Could Jay Rayner help kick start Surrey dining?

Working in Soho and living in Surrey undoubtedly accentuates the frustration felt from the lack of restaurants in my part of Surrey. Given the excellent farms and proximity(ish) to the sea, Surrey is over-plumped with chain restaurants, chain pubs and a few ne’er do well local pubs that are more gastric than gastro.

Surrey is not without its charms, as littered throughout the county are some gems that are mainly real-ale serving, roast-carving, fire-burning pubs. Each Surrey local has his or her favourite. This is not about those places, it’s not about the even fewer high end joints serving top quality modern British or European nosh (my favourites are Fleurie and The Bell Fetcham). All these are the exceptions to the rule.

It looks like the main stream food press are also onto this with Guardian food critic Jay Rayner asking publicly on Twitter:


He received some top tips from the locals, thankfully the type drawn from the exceptions that I had in mind, but ultimately, there weren’t that many places – you would have had more on one street in Soho. But ultimately, he accedes to my lament:


There’s a few things that anyone who wants to open a restaurant in Surrey should consider. First, we don’t need another gastropub menu. We have more than enough of those. Second, pasta & pizza restaurants are overrun by the chains now on almost every High Street. If you’re thinking pizza, then think again. Third, turn your attention to neighbourhood style bistro. Margot’s in Padstow sets a high bar for a good example which you can read all about here.

Bill Granger is on to this with his London shop called Granger & Co and partially too is 10 Greek Street in Soho. Fitzbillies in Cambridge makes this of use of the whole day but retains an emphasis on bakery first. None of which are evidently in Surrey or likely to be anytime soon.

Surrey needs more neighbourhood style bistros. The kind of place that you would stop in for a Saturday breakfast or brunch. The kind of place that’s a few builders short of a greasy spoon but without the second-mortgage-required-price tags. The kind of place that you would return to regularly because the menu always surprises and the food is cooked well. Make it a place that you could stop in for a quick, freshly cooked lunch, naturally the menu would change daily.

Later in the afternoon, coffee and tea is served – take away available too throughout the day. As the evening descended, locals could stop in for a light tapas/small plate meal at an eating bar with a few glasses of wine. Others, could sit down to a full dinner, relaxed. You’d see your friends across the room, always be welcomed and importantly you’d always return. You may as well even call it “Harry’s”.

I’m all for putting some money where the mouth is, but I don’t have enough to do this yet. Donations are, naturally, welcome. Whilst at it, an energetic, enthusiastic, country-side loving chef would be great too. Open a neighbourhood bistro in my neighbourhood. How hard could it possibly be?

Published by Brett

Brett is an experienced lawyer and business executive who focuses on commercial outcomes. He has worked across three sectors in England & Australia advising and leading initiatives in digital, media and technology

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