A Fab Time at The Clock House, Ripley – It’s bad enough for the boss of any restaurant when the head chef decides to leave, but imagine how stressful it must be if you have a Michelin star to ‘protect’? Well, when I’d heard that The Clock House, just down the A3 in Ripley, had a new chef, I just had to head down there to see if Luke Spier (ex-Gordon Ramsay Group and Simon Rogan’s Roganic) had managed to retain the restaurant’s star-studded sparkle. Reader, I’m delighted to confirm that he has, in fork-loads!
We started our evening with drinks in the elegant upstairs cocktail bar overlooking the garden while perusing the five-course tasting menu. In previous summer visits we’ve been able to enjoy a preprandial on the terrace overlooking this classic Georgian house’s walled garden. Once seated, this amazing meal glided into full swing. Amuse bouches of croustades of smoked trout, trout eggs, horseradish emulsion and pickled fennel were delicious, but the accompanying cheese doughnut with Gouda and truffle was declared ‘one of the most delicious things ever tasted’.
The braised spelt bread rolls were really unusual and tasty. The Jerusalem artichoke braised spelt, and quail’s eggs was augmented by a serving of broth and we wiped every bowl clean with the delicious bread. This meal was certainly showing great promise! Winter squash, whey, fig leaf and pumpkin seed followed: this simple-looking course was a mastery of flavours, textures, earthy notes and a Smokey, nutty deliciousness.
We could have chosen to have the wine pairing menu but opted for a bottle of Gruner Vetliner and then an excellent Malbec – both reasonably priced from an eclectic and well composed wine list that caters for all tastes and budgets.
The fish course next was Cornish Brill, celeriac, preserved walnut and pine. Again, the flair of the chef shone through, and the vegetable pairing and preparation of the vegetable accompaniments took them to new heights – it was fabulous.
The meat course was next: Dexter beef, hen of the woods mushroom, bone marrow and smoked potato. Luke, the head chef, came to our table to serve and explain the dish. This was quickly devoured and declared another triumph.
The Clock House cheese selection is an added extra, but well worth choosing. We finished the red wine sharing a well curated selection of English cheeses, they were served with the most divine home-made crackers.
The 85% Pump St chocolate, buckwheat and Scotch caramel described on the menu, certainly undersold the dessert…wow! Again, culinary mastery in full flow.
Coffee and fresh peppermint tea rounded off a superb meal, but there was still more excitement to come with the petits fours. We had pumpkin jellies, juniper fudge with apple gel and caramelised chocolate canelés – a stupendous end to an incredible meal.
The Clock House is serious fine dining at its best. It isn’t cheap, but it’s still excellent value for money for the quality of food and service. Owner Serina Drake certainly has the knack of selecting a good head chef and a top-quality front of house team. If you have a celebration to plan, or just want to inject some indulgence into the rather austere winter that we’re threatened with, then do take yourself down to Ripley for lunch or dinner.