Formerly at Drake’s in Ripley, where he held a Michelin star for the best part of 14 years, Steve Drake has chosen a picture-postcard pretty Grade-II house in Dorking for his latest solo venture, where he’s whipped up an inventive British menu.
Where is it? 77 South St, Dorking RH4 2JU
What’s the vibe like?
It’s only Thursday and the restaurant is already booked out. Despite this the team in the open kitchen remain impressively serene, Drake himself working amongst them. We’re warmly welcomed and offered water by a convivial front of house – bottled, not tap, this is fine dining with tablecloths to boot – and champagne. As we peruse the menu, we note luxuriously thick carpets and velvet banquettes (the design is by Alexander Waterworth, who’s also done the likes of Annabel’s in London) that make the space so cosy you’d happily sleep over.
How does the menu work at Sorrel?
The menu is equally refined; there’s a nine or five-course tasting option (we opt for the former), alongside conventional starters, mains and puds. Amuse bouches kick things off, one immediately startling – a broccoli and kiwi number. It’s outlandish but enjoyable, the crunchy, salty brassica balanced expertly with tangy kiwi crisps. “You’ll want to drown yourself in this,” says our waitress with glee, as she serves a pumpkin mousse next. She’s not wrong, it’s a masterpiece (*see must order).
A Bosworth Ash course brings happiness, too. A compendium of goat’s cheese, earthy salt-baked beetroot, a cube of Granny Smith apple for tartness and toasted sesame seeds, it’s highly accomplished, a well-judged balance of creamy and crispy textures.
Another clever combo arrives as meaty monkfish, delicately smoked on a yakitori, with a film-thin shaving of lardo, a single buttery potato, leeks and mushroom milk. Our main, locally-reared duck, with a liver meringue, has two duck components; breast topped with sticky Moroccan spices (Drake loves the country) and flavour-packed leg meat. The meringue on the side, diminutive to look at, is ridiculously good – two crisp slivers hold a rich liver-and-date mousse, which bursts in the mouth.
Which dishes should we order at Sorrel?
That pumpkin. Salty blasts of aged Parmesan dance with the sweet squash, nuttiness from a sunflower seed praline and smoky paprika – it’s colourful and moreish.
What’s dessert like at Sorrel ?
I wouldn’t reorder an experimental dessert, “Carrot Tobacco”, inspired by Drake’s childhood memories of coconut tobacco from sweet shops. Playful, yes, but I found the shredded carrot’s chewiness puzzling.
A dessert highlight, however, is the Blackberry Waldorf. Inspired by a Waldorf salad, apple, sorrel, blackberry hum with zinginess, alongside a celeriac parfait.
Price: The tasting menu is £90 for nine courses, £60 for five courses.