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French fancy

A truly French restaurant - and a well-loved Surrey institution - La Barbe in Reigate is the perfect spot for a family Sunday lunch.


La Barbe is a something of an institution in Reigate – it’s been there over 35 years – on Bell Street, just across the road from Priory Park. If you’re not from this part of Surrey, it’s well worth travelling for. And so is Priory Park with its pretty formal gardens, lake, woodlands and great children’s play area. On weekends, kids under 10 eat free at La Barbe when they’re with two paying adults – so this is the perfect time to combine a trip to the park with a lovely French lunch. Snails anyone?


There’s a classic and classy feel to La Barbe, with its crisp white table cloths, white walls and wood flooring. Quirky art adorns the walls. In the main part of the restaurant tables are almost sectioned off from each other by booths or plants which makes it quite a good place for a romantic tryst. But there’s also a more open section at the back, which is perfect for families.

It’s totally authentically French, and indeed you do feel like you could be sitting in a cute Parisian restaurant – the lovely views across to the high walls and tall trees of Priory Park only add to that ambience. And of course, the French waiters also keep things genuine and real.


The menu is properly French and offered for a set price for two courses or three courses – depending on whether you come for lunch or dinner. As you’d expect it’s a little more if you’re dining on a Friday or Saturday evening.

The Sunday lunch menu is good value at £24 for two courses and £29 for three courses. There are traditional French favourites, like escargots as well as seasonal choices. It’s a fairly meaty menu, but there area also very good fish and vegetarian options.

Shall we get stuck in? I ordered the smoked haddock and mackerel terrine with lime and coriander which came served with elegant little blinis, while Mr M went for the soup of the day a French onion.

I my terrine and blinis were perfectly presented and beautifully light and tasty. I sampled a little spoonful of the soup, and it was divine – the onions a beautifully rich caramelisation and the broth thick and silky.

For mains, I went for the Cod fillet with a mint and lemon crust a saffron sauce and pea risotto. Good choice! It was lovely. Mr M went all meaty, and chose a beef fillet from the specials menu. I had a little forkful of this too, and I can say – hand on my heart – this is the best beef I’ve eaten. It was so tender it almost melted in the mouth. I ordered a side salad, and Mr M order the potatoes dauphinois.

I love a pudding, so it was always going to be the three course option – and it was the perfect way to round off a particularly pleasant lunch. I chose the Mirabelle plum iced dessert with plum coulis – which was like super posh ice-cream. Mr M is a sucker for crème brûlée – so I wasn’t surprised he chose the Apricot crème brûlée. We were both very happy!

Keen to draw out the loveliness of our afternoon, we lingered over a couple of coffees before heading off to Priory Park for a post lunch wander.


Kids under 10 eat free on a Sunday – so most definitely. I was chatting to the owner Serge, and he said they take pretty relaxed approached to kids. If the kids want to try a snail, they’ll bring out a snail. It’s all about introducing them to French cuisine.


The obvious place is Priory Park. Or take a little wander around Reigate – it’s a very pretty market town with plenty of independent boutiques and High Street stores to please the most selective of shoppers.


Good for: Sundays at La Barbe are perfect for family gatherings. But also good for couples who may want to combine a romantic wander through the Priory Park gardens with a lunch for two. It’s also a great spot for girly lunches, large groups and special occasions.

Not for: There’s a formality to La Barbe – table cloths are crisp and white,  and the food it most certainly high-end so don’t go thinking you can order a side of chunky chips or fries. It’s a little more refined than that, although for fine dining – it’s very relaxed.

The damage: The lunch menu – which includes Sundays – is £24 for two and £29 for three courses. The dinner menu from Tuesday to Thursday is £29 for two courses and £34 for three courses, and on a Friday and Saturday evening it’s £32 for two and £37 for three. Sides are £4.50. It’s closed on Sunday evening and Monday.

La Barbe, 71 Bell Street, Reigate, RH2 7AN. Tel: 01737 241 966.

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