|Venue||The Clock House, High Street, Ripley, Surrey. GU23 6AQ|
|Bill||£400 for 4|
This is a single Michelin star restaurant, and with such an accolade you may think you should be blown away with every mouthful and gold plated to boot. However you should prepare yourself for disappointment and need never worry about having a mouthful. We were a party of four and with one bottle of wine and with one aperitif each the bill was £400 – ouch!
This place is not about food it is about art and the chefs talent to create those dishes that should be mounted, polished and placed inside glass cabinets with little plates that detail the lengths to which he has gone to prepare such delicacies.
We arrived at 19:00 (note the military timing its important) on a warm summers evening and we were greeted at the door to take names and coats. No problem. We were then taken to our table to the rear of the restaurant and we took our seats and asked if we would like any drinks. Sounding good. We ordered an aperitif each and started to look at the menu. My wife saw there was a garden with guests in and thought why not take our drinks outside as we don’t get many summer evenings when you can do this. So I got up from the table to find the waiter to tell him what we would like to do. “Non monsieur, as you need to order now so the chef can stagger the orders and as you booked your table for 19:15 then you need to order now”. At £100 per head I think I am entitled to eat sitting on the roof if I choose. He was having none of it.
I returned to the table and told my firends that we were not allowed to go outside as we must order now. Correct me if I am wrong by all means but surely the chef is working for the guests and not us working for the chef. Any way we did what we were told and obeyed.
After much deliberation two of us wanted to order the tasting plate in place of a starter and main whilst the other two wanted a starter and main. Would you think that was easy? Definitely not as we were told by the waiter that if two wanted the tasting plate then the whole table had to order the tasting plate. So, trying to understand this I asked what if we were a table of 2 would we be able to order the tasting plate. “Yes”. Now this logic was getting under my skin and I thought now it’s play time. “OK great” I thought “can we have another table set up next to this one and then treat us as two table?” “No” was the reply. “Why not?” “Because we are fully booked”
I just wish I had started this blog site many years ago as I have so many gems like this.
Anyway once again we complied and decided to order a tasting plate for four.
Then came the wine order. As you might expect Drakes has a sommelier on hand and is quite probably very knowledgable. Well I freely admit that I am not one life’s great wine connosseurs and I do not feel restricted to red with meat and white with fish. So with this in mind spending the bank on a bottle is not my idea of fun. We will happily spend £20 on a bottle but after that then everything is soured by the price. My wife took responsibility for this and she too shares a similar understanding. She tried to ask for something that accommodated both pallet and wallet but kept having it pointed out to her that there were better wines to have with the starting plate. At times like this, waiters be warned for future reference, you should not push my wife as she is quite capable of standing up and letting the whole restaurant know what wine she would like. She didn’t this time and after a third time of asking she got what she wanted. She always does!
The wine arrived and it was great. The food arrived and wow, your knives and forks are surplus to requirements. It looks beautiful but you sure do hope that there are about twenty of these dishes to come! Sadly not as there were only five in all and needless to say you were left hungry. Some may say well its not meant to satisfy any hunger its just a taster. Well I’m sorry to say that at £100 a head I want some satisfaction!
Then came desserts. These too are masterpieces which lend themselves to taking the perfect picture for your web site much like a skinny cat walk clothes horse is to the latest fashions i.e. something that looks great when dressed but not something you should take the covers off!
Finally we ordered the cheese board between four, well this took the biscuit – no pun intended! Because cheese is cheese there is not much you can do with this to dress it up except enjoy it. That would have been easy if there had been enough of it. The portions were so small you could be forgiven that war had broken out and rationing was the order of the day. In fact what was served was not enough for one let alone four. So those of you with a shakey hand and rather concerned about cutting too large a slice at a cost to your table you need to have an excuse prepared. I suggest you don’t tell the table you are full as they will not believe you.
Now the bill, what could be simpler? It came perfectly itemised and tallied to the penny, marvellous. However as is so often the case service charge was not included. Now instead of leaving this to our discretion we were told no less than three times that service was not included together with much smiling and insincere “hope everything was alright with your meal, sir”. On reflection I should have got up from the table and announced to the whole restaurant that service was not included and seen where that would go, alas I didn’t.
- Nouvelle cusine should not mean ‘see what we can hide beautifully on an empty plate!’
- A sommellier is a nice touch but such a refined and knowledgable pallett should be complimented with the skills that recognises a table that would not know the difference between a bottle of Yellow Tail and a 1989 Cheval Blanc.
- Customers should not feel they are working to the chef’s timetable.
- A menu should not create an opportunity that divides a table like the tasting plate does i.e. everyone has it or no one has it
- If you are so desperate for a tip include it on the bill without all the begging at the end
- Don’t become super friendly when the bill arrives it’s nothing the customer will feel good about
- It should not be a problem if guests want to take their aperitifs outside when it can be clearly seen that this is an opportunity others are enjoying.
- There are some great cheeses but the portions should not require the cutting skills of a key-hole surgeon.
Would I go back? Not if I’m hungry, as it would seem rather odd to go back to a restaurant that cannot feed you faster than your hunger can be satisfied and mugging you for the privilege.