Drakes, Ripley

Drakes is in Ripley near Woking, but please don’t let the location put you off… I would travel to and from Woking every day for food this good. The cuisine is amongst the best I’ve ever experienced and the restaurant is utterly charming.

On a Saturday lunchtime there were numerous menu options available, the set and tasting menus are named flavour discoveries and explore seasonal produce.

Steve Drake is an energetic enthusiast in the kitchen, keen to create food which is both healthy and innovative. When we visited, his latest toy was a clay oven used to immaculately cook the cauliflower in one of our courses.

The a la carte menu looked exemplary but I was pleased to find a special flavour journey had already been decided for us… this way I could skip the agonising choosing process and try a larger selection of small dishes, rather than the standard three courses. I would definitely recommend ordering this way, it is a more exciting and refreshing way of sampling what’s on offer. Drakes believe this way of eating offers: intrigue, adventure, flavour, simplicity and discovery.

Our Flavour Journey

Snacks

Quail, Rhubarb Gel, Foie Gras, Compressed Lettuce

Scallop, Clay Baked Cauliflower, Raisin Puree, Curry Oil

Monkfish, Pumpkin Yolk, Crisp Mussels, Alexanders

Slow Cooked Mutton Shoulder, Heirloom Carrots, Tarragon Oil

Parsnip Ice Cream, Blackberries, Sorrel Ice

Pear cooked in ‘Beurre Noisette’ Goat’s Milk, Hibiscus, Crystalised Vodka

Chocolate Breakfast

So as you can see there is far too much too talk about in this review… instead I will pay attention to the most vivid memories that remain with me a week after dining at Drakes. The ‘Snacks’ they refer to so bashfully in the menu were exquisite, and all in miniature: pork fritters with cider vinegar jam, quinoa crackers with dandelion puree, duck’s heart with chicken broth and red pepper brioche balls. It was a borrower’s meal in itself, fun and full of flavour.

My fish was kindly substituted with vegetarian ingredients, the staff delicately enquire at the start of the meal if any guests have specific dietary requirements. Of the itemised courses the quail, monkfish and pear really stood out for me.

The quail is cooked to perfection with a subtle caramelly sauce. It is elegantly presented with small slices of creamy foie gras and wonderful compressed lettuce. The monkfish is a dish of surprises, a beautiful piece of fish with a pumpkin sauce pretending to be a yolk (the encased pumpkin bubble is heated to 50 degrees so that only the middle melts). The sugary buttery pear is to die for, a typically French idea juxtaposed with peculiarly refreshing goat’s milk ice cream and shockingly fabulous tiny crystallised vodka pieces. The only course I was less wild about was the mutton which in comparison to the rest was a little bland.

The wine journey paralleling the food was a real highlight of the meal for us. Eight highly original and exciting choices were delivered just before each plate of food. The sommelier was not only precise and professional but showed huge, genuine enthusiasm and passion for wine. His approach was humorous throughout proffering anecdotes and stories about each bottle. His expert knowledge was obvious when he spoke of discovering unknown wines such as the South Australian First Drop ‘The Mother of all Harvests’ and Austria’s exquisite Weinland ‘Theodora’. For the first time ever I understood the wine while appreciating it. Drakes has a truly special sommelier who I’m sure would bring wonderfully unexpected wines to accompany any meal.

I truly am in awe of the Drakes team for creating such a spectacular restaurant and a miraculous, magical menu. I think the photos prove my point.

More information here.

www.drakesrestaurant.co.uk