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The Clock House, Ripley, Surrey GU23 6AQ – restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 09:35 13 June 2017 | UPDATED: 09:35 13 June 2017

The snacks at The Clock House, Ripley

The snacks at The Clock House, Ripley

Archant

It’s been a year of change at The Clock House in Ripley, with many wondering what the future would hold for the restaurant formerly known as Drake’s. Matthew Williams finds the dawn of a new adventure

The Clock House restaurant, Ripley The Clock House restaurant, Ripley

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine May 2017

***

Need to know

The Clock House, High Street, Ripley, Surrey GU23 6AQ

Tel: 01483 224777. Web: theclockhouserestaurant.co.uk

What we ate

Dinner tasting menu with wine flight, £120 per person

***

REVIEW: It’s not often that I start a restaurant review by writing about a salt ‘shaker’ but then rarely is sodium chloride as remarkably pretty as the pink rock that greets you on the tables at The Clock House. Looking more like a precious gem collectors’ pièce de résistance than something to sprinkle on your unsalted butter, we find it an immediate conversation starter – even if, at first, we’re not 100% sure what it is!

A gift from a friend’s trip to Scandinavia, head chef Fred Clapperton loved it so much that he had vowed to use it whenever he got round to having his own restaurant – whether the 28-year-old imagined that coming about as quickly as The Clock House’s transformation from Drake’s has is another matter entirely.

Having joined Drake’s at the end of 2012 as demi chef de partie, Fred had been sous chef since November 2013 and officially took the helm when Steve Drake stepped aside last summer. Having allowed a little time for him to get his feet behind the stove, Surrey Life decided it was time for the short trip round the M25 to see how things are going…

The journey begins

For those who haven’t made the journey to Ripley before, it’s just about as close to ‘dream village’ as Surrey gets – and, just off its exceptional little High Street, you’ll find The Clock House in a beautiful Georgian building. On our visit, we’re welcomed by manager Joseph Pocceschi, who has previous at Foxhills and Pennyhill Park. There’s the option of enjoying a drink in the cosy bar area, but we head straight for the elegant dining room – and our first sighting of that salt...

There’s a playfulness and intensity to the ‘snacks’ we enjoy with a glass of bubbly (the petits fours providing the other book¬end to the tasting menu have a similar joy to them). It’s a promising start. They are visually striking, texturally engaging and as delicious in the mouth as they are to the eye.

It’s touches like this that mean Fred has quickly managed to get the restaurant’s 3 AA rosettes reinstated, which like Michelin stars are automatically lost when a head chef moves on. That already puts them back on a level with The Latymer, The Tudor Room and the Mulberry (for more, see ‘3 more’ right).

The bread served up is fresh out of the oven and finally gives us the chance to try out that salt and grater art installation’s more practical purpose – I’m still talking about salt aren’t, I?! Well let’s move on…

Taste and texture

First to the table is the hugely flavourful broccoli, ox tail, blue cheese and walnut. It’s an eye-catching little dish that’s packed with big flavours. The freshness of the broccoli melding expertly with the deep ox tail and the vigorous bite of the blue cheese.

The wine flight really begins here, and it’s a delight to chat to The Clock House’s new sommelier, Stephen Mostad – fresh into Ripley via New York. Fascinatingly, it turns out he previously worked for the UN and you suspect he has many tales to tell over a glass or two.

Next up, a tender scallop with earthy mushroom, crispy chicken skin and sea beets (served with Chateau de Campuget ‘1753’ Viognier, VdP du Gard 2016) – a classic.

I find the gnocchi, onion, watercress and leek (served with Bibliotheque Semillion/Sauvignon, Magaret River, Australia 2015) a delight with its almost treacly broth.

The brill is a succulent bit of fish (served with Zibibbo, Pantelleria Blanco DOC, Sicilia, Italy 2015) brought into added 4D life by a slash of spiced pumpkin across the plate.

We’re told the beef dish (served with Trus Reserva, Ribera del Duero, Spain 2005) is what sold Fred as head chef to owner Serina Drake and it’s not hard to see why. With dramatic height brought to the table by the brassicas, it’s an elegant treatment of another classic dish and with a massive red wine to accompany melds homely with elevated style.

Throughout the evening my eyes are drawn to the large window that looks out to the pretty garden – it’s really easy to imagine yourself relaxing with an aperitif out there!

Chocolate, thyme and rose is a decadently rich follow up act for the beef, while blackberry, hibiscus, apples and shortbread (served with Glen Carlou “The Welder” Chenin Blanc, Paarl, South Africa 2015) is all about the juicy tanginess.

Considering the expectations, The Clock House is making giant steps back to the heights it’s used to. Fred is clearly his own man but also fully aware of the challenges ahead. It’s a place that’s proud of its past but fully focussed on a bright new future.

***

3 more three AA rosette restaurants

Matt Worswick at The Latymer

Pennyhill Park Hotel & The Spa, London Road, Bagshot GU19 5EU

Tel: 01276 486156 Web: pennyhillpark.co.uk

Recently refurbished, an exciting year surely lies in wait for head chef Matt Worswick and his team at The Latymer.

The Tudor Room at Great Fosters

Stroude Road, Egham TW20 9UR

Tel: 01784 433822. Web: greatfosters.co.uk

Currently Surrey’s only Michelin starred restaurant, head chef Douglas Balish has made this intimate dining room one of the best in the land.

Mulberry at Langshott Manor

Ladbroke Road, Horley RH6 9LN

Tel: 01293 786680

Web: alexanderhotels.co.uk

Quietly moving up the AA rankings with executive chef Phil Dixon, the Mulberry is a picture perfect retreat.

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