<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Surrey Life today click here

Restaurant review: Sorrel, Dorking

PUBLISHED: 15:32 19 December 2017 | UPDATED: 17:12 20 December 2017

The first pic of Steve Drake and his team hard at work in Sorrel's open conservatory-style kitchen. The highly anticipated Dorking restaurant opened to the public on Wednesday October 11.

The first pic of Steve Drake and his team hard at work in Sorrel's open conservatory-style kitchen. The highly anticipated Dorking restaurant opened to the public on Wednesday October 11.

Archant

To many, building a kitchen in a glass box might be considered one of the first signs of madness. When Surrey Life caught up with super chef Steve Drake in January, however, that was exactly what he was planning. He got his wish. Matthew Williams grabs a table at his new restaurant, Sorrel

In January, I stood with chef Steve Drake painting dreams on the walls of a 300-year-old building in Dorking for an exclusive SL interview. The place had an instant charm but was a complete shell and freezing.

Chief among the Michelin man’s dreams was moving the kitchen upstairs into a modernist glass cube that extends from the ancient beams, but he was so worried that planners wouldn’t share his enthusiasm that he didn’t want that plan published.

While the process took much longer than he’d hoped, due to the complexities of the listed building and his team’s meticulous attention to detail, Sorrel eventually came to life in October 2017 – and its open-plan, glass box kitchen is pride of place.

I’ll avoid going into Steve’s story in too much depth but suffice to say he has become known as Mr Surrey around the local fine dining scene thanks to his work at Drakes on the Pond and Drake’s over the years.

Holding a Michelin star for the best part of 14 years, you can only imagine how a full year without a restaurant felt – he must have driven his friends and family crazy, but at least it helped us to persuade him to judge chef of the year (an award he has won twice previously) at the Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards.

I met Steve at the soon-to-be Sorrel back in September, when the furniture was still packaged as delivered. You could see the eagerness, hunger and impatience in his eyes. He was in the finishing straight and couldn’t wait to get over the line to showcase his latest creations with head chef Richard Giles and the team, who’d been patiently waiting for the finishing touches to fall into place. Suffice to say that Surrey’s hopes and expectations were high, but then so were his…

The view of the pass from the entrance hall The view of the pass from the entrance hall

Journey into imagination

Having seen Sorrel transform from an idea with no location into a building site and then through to the first ‘finished’ photos, I couldn’t wait to get in to explore the experience. As soon as you arrive, it’s clear they haven’t held anything back in their efforts to build mystique and magic. Romantic candlelight draws you in from the night, up the drive and towards an ethereal cube on the first floor of a building that is otherwise all chocolate-box pretty red brick and wooden frames. Entering the cube, you discover a modernist greenhouse. I’m told that the plants here are tended by Kingfisher Farm Shop in Abinger Hammer, which is just down the road from Steve’s home these days.

Another few steps and you’re suddenly into a cosy reception where you’re greeted not only by a warm welcome but your first glimpse of the open-plan kitchen and a striking fine art photo by Gina Soden, which is aptly entitled Control Room. Out of the cold and straight into the heart of things, then.

While there’s a private dining room and small bar downstairs, the soul of Sorrel is all on this one floor: to the left the modern kitchen in its glass box and to the right its complete juxtaposition of classy fine dining among old English wooden beams.

We settle down at a table with a view through the corridor to the ‘pass’ and enjoy a glass of Nyetimber. A neatly folded green envelope sits on the table and reveals the evening’s menu. The setting is intimate and cosy and, with the kitchen only a few short steps away, there’s an exciting immediacy.

This is further aided by the relaxed manner of the front of house team. It’s still very early days, but they seem to have taken to their surroundings with a knowledgeable flourish and a touch of humour when the moment allows. It suits the place.

Bosworth Ash cheese with salt baked beetroot and Douglas fir Bosworth Ash cheese with salt baked beetroot and Douglas fir

A taste of Sorrel

So, the food then. After all, that’s the picture to truly fill this frame, isn’t it? Is there substance to match the style? Well the snacks titillate and the brioche, in particular, almost floats off the table with its light and fluffy texture, but it’s when the pumpkin mousse arrives that things really take off. It’s autumn in a bowl and absolute heaven mixed through with candied nuts and hits of parmesan.

Next up is a humble celebration of the scallop – presented as an island among mushroom milk, which hides a parsley and garlic surprise under its ‘waves’.

It’s always a good sign when I can’t quite work out my favourite dish but one contender is certainly the 21-day aged raw venison with bitter orange, dried watercress and smoked egg yolk. It’s ‘eat the season’ but where venison is usually a warming walk through the woods, this whisks you off on more of a magical mystery tour. I loved it.

I’ve long since got over my childhood distaste for beetroot (think plate staining chunks of vinegary mush) but there’s a delicacy to the next dish that still makes me wonder how I could have ever caused such a fuss when people dared place a jar in my vicinity. Playing off earthy Bosworth Ash cheese from Staffordshire, the salt-baked beetroot stars with subtle accompaniment from Douglas fir (Douglas Fir and The Beets may have been a Scottish skiffle band for all I know – if not, it should have been) and compressed apple.

