It might be home to some of London's more successful workers, but not a great deal of London cooking makes it out to Surrey. Janet Harmer checks up on one of the exceptions to the rule
After making a name for himself at a nearby country pub, Jonathan Coomb is delighted to be cooking at his new restaurant, the Westerly, in the Surrey market town of Reigate.
"Moving here has enabled us to up the ante with the food," says Coomb, who previously ran the Stephan Langton near Dorking, rated a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin guide, with his wife Cynthia. "We're doing a more refined version of the rustic cooking that we did at the pub," he says.
As well as attracting former regulars from the Stephan Langton, the Westerly is also building up a new clientele who are flocking to fill the 42-seat restaurant for dinner every Tuesday to Saturday evening. The restaurant is also open from Wednesday to Saturday for lunch.
The set-up cost of £200,000 has paid for a 15-year fully renewable lease and the refurbishment of the restaurant by decorative painter John Brinklow and textile artist Claire Benn. Taupe walls, light wooden floors, dark red banquettes and brown leather chairs provide a stylish setting for Coomb's food.
Choice of seven
A choice of seven starters, seven main courses and six desserts or cheese on the à la carte menu is available at both lunch and dinner, with an average spend of £42 for three courses, including wine, or £26 without wine. At lunch a set menu - £17.50 for two courses and £19.50 for three courses - is also offered.
Local supplies from Charlie Hicks (presenter of Veg Talk on Radio 4) for fruit and vegetables, and Roberts & Edwards for meat - both in Reigate - and Simpson's Fisheries in nearby Coulsdon are a key element of Coomb's menu.
Popular starters include a salt cod and potato ravioli with tomatoes, olives and capers (£6.50) - "it's basically a brandade filling, which works very well with the accompanying Mediterranean flavours" - and an earthy-tasting red wine risotto with snails, garlic and parsley (£6.75).
Among the main courses, a bourride of monkfish, red mullet, bream, prawns, mussels and clams (£16.50) is getting a great response from customers. "We do change the fish around, but the base of the stew is a classic bourride based on fish stock, white wine, saffron and tomatoes," says Coomb.
Foodie customers tend to go for the bollito misto of brisket, ox-tongue, capon and cotechino (£15), served with mustard fruits, horseradish cream and salsa verde.
For puddings, Coomb selects the Sauternes custard, caramel and blood oranges (£5) as his favourite. "This is basically a crème caramel in which we use cream instead of milk to create a really sublime flavour," he says.
The cheese choice is a plated slice of Robiola - a mixed cows', sheep's and goats' cheese from Sardinia - served with quince jam (£5).
Grouped by style
Wines are supplied by Les Caves de Pyrene, which has compiled a list of more than 60 bins which are helpfully grouped by specific style such as "fleshy and fruity", "ripe, savoury and spicy" and "dry, crisp and mineral". In addition to the usual 750ml bottles, 13 wines are available by the glass or in a pot Lyonnais of 375ml or 500ml.
"I think what the people of Reigate like is the fact that we're offering a real alternative to the other restaurants in the town which are either the branded eateries on one level or Tony Tobin's the Dining Room, which is very upmarket, on another. The Westerly is the kind of neighbourhood restaurant serving good food that you frequently find in London, but rarely in Surrey."
What's on the menu
- Jerusalem artichoke and wild garlic soup, £5.25
- Taleggio and sweet onion tart, walnuts and rocket, £5.75
- Country terrine of chicken livers, pigeon and bacon, pumpkin chutney, £6.95
- Roast cod, mash and salsa verde, £14.50
- Roast magret of duck, confit hash and Puy lentils, £14.75
- Crisp belly of pork, morcilla and apple relish, £12.50
- Pear and almond tart, mascarpone, £5
- Amalfi lemon sorbet, limoncello, £5
- Chocolate malt ice-cream, peanut butter cookie, £5
The Westerly, 2-4 London Road, Reigate, Surrey RH2 9AN
Tel: 01737 222733