La Barbe, Reigate
One of Surrey's top French restaurants, La Barbe serves up classic French cuisine with a flourish of Gallic charm.
Excellent French restaurants are few and far between in Surrey – and this one in Reigate is well worth travelling for. Last year it celebrated its 35 year anniversary, a longevity that speaks volumes in the fickle world of culinary competition. It’s located just across from Priory Park in Bell Street Reigate, and is something of a Reigate institution.
La Barbe is classically French, right down to the waiters. The decor is stylish but understated and unpretentious, with interesting art on white walls, and crisp linen tablecloths and fresh flowers on the tables. There are two parts to the restaurant – one part is cosy and intimate with tables screened off from each other, and the other part is more open so it’s perfect for larger groups or private dining.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The menu is genuinely 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.
You’ll get traditional French favourites like escargot de Bourgogne and bouillabaisse as well as a great choice of seasonal French dishes. I started with the traditional fish bouillabaisse from that evening’s specials board and Mr M chose the tartare de saumon with apple and cucumber. Both dishes were beautifully presented and delicious.
For mains, I stuck with my fish theme and chose the fillets de rouget (red mullet) which came with a fennel crumble and an orange and olive oil dressing. Red mullet isn’t a fish you see often on menus in the UK but it’s popular in France and many Mediterranean countries, no doubt for its delicate taste yet robust textured flesh. Mine was divine.
Mr M chose the croupion d’agneau au jus du romarin, which *cough* if you’re not fluent in French like I am (!!!), is rump of lamb with a rosemary jus. It came with a ratatouille basket. The lamb was utterly melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous and cooked à la perfection.
Pudding was a crème brûlée with candied ginger for him and a roasted peach with date and lavender syrup, and white peach sorbet for moi. Next time, I’ll order the crème brûlée – it was fabulous – not that I’m dissing the roasted peach in any way, it was amazing as well, but the brûlée was très magnifique.
If you like your French wine, you’ll be right at home here. La Barbe offers an extensive selection of vin de Français.
There’s a relaxed feel to La Barbe, and I’ve no doubt that well-behaved kids would be very welcome, but on the Thursday night I was there the mood was distinctly grown up so I’d hesitate to take toddlers or young kids.
OUT & ABOUT
Reigate is a gorgeous market town with plenty of independent boutiques to please the most selective of shoppers. Priory Park is just across the road from La Barbe and has pretty formal gardens, a lake and woodlands (as well as a great children’s play area). Reigate is also home to an Everyman Cinema, with sofa seats, bar and two screens showing both mainstream and classic films.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: From date nights or gatherings of friends to girly lunches, business lunches and everything else in between. Large groups and special occasions are also perfect here – as there’s scope for private dining, and with Priory Park across the road you can combine it with a stroll.
Not for: The grown up and elegant feel of the restaurant may not be the perfect place for families with small children.
The damage: The dinner menu is £29 for two courses and £34 for three courses Monday to Thursday, and £32 for two and £37 for three on Friday and Saturday evenings. Lunch is £24 for two and £29 for three courses.