Drake’s at the Clock House
The Clock House,
High Street, Ripley,
Surrey, Gu23 6AQ
Tel. 01483 224 777
Food type: Modern Eclectic
Food rating: 6/10
Nearest tube: –
Finally, it is time for my first review of a Surrey restaurant. After all, I have had more than enough time to settle down in my new home and find my way around. Located in the little village of Ripley, is Steve Drake’s eponymously named restaurant, Drake’s. Go ahead. Google it! There are actually two Michelin starred restaurants named Drake’s (the other located in Abinger Hammer) which is a little confusing to say the least, so if you plan to make a booking do check you have the correct place.
The reason that there are two restaurants named Drakes is pretty interesting but lets start with when chef Drake himself began his cooking career. Steve Drake began his career at the Ritz during the early nineties working with such luminaries like Nico Ladenis and Marco Pierre White. After a stint as sous chef at Aubergine (under William Drabble now heading Seven Park Place), Drake was appointed head chef at Drake’s on the Pond. It was during this time that Drake’s career started to blossom. He won the prestigious Roux Scholarship in 2001 (after failing to be placed in the competition two years prior) and a belated Michelin star soon arrived two years later. Most chefs would be happy with where they had got, but Drake had other ideas – that very year, Drake decided to leave Drake’s on the Pond to open up his own restaurant, Drake’s at the Clock House in Ripley. He won a Michelin star within a year of opening. Steve Drake consents to the use of his name on the former restaurant, hence there being two Drakes restaurant in Surrey.
The A La Carte dinner menu is sensibly priced with 3 courses at £46 and a tasting menu at £60. As an additional bonus, the restaurant offers a full vegetarian tasting menu for the same price. Unlike many restaurants who offer up a token gesture as an excuse for a vegetarian dish (or alternatively, a vegetarian menu cobbled up with whatever ingredients they have in the kitchen), the vegetarian tasting menu here is designed from scratch, and features as many bells and whistles as the regular menu. Lunch is £25 for 3 courses and a glass of wine.
Dill Marinated Salmon, Blue Cheese Goujeres
As we were perusing the menu, a few canapés were brought to us. First a neat square of pressed marinated salmon with dill which had good texture and the flavour of the fish coming through without being overwhelmed by the herbs. A second nibble of blue cheese goujeres were fine although the choux pastry themselves could (and should) have been bigger to allow the aroma of the cheese to explode from within. As a direct comparison, the cheese goujeres at Hibiscus wins hands down. (5/10)
Tomato & Gin Consomme
Amuse bouché was a cocktail glass of tomato consommé and gin with a skinned cherry tomato thrown in for good measure. The consommé had decent flavour, especially given the fact that the tomatoes used are English. To be frank, I did not enjoy this dish given that I am not particularly fond of Gin hence I am not going to score it.
Bread is a selection of slices, made fresh on the premises everyday. These came in three flavours – a white slice with rosemary which was rather anaemic and definitely could have done with a few more sprigs of the said herb, walnut & raisins and cumin & onion. The latter two were very enjoyable, with the cumin & onion being my favourite – the spice coming through nicely and perfuming the bread. (6/10)
Seared Duck Foie Gras, “Exotic”
The first official course was a plate of seared foie gras with a pineapple carpaccio, coconut sorbet, passion fruit and a pepper compote. The components on the plate certainly worked well with each other, with the acidity from the pineapple and passion fruit complementing the richness of the foie gras with the pepper compote adding a little bite. I felt that a little care could have been taken in slicing the foie gras as I found a few veins left on mine. Nevertheless, this was an accomplished dish. (6/10)
Roast Scallops, Braised Pig’s Cheek, Ceps, Pear and Saffron Relish
The best dish of the night was the roast scallop – a single, fat, scallop served whole, cooked to perfection with a little braised pig’s cheek, a grilled cep and a pear & saffron relish which I particularly adored. Seafood in this restaurant is brought in from Cornwall, and its quality definitely told. While I am not particularly sold on the idea of the pig’s cheek with scallops, its presence didn’t offend either. (8/10)
Quail Breast, Crispy Potato Leg, Liver Parfait, Sauternes Gel, Pickled Radish
Roast quail breast with a leg wrapped in crispy potato and a liver parfait was fine. The quail breast for me a fraction dry (I find quail to be one of the trickier things to cook) but the pickled radish gave a good amount acidity to contrast the richness of the liver parfait. For me, the leg wrapped in crispy potato string was a case of a kitchen trying to impress with one too many techniques. I personally felt that the crispy potato actually detracted from the subtle taste of the quail. (5/10)
Roasted Sea Bass, Spring Onion Tortellini, Lemon Grass Froth
Sea bass was timed to perfection – the fish was moist and succulent, finished with a perfectly crisp skin and the lemon grass froth a suitable accompaniment. For me though, the best part of the dish was the spring onion tortellini which was incredibly well made and bursting full of flavour. (6/10)
Roast Lamb Neck, Carrot and Orange Puree, Cumin Gnocchi, Tongue, Orange Salt
Roast lamb neck and poached tongue was a fine example of the kitchen producing delicious plates of food with cheap ingredients. Lamb neck is perhaps more adept to being slow cooked as the meat can be pretty tough, but thanks to the wonders of water bath cooking, it was rendered as tender as a loin of lamb. A little cumin gnocchi was the perfect accompaniment to the lamb giving this a very Mediterranean feel to the dish. (6/10)
Cheese here is supplied by Premier Cheese who are a bit hit and miss with the quality of the cheese. (5/10) I fancied cheese over the desserts on the menu which were rather unappealing to me, so no dessert this time around.
Lavender Shortbread, Chocolate & Passion Fruit, Bitter Chocolate & Bitter Grapefruit, Chocolate & Nuts, Orange Jelly, Calamansi Macaroon
Petit fours were a selection of the weird and the classics. For example, a chocolate and passion fruit truffle were familiar flavours which worked well although a lavender shortbread was not a particular favourite. There are a billion and one things to flavour shortbread with so to use an element which I associate with aromatherapy and hand wash does not really set my palates buzzing. Nevertheless, if I kindly ignore the shortbread, the petit fours were a very impressive bunch. (6/10)
Whilst at times, the combinations can be a bit too bold for my liking (e.g. lavender shortbread, most of the desserts on the menu), when they do work, the results can be outstanding. I was personally impressed most was that Steve Drake was able to produce exciting dishes with cheap cuts of meat which is a true hallmark of a great chef. While chatting with Drake himself, it is obvious that he is willing to learn and hungry to take his restaurant to the next level. In summary, the cooking at Drake’s is fully deserving of its 1* status making use of good produce and extracting plenty of flavour.
Pros: Excellent ingredients. Interesting combinations. Reasonable prices. Dedicated Vegetarian menu.
Cons: Combinations can be too exotic for some. Unimpressive cheese board.