Dishes from Provençal are given the fine-dining treatment by chef Eric Payet for the Surrey locals, says Janet Harmer
Located in the heart of the Surrey stockbroker belt, Cobham once teemed with a wide selection of independent coffee shops and restaurants. But now, like many high streets, it has become increasingly homogenised.
However, La Rive is determined to maintain its individuality and independence, and is working hard to offer something individual and "quite technical" to its local residents, which include many a Premiership footballer (Chelsea FC's training ground is down the road) and bankers from the US.
The restaurant opened in September 2015 in a building that dates in parts to the 16th century, and which housed an Italian eatery called La Capanna for 37 years. It is now owned by Simon Rand, who at one time operated the Hare Bar and Grill in Lingfield, and head chef Eric Payet.
Payet was born and brought up on Reunion Island, an overseas department of France in the Indian Ocean, and arrived in the UK in 1998 as demi chef de partie in the pastry section at London's Putney Bridge restaurant, under head chef Anthony Demetre.
After working at Arbutus, Wild Honey and Clos Maggiore, all in London, he launched the Hare Bar and Grill with Rand in 2014, prior to the launch of La Rive.
Hand-dived Orkney scallop, barbecued courgette, saffron vinaigrette and almond
A simple carrot and egg salad, for instance, is so much more in the hands of Payet. The carrot, cured in salt and sugar is served with a soft poached egg (perfectly cooked for eight minutes), smoked duck and a pistachio and sorrel cream, all topped with a carrot glaze.
The dish was the first course on a recent tasting menu, which costs £135 for nine courses. Also on offer is an Á la carte menu, priced at £70 for four courses, and a market menu at £32 for three courses. The choice of menus are the same at both lunch and dinner.
Fillet of French beef, caramelised turnip and puff pastry
Payet, who heads a brigade of four chefs, will look far and wide to seek out the best produce available at any particular time. However, he also supports local suppliers, such as the farm just outside nearby Guildford, from where he buys venison. This he sears in a hot pan with butter, garlic and juniper, and serves as the centrepiece of a main course, accompanied by crosne (Japanese artichoke), and crushed swede, scented with coffee.
"The coffee - just a hint - works very well with the dish. It adds another wintery dimension that goes well with the venison and the sweetness of the swede," says Payet.
For suckling pig, he goes further afield, sourcing either Pata Negra from the north of Spain or Noir de Bigorre from the south west of France, buying the whole animal, which he then butchers himself. The braised leg and shoulder will be served with sauerkraut and baked apple in cider, while the bones will be used to make consommé.
Heritage carrot, cured Bellota ham and ricotta gnudi
Closer to home, fish and seafood are sourced from the coast, be it lobster and scallops from the Orkney islands, used to fill parcels of ravioli, served with an aromatic seafood bisque, or Dorset turbot, accompanied by Meyer lemon (a sweeter variety of lemon that is believed to resulted from a cross between a lemon and a mandarin or orange) and a turnip nage, which injects an earthiness to the dish.
Desserts all offer clean, distinct flavours, served in a very precise fashion, perhaps reflecting Payet's early years as a pastry chef. Here, he serves a lemon curd tart with black cherry sorbet or Yorkshire rhubarb with white chocolate mousse, coconut sorbet and meringue.
Front-of-house service is headed by Matthew Hough, who has previously worked in London at the original Petrus, Chez Bruce, La Trompette and Hedone. He oversees an expansive operation which comprises the main dining room, which can accommodate up to 60 covers, a minstrel's gallery for 24 and a 35-cover private party room in a conservatory. In the summer, al fresco dining is possible on a patio with views over the River Mole.
Wood pigeon, homemade chorizo and quail's egg with pickled black radish
From the menu
Crispy octopus, sauce civet and green mango rougaille
Dorset crab, yuzu gel, kohlrabi and red pepper
Pertuis asparagus, black winter truffle and confit egg yolk
Ballotine of Cornish Dover sole, mussel and apple emulsion
Anjou pigeon, game boudin with quinoa and heritage beetroot
Lemon dome, sablé Breton and olive oil
From the four courses for £70 menu
48 High Street, Cobham, Surrey KT11 3EF
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