Sylviane’s eyes had been on the red mullet with turnip, sage and fish bread since she’d unravelled the menu and it didn’t disappoint. Beautiful punchy fish, and I could have spent the rest of the evening wiping plates clean with the fish bread.

I’d seen plenty of social media mentions of Steve’s experiments with Etherley Farm duck and couldn’t wait to see what he’d done for the November menu. Sourced from just six miles down the road, the duck was divine with fragrant Moroccan-inspired mushroom couscous and the addition of a playful liver meringue on the side. Looking a lot like a cherry bakewell, the tartlet of Barkham Blue, rosewater gel and tarragon came and disappeared in one tasty mouthful.

As our journey of discovery draws towards its close, a word on our sommelier, Sazan Aljija. His wine flight selections throughout the evening came with a calm charm and always worked pleasingly in the background rather than wrestling for attention.

21-day aged raw venison with bitter orange, dried watercress and smoked egg yolk 21-day aged raw venison with bitter orange, dried watercress and smoked egg yolk

Finally, hibiscus ice, cinnamon mousse, pear and Pedro Ximenez syrup and then figs, tea and broken biscuits with Guinness ice cream brought things to a close – the latter inspired by a favourite from Steve’s childhood (the biscuits that is, rather than Guinness).

Star in the making

If it’s not immediately obvious, I left Sorrel even more excited than when I entered. When I’d spoken to Steve for the SL interview he said: “Once we’re up-and-running, hopefully that will mean there’s another great restaurant in Surrey.” It was a humble ambition and, suffice to say, even at this early juncture, it seems he’s on his way to achieving that. As he admits though, he’ll be keeping his feet on the ground as there’s plenty of hard work to come. With The Latymer and The Clock House joining The Tudor Room with Michelin stars this year, Surrey foodies are understandably excited about what the future might hold with Sorrel added to the roster. Fortunately, Steve and his team are pulling no punches.

What we ate

9-course Discovery menu, £90 per person

Wine flight, £75 per person

Note: A three-course lunch costs from £35

Web: sorrelrestaurant.co.uk/

Click here to read the March 2017 interview with Steve Drake.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Surrey visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Surrey staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Surrey account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Food & Drink

Yesterday, 13:43

Jenna Elsby from Chapel Lane events talks us through this recipe for potted smoked trout with lemon, dill and toasted flatbreads - a perfect sharing dish for dinner party starters

Read more
Yesterday, 10:24

Join Arlene Phillips and Strictly Come Dancing favourites Aljaz and Janette on this exclusive 8-day river cruise along the Danube

Read more
Wednesday, January 17, 2018

January 25 marks Burns Night; an evening celebration of the great late Scottish poet Robert Burns. Many venues in Surrey will be hosting an array of celebrations to mark this cultural tradition, with more than enough haggis to go around. We pick our top events taking place in 2018

Read more
Monday, January 15, 2018

Jenna Elsby from Chapel Lane events talks us through this recipe for Pink Peppercorn & Rosemary Crusted Fillet of Beef - a perfect dish for dinner parties with enough for leftovers.

Read more
Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Whether you enjoy a classic gin and tonic, a shaken not stirred martini or something altogether more adventurous, there’s never been a better time to be a lover of all things gin in Surrey. Here’s a selection of the best distilleries, from world conquering to exceedingly micro, on our doorstep

Read more
Monday, January 8, 2018

It’s been there or thereabouts on Surrey Life’s must-visit list for so long that the only surprise is what took us this long. Matthew Williams settles into Esher’s The Swan Inn, hot on the heels of their Tom Kerridge supper club

Read more
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

To many, building a kitchen in a glass box might be considered one of the first signs of madness. When Surrey Life caught up with super chef Steve Drake in January, however, that was exactly what he was planning. He got his wish. Matthew Williams grabs a table at his new restaurant, Sorrel

Read more
Monday, December 18, 2017

Gather your friends for a Moroccan inspired lunch

Read more
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Surrey’s oldest French restaurant, La Barbe in Reigate, celebrated its 35th anniversary this year. As part of the birthday celebrations, La Barbe has created this recipe for Marquise au Chocolat; a French classic perfect for celebration dinners

Read more
Friday, December 8, 2017

From ancient hostelries with roaring inglenook fireplaces to craft- beer bars and whisky havens with a twist, Surrey is blessed with some truly tantalising pubs for a cosy winter lunch or leisurely couple of drinks. We pick 29 of the best

Read more
Thursday, November 30, 2017

With the light falling just right, you can imagine yourself in Tuscany when at Beaverbrook. While the setting is European, their Dining Room whisks you to the Land of the Rising Sun. Matthew Williams visits

Read more
Monday, November 20, 2017

With the festive season fast approaching, in no particular order we pick 10 of the best butchers in Surrey to pick up your turkey this Christmas

Read more
Monday, November 6, 2017

We pick some of the best places in Surrey to enjoy a festive take on the quintessential English tradition of afternoon tea at Christmas

Read more
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dark and chilly winter evenings are perfect for huddling in the corner of a country pub with friends, catching up over beer and supper in front of a log fire. Surrey is home to cosy pubs a-plenty – here are ten of the top places to go…

Read more
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Surrey Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Surrey's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search