Situated in the rolling Surrey Hills, Dorking is filled with antique shops, jewellers and quintessentially British pubs. It’s the perfect setting for Steve Drake’s new restaurant, Sorrel, a stand out feature in Dorking’s South Street that is otherwise filled with takeaways!
Sorrel is named after Drake’s favourite herb, that he describes as ‘zingy and refreshing’. This is reflective of not only his menu but the entire dining experience.
Sorrel is located in a 300-year-old house. Upon entering, I pass through a greenhouse where Drake grows the herbs he uses in his recipes. The décor is striking. It’s almost like walking into the hallway of a traditional Surrey home; exposed beams, wonky wooden floors and expensive artwork, creating a very cosy feel. Instantly I’m struck by the somewhat rustic feel to the restaurant, fresh foliage on the windowsills,through which is a yellowy shimmer from the warm Surrey sunset. Perfectly presented on the table, a bell jar with a fresh vegetable inside, each table a different vegetable.
Whilst sitting comfortably on our banquette, I was given time to browse the menu which was presented in a neatly folded green envelope. The restaurant manager, Winnie Eckardt, welcomed us with a glass of the house champagne and informed me that Drake had pre-planned the courses. No sooner had we taken a sip Drake appeared with some amuse-bouche. The one that stuck out the most for me was his take on a ‘Hawaiian pizza’ – pork topped with perfectly placed cubes of pineapple – an interesting and high end twist on the classic Italian fast food.
What followed next were nine beautifully presented courses, showcasing Drake’s culinary talents and his clear purpose of having the dishes he creates reflect the changing seasons. Much like his contemporaries such as Heston Blumenthal – his cooking is almost scientific in creation and execution. Drake is constantly experimenting with fragrant flavours and especially the textures of his food.
One particular dish that demonstrated this perfectly was the scallop paired with a cucumber jelly and granola. The thought of adding a breakfast cereal to a fish-based dish seemed peculiar to me, but with a course that would otherwise melt in your mouth, the granola packed a welcome tasty crunch. This is typical of what Drake is creating at Sorrel.
Other highlights included pigeon, hidden under a bed of mushrooms with quails egg and pistachios. The nutty flavours from the mushroom and pistachios complemented the game and again played with the soft textures of the other ingredients.
Drake is certainly not afraid to pair totally different foods, and our eighth course made that clear; we were presented with freeze dried carrot, coconut ice cream and lime pearls in a dish aptly named ‘Carrot Tobacco’. Placing carrot in a dessert is not only a bold move but a tasty one too. I didn’t realise how sweet carrots can be, especially when combined with coconut and the lime to provide a citrus kick that tied the whole dish together.
Upon chatting to Steve at the end of the evening, one thing that is abundantly clear is Drake has not only a passion for food, but also for supporting local business. Sourcing local ingredients is incredibly important to him. Take the asparagus for example, it’s grown and handpicked in Dorking, less than two miles from the restaurant. His previous menu included duck from Leith Hill too.
Drake loves Sorrel’s location. In
light of losing many chain restaurants and places to eat in Surrey, it’s clear he wants to provide a fine dining experience outside of the City. Sorrel will certainly bring keen foodies from the four corners of the county and beyond to sample his dishes and, in turn,
bring much-needed revenue into our high streets.
Ultimately Sorrel is a real experience, Drake’s menu packs in experimental fusions of flavour and the confidence to completely combine textures and flavours.