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Salt Pig, Dorking

THE LOWDOWN / LOCATION

Salt Pig is fairly new addition to the Dorking food scene – having opened little more than six months ago in the pretty Grade II listed building on West Street that was once occupied by Two to Four Restaurant. Dorking-ites (or Dorks, perhaps?) will know this part of town as the antique quarter, and the restaurant is indeed surrounded by many a lovely independent store selling antiques, fine art and collectables.

THE VIBE

You can’t miss Salt Pig, painted as it is a vibrant but tasteful royal blue. Inside, there’s a cosy reception area-cum-cocktail bar with mid-century modern sofas in a vibrant mustard yellow. A fair old wad of cash has been spent updating the interiors, and they’ve been kept simple and stylish. It’s an old building, so ceilings are low and there’s character aplenty: timber beams painted a tasteful French grey, leaded windows, that sort of thing. Fittings are also in keeping, with oversized bare light bulbs and original cast iron radiators.

The restaurant is set over three floors: the reception/cocktail area on the ground floor leads to a small dining room, upstairs is a second dining room and on the top floor – or The Loft as Salt Pig are calling it – is the private dining room with space for 18-25 guests. Don’t be put off by the name though, entry is via a perfectly accessible stair case. No ladders required!

SCOFF & QUAFF

Opening an eatery in the same town and in the same year as the highly-anticipated new restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Steve Drake might seem like nothing short of lunacy. But Salt Pig isn’t vying for the special occasion diner – although the ambience is lovely, so there’s no reason not to dine her on your birthday.

But the owner James Varela wants his restaurant to feel like a home-from-home – somewhere locals can come back to on a regular basis for good quality food that’s simple and tasty. The food is inspired by British classics, and there is indeed a homely quality to it. It’s not a huge menu – which I see as a very good sign – and while Salt Pig suggests a very porky menu, there are also fish and vegetarian options (as well as steak).

The evening à la carte menu offers two courses for £30 and three for £35, with small plates additional (there’s also a surcharge for the steaks). Naturally, I went for the three course option, starting with the sauteed king prawns with Marie Rose, tomato salsa, gem lettuce and citrus avocado. Mr M chose the camembert with fig and onion chutney and a fig and endive salad. Both looked and tasted lovely.

Moving on to mains, and things get a little more robust. Mr M went for the steak, an 8oz dry-aged Hampshire sirloin, which came with handcut chips, watercress salad and grilled vine tomatoes. I felt a little jealous when it arrived – but it my green-eyed moment passed quickly enough with the arrival of my mushroom and chickpea wellington which came with maple glazed carrots and parsnips, buttered Brussels sprouts, creamy mash and a truffle arancini with red wine jus. This is comfort food at its best.

I’ve never been known to pass up a Christmas pudding, and this evening was no exception. It was served with a brandy cream, and didn’t disappoint. Mr M’s clementine posset with cranberry, meringue and fruits perhaps looked prettier – but I was not swapping for anything.

There’s a good selection of wines – by the bottle or the glass – including the restaurant’s own Salt Pig Sauvignon Blanc, a lovely light and smooth Chilean wine. There’s also a good cocktail and gin list.

KID-FRIENDLY?

I see no reason why you wouldn’t bring kids to Salt Pig – although there were none there on the Friday night I visited. There is a grown-up ambience to the place, but it also feels relaxed and friendly. I’d take my teenagers, but would probably leave toddlers at home in the evening. During the day, I’d say it’s a good family spot.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Those who like good quality no-nonsense food. Portion sizes are good, so you certainly won’t go away feeling hungry. It would suit couples, groups of friends and families. The private dining room is also the ideal spot for large groups, so if you’ve got a big birthday or anniversary coming up it would be perfect.

Not for: This is not posh dining, so if you’re channeling the Heston vibe and looking for something a bit more unconventional, move right along.

The damage: Two courses £30, three courses £35 with sides extra (£4 each). Small plates are £3-£6.

Salt Pig, 2-4 West Street, Dorking, RH4 1BL. Tel: 01306 887777. saltpigrestaurant.co.uk

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