Tel. 01483 211 866
Food type: British Gastropub
Nearest tube: –
Website: The Anchor
The Anchor is a village pub located in the little village of Ripley and the building itself has been around the 16th century where it was used as an almshouse. The pub became a known as a watering hole in the 1800s where it was popular with cyclist passing through the village. In 2014, the pub was taken over by Steve Drake, who also runs the excellent Drake’s Restaurant in the same village. I have been a follower of Steve’s cooking at Drakes since I moved to Surrey. Steve has solid classical training and won the Roux Scholarship but his cooking at Drake’s has plenty of modernistic touches. The day to day cooking at the Anchor is by Mike Wall-Palmer who was Steve’s right hand man at Drakes.
We visited the pub for a weekday lunch where they were half full. The menu consists of the usual a la carte with starters £8 – £9.50, mains £14 – £25 and desserts £6-7. In addition to that, on Sundays, roast is served with all the trimmings. There was also a bar snacks menu and unlike many gastropubs I have visited, the selection here is pretty lengthy with 11 small bites available, priced between £2 – £4.50. At lunch there is a cheap lunch menu £15 for 2 courses or £19 for 3 courses. Excellent value if I may say so myself. Browsing through the menu, some of the dishes involve pared down versions of the ones served at Drake’s. Take for example a dish of sea bream with escabeche and crispy parsnips, which is similar to the Turbot dish I had on my last visit to Drake’s. This is unsurprising, since Steve oversees the menu construction at Anchor.
While browsing through the various menus, we decided to try some of their bar snacks. Their scotch egg here is a twist on the classic, eschewing the traditional pork sausage mince for black pudding and using hens egg. It arrived theatrically in a bowl with faux hay, probably a play on the eggs being laid in a farm. On the side, a small dollop of English mustard to help provide some relief for the richness of the black pudding. This was an excellent modern interpretation with a (naturally) runny egg yolk and the black pudding filling moist. Other snacks we tried were a smoked salmon blini and puffed pork scratchings which were both fine.
For starters, I tried the grilled mackerel which was paired with a fennel salad. When the plate hit the table, the first thing that hits you is the grated citrusy lime zest which gets the mouth watering. The interesting element on the plate was an apple and vanilla puree as described on the menu but was closer to a fluid gel in texture and appearance. I don’t really mind the use of vanilla in savoury dishes and here it was carefully judged so that there was enough of it for you to get a vanilla perfume, but the puree was not overly sweet as to remind you of a dessert. The mackerel itself was nicely cooked – just enough heat to set the flesh and release its natural oils which was offset by the freshness from the fennel salad.
It took me a long time to decide what I wanted for mains – there were plenty of very enticing items on the menu. In the end however, I went for the barbecued pork belly on the lunch menu. The pork had been slow cooked prior to service so it was meltingly tender and then finished on the barbecue to give it a lovely charred, smokey finish. In keeping with the American barbecue theme, there were some spicy beans and a corn. To cut through the richness of the pork was a kohlrabi coleslaw. I just wish there was more of that as its freshness was much needed in an otherwise heavy, hearty dish.
Finally for dessert, I tried the raspberries and lemon curd dish which came as a lemon curd tart with fresh raspberries and a raspberry sorbet on the side. There was plenty of acidity from the lemon curd offset by the sweetness from the meringue sticks, crumble and raspberry sorbet. This was a very sophisticated dessert, especially coming from a gastropub.
The Anchor is a little gem serving up tasty food in a relaxed environment. The cooking here is a bit more adventurous than your usual gastropub fare but still retaining the spirit of what pub grub is all about. The prices here are also very reasonable for the level of cooking on offer. The residents of Ripley are very lucky to have a pub like this in their village.