As little sister to its Michelin-starred elder, the Anchor's adventurous pub grub has a proper pedigree and a chef who just wants to serve ‘really good food'.
Situated in the chocolate-box Surrey village of Ripley, the Grade II-listed Anchor pub was acquired by restaurateurs Steve and Serina Drake, together with their friends and neighbours Chris and Lisanne Mealing, last November.
As the owners of Drake's, their Michelin-starred restaurant in Ripley High Street, which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary, Steve and Serina have built up a well-earned reputation for outstanding food and service among the Surrey locals and much further beyond.
But taking over a pub to run alongside their flagship restaurant is a whole different ballgame and, as such, the Drakes appointed a completely separate management team to run the 40-seat, recently refurbished property, which dates back to the early 16th century.
"We don't want the Anchor to compete with Drake's," explains Steve. "We have tapped into a very different market here, and hope that people will feel they can come to eat maybe twice a week. On Sundays it's full of families."
Stepping into the limelight is Michael Wall-Palmer, formerly head chef at Drake's, who has worked alongside Steve just shy of five years. In 27-year-old Wall-Palmer, who previously worked under Tim Powell at the Goodwood hotel, the Anchor has a chef who balances a fine-dining background with a desire to serve "just really good food".
The food is already delivering, and on the day Caterer and Hotelkeeper visited, news had just reached Wall-Palmer of his award of two AA rosettes. Customer reviews, too, were flooding in on TripAdvisor, where the new-look Anchor is described as serving "first-rate" food and being "very good value" for money.
The single-page menu begins with "snacks" (£4.50 each), including cauliflower, curried almond praline (a coffee cup of creamy soup with a gentle hint of curry, blended with almond praline crumbs for texture) and pork crackling (made from steamed belly rind, dehydrated for 30 hours and deep-fried for service - think prawn crackers) served with baked apple sauce.
Starters feature a few larger portions of the snacks, such as the cauliflower soup (£6) and cod croquettes, tartar sauce, pea purée (£8), but also include cured Loch Duart salmon, cucumber salad, crispy mussels (£9), and a selection of British cured meats with Seville orange chutney (£7.50). The platter of cured meats highlights the fine produce Wall-Palmer is able to source from local butcher F Conisbee & Son in nearby East Horsley.
A main course proving to bea big hitter, which hails back to Steve's time at Drakes on the Pond in Abinger Hammer in Surrey and where he won his first Michelin star, is slow-cooked duck leg, beetroot, mashed potato and horseradish (£14), as well as beef sirloin, mushroom purée, charred leek and miso béarnaise (£19).
While the food at the Anchor is a departure from its grown-up sister, it is, nevertheless, a million miles from your average pub grub. This is no better played out than among the elegant desserts, which include caramelised vanilla custard, Granny Smith apple (£6), a throwback from Drake's early days in Ripley, and blood orange sorbet, mandarin mousse, almond and mint (£6) - a refreshing glass of scrumptiousness with a sprinkling of caramelised nuts for texture.
High Street, Ripley, Surrey GU23 6AEwww.ripleyanchor.co.uk
Sample dishes from the menu
Chicken, ham and leek terrine, beetroot relish, £8
Trout croquettes, tartare sauce, pea purée, £8
Braised pork belly, swede, black pepper and apple, £8
Roast saddle of venison, sweet potato and pickled blackberries, £17
Sea bream, parsnip, watercress and red wine sauce, £15
Celeriac and pearl barley pudding, chestnut dumplings and apple, £12
Chocolate ganache, milk jam and yogurt, £6
Caramelised vanilla custard, Granny Smith apple, £6
Frozen ginger mousse, rhubarb and pistachio, £6