheese. Supplied by Premiere Cheese, this was a mix of British and French classics, with a couple of local blue cheeses a nice touch. The cheese was in good rather than perfect condition, but was fine (15/20). Service was professional throughout, wine topped up assiduously, and staff were careful to ask our reactions to each dish, without being intrusive.
Overall I found this a very good meal indeed, thoroughly deserving its Michelin star; technique was hard to fault. A nice touch was a complete vegetarian tasting menu, which was well received by my wife. It was far more than a token menu, with interesting and well executed dishes.
Further reviews: 16th Jul 2015