Foodie neighbours and friends Ian & Jean have long eulogised about Drake’s in Ripley, but somehow we had never quite made it across the Georgian threshold ourselves.
Well, tick that one off the bucket list.
We’ve just enjoyed – with Ian & Jean – our first adventure at this stand-out Surrey temple of gastronomy. And, mange tout Rodney, was it worth the wait!
Remember the saccharine rom-com movie Jerry Maguire? Towards the end of this far-fetched Hollywood piece of schmaltz, sports agent Jerry (Tom Cruise) finally expresses his love for Dorothy (Renee Zellweger) in a long-winded speech.
Her simple reply? Shut up. You had me at “hello“.
The very first bite, one of three amuse bouches – a tiny morsel of tender beef inside a feather-light crunchy bread-crumbed parcel – sets the tone for everything still to come in a long, lazy lunch at Drake’s.
You had me at “croquette“.
And we were still in the bar at that stage, agonising over the many menu options: should we go for the simple, cheaper fixed-price seasonal lunch menu? The grazing menus … either the 6-course Journey* or the 8-course Discovery? With or without the matched wine flights? Or the a la carte multiple-choice option?
We all decided on the Journey*. Well, it was bucket-list time …
We put ourselves in the expert hands of the sommelier to recommend complementary red and white wines. He delivered. And how appropriate – but surprising – that he served up a subtle, spectacular Pinot Noir from Tasmania, where we were a year ago to the day.
I can’t find words that will do justice to the food that we savoured over the next few hours.
The Journey* was quite simply a culinary trek through perfectly balanced ingredients, beautifully married tastes & textures, and impeccably judged quantities and pacing. All transported from the kitchen by charming staff, professional but friendly, helpful but unobtrusive.
My own highlights?
– the will o’ the wisp texture of the parsnip crackling, accompanying slow cooked pork cheek, scallop and gribiche sauce
– the complete dish of guinea fowl, coq au vin, dandelion, wet polenta, king oyster mushrooms and pancetta
– cinnamon, hibiscus ice and Pedro Ximenez
But that’s really unfair to the rest of the menu, like singling out Geoff Hurst from his 1966 World-Cup winning team-mates.
No wonder Steve Drake has been awarded a Michelin star for the 13th consecutive year, and has recently been voted number 35 in the Sunday Times Top 100 UK restaurant list for 2015/16.
It took us a few years to get here, and it might be another few years before our bank balance has recovered – but thanks, Ian & Jean. We’ve finally been Draked. And we loved it.
For any other Surrey Silver Travellers, or anyone passing through this neck of the woods, push the culinary boat out for a celebratory meal at Drake’s….you won’t be disappointed.
Available for dinner Tuesday and lunch/dinner Wednesday – Saturday
Designed to be taken by the whole table
Leek, Haddock, Quail’s Egg
Slow Cooked Pork Cheek, Scallop, Parsnip Crackling, Gribiche Sauce
Brill, Romanesco, Vanilla and Parsley Root, Grain Mustard, Baby Spinach
Guinea Fowl, ‘Coq au Vin’, Dandelion, Wet Polenta, King Oyster Mushrooms and Pancetta
Cinnamon, Hibiscus Ice, Pedro Ximenez
Roast Plum, Hazelnut Cake, Caraway Syrup, Mint Jelly