Thursday 15 April 2010

Drakes on the Pond, Surrey

Despite being asked sternly "you won't cancel this time, will you?" when I made my reservation, I had high hopes for Drakes on the Pond, located in the hilariously-named Abinger Hammer. My dad's birthday lunch, rescheduled due to illness, took place here on Good Friday.

The car park was littered with expensive cars, but when we entered the restaurant we were greeted by a quiet hush. A sunny room, there were only two other tables occupied by aging couples. Shuffling around uncomfortably for a minute or two, we were greeted by the lone waitress and shown to our table before she disappeared completely. After a wait, she eventually emerged to offer us drinks. Dressed casually, she gave the impression that she owned or was a parner of the place. I had to ask her to take our coats. At this point I was afraid to even cough, the restaurant was so quiet and it made for an awkward dining experience, devoid of any ambience aside from what we created ourselves.

We were only offered a set menu, each course with three options. My starter was chicken liver parfait; a huge block of silky smooth liver accompanied by heady truffle-scented brioche and a plum chutney to lighten things up a bit. It was a mammoth portion, and as delicious as it was, there was not enough chutney or bread. Or perhaps there was too much parfait. It was left half finished.

My main, a fillet of cod on creamed potatoes and leeks with a scallop roe sauce was well cooked. The potatoes and leeks had obviously been made with swathes of butter while the sauce was only vaguely reminiscient of its description. It was a very rich dish, and it could have done with an acidic element to balance it out. Across the table, lamb fillet was disappointingly over-cooked.

We decided against dessert and had coffees instead. Petit fours were "cocoa-dusted lumps of butter" and rather unpalatable.

To add to the lacking ambience and general comfort of the room, service was pretty shocking. Don't, for example, leave our bottle of wine on a shelf by the side when there's perfectly enough room on the table and then leave our glasses empty - I am not a fan of empty glasses. No water was offered, and the waitress seemed to be more interested in sitting down and having a natter with one of the other couples, obviously friends of hers, than doing her job properly. I am in complete bafflement as to why they still have a Michelin star. The food may have been worth the £20 for two courses, but based on this experience, don't bother.

Drakes on the Pond

Dorking Road
Abinger Hammer,
Dorking RH5 6SA

Tel: 01306 731 174


Paunchos said...

Boo hiss. Sounds like they missed the mark. Love the name of the place though. Full marks for that. And I'd rather have too much pate than too little. But the small touches make a big difference.

Mr Noodles said...

Not being a star-watcher, I was surprised by your penultimate sentence that this place had a Michelin star. Especially as I always service was a key factor in gaining the accolade. And overcooked lamb just isn't on either.

Chris Pople said...

Very well written, very fair review. As much as we all think it's all about the food, this is a classic example of how shocking service can kill a meal which could have been half-decent. I'm not likely to schlep out to Surrey based on this experience.

AdLand Suit said...

Empty glasses? They can fuck right off. Even if you DO tend to empty your glass pretty damn fast.

Helen said...

Sounds like you did it so we don't have to. I hate that - if you're going to try and be a bit clever by putting the wine on the side then you need to take responsibility for topping it up, which you should do anyway. And also, no atmos! Nowt worse than a stuffy restaurant. I'd rather go to Tayyabs.

Anonymous said...

Yes, happens...

R, Ewer-Smith said...

I have been to Drakes on several occasions. I have nothing but praise, the food is excellent and the service friendly.

It is a relaxed and happy place, who wants London stuffiness and higher prices.

Did you complain or just moan afterwards?

Hollow Legs said...

R, Ewer-Smith: I don't think stuffiness is London-only. Your description sounds like a different place altogether.

No, I didn't complain at the time. I can just imagine beckoning the waitress over - "excuse me, I'd like to complain about you and your service". There wasn't even anyone to complain to.

Paul J said...

I took my wife here after hearing good things from friends that later informed us that they hadn't been since Steve Drake sold the restaurant. We had an almost identical experience except that the lady in charge spent the whole time cross questioning us despite our reluctance to enter into conversation with her.
The food was adequate but not worthy of a Michelin Star. The final straw for me was when the "Waitress" asked my wife where her handbag came from and then badgered us as to how much she had paid for it. We won't be returning or recommending Drakes on the Pond.