The Dozen, Dorking
Gawd knows we love a revamp on Muddy so it's hello, how are you and make mine three courses at The Dozen restaurant.
Head to Dorking and you’ll find The Dozen restaurant at The White Horse inn, smack bang in the middle of the High Street. This historic coaching house dates back to the 13th century in parts and has a rich history.
The hotel was taken over by Bespoke Hotels (who also own The Talbot Inn, in Ripley) in January last year – and they’ve ploughed £4 million into it, with striking results.
The Dozen is a new destination ‘concept’ restaurant made up of several interconnecting rooms and a stylish bar. The Dozen Deli is also set to open any day and will sell a wide range of produce from Dorking as well as further afield in Surrey.
The interiors are cool and quirky, with a luxurious feel. Teal green feature walls and interesting art abound – a huge white tiled mosaic of a horse, artfully displayed cutlery (yes, knives, forks and spoons!!), mass groupings of framed prints – and cosy areas set aside with sumptuous big leather sofas, velvet chairs and masses of cushions all cosily lit by artfully arranged lamps.
There’s a strong nod to the inn’s connection to Charles Dickens who wrote some of The Pickwick Papers while staying here during the mid 19th century. References are dotted all around – including Dickensian prints on the walls, books in the rooms and dishes on the menu (who’s for Mr Pickwick’s Afternoon Tea?) and even a Dickens-themed cocktail list.
SCOFF & QUAFF
I reckon you’re going to love eating here. Head chef James O’Grady – former head chef at Soho House’s Dean Street Townhouse in London – has put together a menu with something for everyone. Doing the classics well, offerering a range of smaller bites, as well as something bigger) and all with a strong emphasis on local produce.
I ate at lunchtime from the a la carte menu (but the set menu was good value) and it had a pleasingly European/ Modern British feel (catch that vibe while you can). My good friend Kate (and fellow journo) was my taster in crime, having just moved to the area. The restaurant had a warm, buzzy vibe without feeling frenetic or hurried.
The Green Goddess, Diana Moran, was among the other diners – added a indisputable touch of elegance to the place, and still looking as stunning as ever. Like us, she and her friend were in no hurry. But it’s that kind of place – relaxed, almost homely, but also urbane and chic.
But back to the food. Being the greedy piglet I am, I went the whole hog (geddit!!) and ordered starters, mains and then pud, plus coffee. My starter was the salad of white crab, avocado and tomato with coriander dressing, and like Kate’s carpaccio of beetroot, goats curd and walnuts with balsamic and thyme looked almost too good to eat. I said almost.
Moving on to mains, I don’t often pass on the moules, and went with the steamed mussels with white wine, cream garlic and parsley. Is there a better combination of flavours, I ask you? Kate went for the roast squash and sage risotto. And there was not a scrap of food left, so safe to say we enjoyed it. In fact, I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur of moules and these were the best I’ve had in a long time.
Puds were great too – I was genuinely torn between three on the menu, but eventually opted for the Cambridge Burnt Cream, the British version of the crème brulee, while Kate went for the Loseley Park sorbet.
I didn’t stay overnight – but being a nosey parker, I did have a look at the hotel accommodation and I can safely say you wouldn’t be disappointed. Rooms are stylish and simple with luxurious touches.
I reckon so – if they’re well-behaved – but I’m sure they’d be the first to admit that they’re friendly rather than focused on children.
OUT & ABOUT
With the North Downs on your doorstep, and Box Hill and Leith Hill both not far, there’s plenty for walkers and cyclists. Dorking is a lovely town to mooch about in, with plenty of antiques and vintage shops, art galleries and independent shops to browse in.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: From date nights to girly lunches to business lunches and everything else in between – it’s great food in fab spot. Large groups and special occasions are also perfect here – as there’s scope for private dining.
Not for: I can’t really think who wouldn’t like The Dozen. I guess if you’re after a super-posh dining experience, this may not cut the mustard. I’d also say the grown-up and elegant feel may not be the perfect setting for families with small children.
The damage: Middle of the road. Starters £5.50-9.50; mains £12-£22.50, steaks £21-£25; pudding £5.50-£6.50 (£9.95 for a selection of local cheeses).
The Dozen @ The White Horse, High street, Dorking, Surrey, United Kingdom RH4 1BE. Tel: 01306 881138.