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

London House, Woking


London House
Restaurant has the longest waiting list in Woking! Owner and head chef Ben Piette took a brave plunge into the competitive world of restauranteurs in 2011 after travelling on a one way ticket from his home town, Frejus in the south of France. His restaurant has since been the talk of the town, and one of Surrey’s most popular jaunts.

As a proud Provencale girl myself, I was intrigued by Ben’s roots and his move from the vibrant Riviera to the rather less sunny outskirts of London. His menu relies on French recipes and techniques but certainly has a hint of British too.

He offers modern food with an emphasis on flavour and great produce. We were treated to our pick from the four course, a la carte menu with wine pairings chosen by our knowledgeable waiter.

After a round of wonderfully soft bread with sweet balsamic and olive oil, we were offered smoked salmon amuse-bouches, perfectly formed mini mouthfuls. Starters brought both the highest and lowest point to the meal: an exquisite winter squash veloute with basil parmesan butter and a bagful of seeds was perfectly flavoured and wonderfully smooth, but the potted duck with marinated duck skewer was diappointingly served cold and this made the taste suffer.

We both opted for meat mains next, though a fish course is available for hungrier diners. As the restaurant became busier the service a little slower and so our thoughtful waiter bought along two surprise bowls of cullen skink with duck egg molle, beignets and baby spinach. The mains were substantial and hearty, just what you need for winter. Roasted rump of hogget (an older lamb) and Pan seared fillet of beef with slowed cooked ox cheek. Both meats were well cooked, though could have perhaps been slightly rarer, if I’m being fussy. The hogget was accompanied by complementing carrot and celeriac (so good I would have appreciated a bit more of it), wilted baby gem and sweet balsamic jus. Less traditional, the beef arrived on a bed of lasagne pasta, far too filling but intriguing nonetheless.

After a shot glass of strawberry milkshake not dissimilar to fromage frais, our desserts arrived. Split into simple categories, we chose the Citrus and Treacle options from the list. The puddings at London House are perhaps the most experimental of the dishes. The Lemon tart came with meringues, poached clems, cranberry, pomegranate and shortbread, an interesting mix of flavours which I couldn’t quite decide on. The Treacle sponge was remarkably plain but did become exciting once garnished with the Armagnac clotted cream and pine nut croquante. Dark chocolate truffles and fresh mint tea were a lovely conclusion to the meal.

We were first to arrive and last to leave the restaurant on this particular Tuesday night, which just proves how much we enjoyed our time at London House. In the capital London House would have to fight hard for the top spot, but in Woking this little independent restaurant deserves the credit it receives.

More information here.

http://www.londonhouseoldwoking.co.uk/