The Gallery Restaurant
For fine dining with a possibly the best views in Surrey, The Gallery Restaurant at Denbies Wine Estate is the one. And the wine's pretty good too.
The Gallery Restaurant is the posher of the two eateries at Denbies Wine Estate, just a few minutes drive from Dorking. It’s tucked away on the third floor in the main Denbies winery building and has fabulous 360 degree views out over the 265 acre estate as far as Box Hill and the North Downs.
You arrive at the restaurant via a glass lift which brings you to a simple but stylish and contemporary space. The tables are all positioned near the windows to make the most of those views – really, it’s the views that grab your attention when you arrive.
There’s a formal feel to the restaurant – the tables are dressed in while linen – but it avoids being overly stiff and stuffy largely due to the friendly, informal staff and the simple surroundings.
The restaurant is open only three evenings a week (Thurs, Fri and Sat), and every day for lunch. On the Friday lunchtime that I was there, it busy and buzzy.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The menu here is small and simple – which really speaks to me. Give me five cracking options over 17 so-so ones any day. Head chef Aleksandrs Bogdanovs sources his ingredients from suppliers throughout Surrey and the south-east where possible – and while the menu isn’t designed specifically to sit alongside the Denbies wines, the waiters are more than happy to make recommendations.
I started with the warm lobster salad which came with grapefruit, char-grilled artichoke, caviar, corstini and Denbies Demi-Sec jelly. Pretty non? And delicious too. Mr Muddy when for the flamed celeriac and sour apple soup which he was happy with.
We moved onto mains and went for the lemon beignets (that’s French for fritter) with a cep velouté, blackened turnips, sale baked celeriac and pickled radish; Mr M chose the pan fried halibut, saffron potatoes, pumpkin puree, pickled fennel and clam and chorizo velouté. Apart from looking very elegant, the flavours combined beautifully.
The portions are perfect for a three course lunch, so we moved into dessert without any fuss. Mr M chose the dark chocolate fondant, while I went for the hazelenut and sesame mousse. Yum, yum and yum.
As you’d expect of a winery, wine is available by the glass – and on our waiters’ suggestion washed my food down with the Denbies’ Flint Valley white, while Mr M chose the more floral Surrey Gold.
Nope, not really! There’s a distinctly grown-up feel to The Gallery. Although I’m sure if your kids are well-behaved they’d be welcome. Let’s face it though – how many of us are willing to spend £40-£65 on a kids’ meal anyway? Better to take the small ones to the Conservatory Restaurant downstairs.
OUT & ABOUT
Denbies is a family-owned vineyard – the UK’s largest – producing sparkling, rose, white and red wines. You could easily spend a day here. Outdoor vineyard train tour runs between March and October, while indoor winery tours and tasting experiences run daily on the hour between 11am-4pm.
There are seven miles of public footpaths throughout the vineyard, and Box Hill is only a short drive away. Denbies also has an art gallery space on the first floor, with regular exhibitions.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Those looking for accessible fine dining, and of course lovers of local wine.
Not for: Those looking for a city-style buzz – the elegant surrounds makes The Gallery Restaurant a classy choice but you’re surrounded by countryside.
The damage: Starters are between £7 and £12.50, mains are from £14.25 for a vegetarian dish up to £28.50 for 8oz beef tenderloin. Sides are £2.95. Desserts are around the £8-£10 mark. A 250ml glass of Denbies wine is from £6.75-£9.25.
The Gallery Restaurant, Denbies Wine Estate, London Road, Dorking, RH5 6AA. Tel: 01306 876616 (ext. 0). denbies.co.uk