What: A high-reaching fine dining restaurant in Dorking. To say that the Surrey town’s dining scene has been shaken up by its arrival is quite an understatement. Though affluent, Dorking is not an obvious place for a restaurant like Sorrel - the current market is more Côte than haute.
Who: Roux Scholar Steve Drake. He has a glowing CV that includes spells at some of London’s most renowned restaurants including Chez Nico at Ninety Park Lane; Oak Room; Pied a Terre; and Aubergine, alongside stints at French three-stars L’Arpège and L’Auberge de l’Eridan. Drake won his first Michelin star at Drake’s on the Pond in Abinger Hammer, Surrey, when he was 29 and held the same accolade for well over a decade at his Drake’s restaurant in nearby Ripley. The 43-year-old chef left Drake’s last year after splitting with wife Serina, with whom he co-ran the business. Drake continues to run The Anchor, an upmarket pub across the road from his former flagship – now called The Clock House – that opened in 2013.
The vibe: Drake looks to have ploughed everything into Sorrel’s handsome, red-bricked building. The biggest investment has been a cube-shaped glass kitchen extension (the space originally intended to be the kitchen was deemed too small and has been relegated to a prep kitchen) that affords guests a great view of service and also creates a fantastic, natural light-filled, working environment for his team. The complexity of the building work at the 300-year-old building has seen the project overrun, with the site originally scheduled to open this summer. Sorrel has been designed by Alexander Waterworth Interiors, which has a portfolio that includes Anabel’s and The Q Grill at Selfridges. There are comfy chairs clad in grey velvet, white walls, some exposed brick work and lots of characterful wooden beams.
Drake's progress: Sorrel's dining room is stunning
The food: “My vision for Sorrel has always been to create a connection between what’s happening in the kitchen and the dining room,” says Drake. “With the new open-plan design, as soon as you walk through the door you catch a glimpse of the pass and the chefs at work giving you an instant hit of energy and creativity. Having spent the past year refining and simplifying my cooking, I want to ensure every element of the dish shines.”
The launch menu is restrained yet creative with a focus on local produce. There is a £35 lunch menu, an evening à la carte menu from £55 and two tastings menus (£60 for five courses and £90 for nine courses). Dishes include 21-day aged raw venison, bitter orange, dried watercress, smoked egg yolk; turbot, broccoli, gewurztraminer mussels, miso butter; and hibiscus ice, cinnamon mousse, pear, pedro ximenez syrup.
Wooden delivery: Raw mackerel with lovage and crispy filo
And another thing: Drake has made his ambitions for Sorrel clear. He has for some time been regarded as a chef with the requisite talent to eventually win two stars. A change of scene and an operational set-up that will allow him to spend much more time on development could see him do just that.
77 South Street, Dorking