La Barbe, Reigate, Surrey RH2 7AN - restaurant review

One of the Surrey's top French restaurants, La Barbe in Reigate is celebrating an impressive 25 years of being in business. JOHN HUGHES went along to sample it for himself

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine January 2009Reviewed: La Barbe, Bell Street, Reigate, Surrey RH2 7AN Tel: 01737 241966One of the Surrey's top French restaurants, La Barbe in Reigate is celebrating an impressive 25 years of being in business. JOHN HUGHES went along to sample it for himself

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Is it my imagination or is there a dearth of real French restaurants in Surrey? Certainly, La Barbe is one of the few, and a splendid flagship of the genre, having served fine French cuisine in Reigate's Bell Street for 25 years - a longevity that speaks for itself in the face of tough culinary competition. Most people I know have dined there, or if not know of it by reputation; and the reputation is good. In fact, this popular establishment has just received a special mention in the prestigious Harden's UK Restaurant Guide 2009. Belle ambiance As you walk through the door, the atmosphere is hugely appealing - intimate, tasteful and unpretentious - with French waiters and waitresses and a genuinely French menu rather than a European hybrid. Three of us for dinner again this time - myself, photographer Helen and guest Mary Ann. In such surroundings, how could I fail to choose escargots for a starter, cooked simply in garlic butter and served with lots of bread with which to mop it up. Mind you, Helen's beetroot bavarois served with marinated scallops on the plate next to me looked equally inviting, with Mary Ann's moules marinieres served in cream and saffron a close third (I tried a few - large, succulent and quite the finest I've tasted in a long while). On to the main course and for me it was lemon sole fillet with spinach and salmon mousseline, potato gnocchi and spinach cream; delightfully presented (as all the mains were) and a tantalisingly delicate blend of flavours. Helen's choice was much richer - roasted duck breast with orange and ginger bread sauce and shredded potato pancake. Similarly, Mary Ann enjoyed the full flavour of venison saddle served with cranberry sauce and roasted apple with bacon and fresh thyme. Two desserts between three was plenty - a generous chocolate sponge cake with white chocolate cream and cherries, and a selection of home-made sorbets. The latter were to die for, and one in particular, blackberry, was exceptionally delicious. Bearing in mind the complex variety of our dishes, I chose a simple wine, a Cotes du Rhone Villages, which turned out to complement some of them but not others. Pleasant nevertheless and one of the more modestly priced from a wine list I would dearly love to investigate further. C'est magnifique! My verdict on La Barbe? Magnifique! If you've been before, go again as head chef Laurent creates a new menu every season, and if not, you're in for a treat.

Meanwhile, check out their website where Laurent reveals his secrets - click on Recipe of the Month, Recipe Archives and Chef's Tips... and bon app�tit!

What we ateDinner (2 courses �24.95 / 3 courses �29.95) Starters Escargots de Bourgogne Timbale de Betterave au Carpaccio de Saint Jacques Moules Marinieres a la Crme de Safran Main Courses Lorghette de Sole Rotie aux Gnocchis, Crme d'Epinard Magret de Canard a l'Orange et Pain d'Espice, Pomme Darphin Pave de venaison aux airelles, Pomme Rotie au Thym et Bacon Desserts Assiettes de Sorbets Maison Chocolate Sponge Cake Drinks Cotes du Rhone Villages Sols et Sens 2007 �23 Verdict Food and drink 9 Service 9 Venue 9

3 other French restaurants in Surrey to try...

The French Table, 85 Maple Road, Surbiton KT6 4AW: 0208 399 2365 A family-run business, the French Table was nominated for 'Best Local Restaurant' by Time Out. La Buvette, 6 Church Walk, Richmond TW9 1SN: 0208 940 6264 Popular with the rich and famous, La Buvette is regarded as one of the most fashionable eateries in Richmond. Le Chien Qui Fume, 107 Walton Road, East Molesey KT8 0DR: 0208 979 7150 Inspired by Au Chien Qui Fume in Paris, this restaurant has been cooking fine French cuisine for over 30 years.

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