10 things you didn’t know about La Barbe, Reigate
PUBLISHED: 17:06 31 October 2014 | UPDATED: 13:16 20 November 2014
A veritable French institution in Reigate for over 30 years, La Barbe is a place to enjoy exquisite French flavours in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. But here, owner Serge Tassi tells us a few things you probably won’t know about his restaurant...
71 Bell Street, Reigate, Surrey RH2 7AN
Tel: 01737 241966
1 Every year, I tackle a different charity challenge and all have been unforgettable and very different experiences – from running a marathon to cycling in the Andes, from free-fall parachuting and sledding the Arctic circle to climbing Everest Base Camp, Kilimanjaro, and Machu-Picchu. My next challenge is Trek Uganda this month in aid of the Rainbow Trust. Donations are welcome at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SergeTassi.
2 Twenty years ago, I bought four bottles of Graham’s vintage port 1945. Although other shippers produced fine vintage ports in 1945, Graham’s was exceptional. As noted by Richard Mayson, the Decanter World Wine Awards regional chair for port, it is ‘among the finest vintage ports of the 20th century’. Out of the four bottles, one was drunk at a Christmas staff party, one was broken, one was sold to a lucky customer as a late vintage port at a fraction of the price by mistake (hope his party enjoyed it!) and the last one was sold recently at Dreweatts’ auction house for £400.
3 Talking about wines… before we feature a wine in our wine list, we go through a rigorous process. Obviously sampling the wine is the most important part of the process and if we do not have a staff majority during the tasting then the wine is not selected.
4 We have something a little special on our cheeseboard. Distinctive in its truncated pyramidal shape, Valençay cheese has some interesting folklore. The story goes that the cheese used to have the shape of a perfect pyramid. However, when Napoleon saw this local cheese on his return from his disastrous Egyptian expedition, he cut off the tip out of rage caused by unpleasant memories of war in Egypt. Ever since then, the cheese has always been made in the form of a truncated pyramid!
5 Although our chef, Romain Havard, is a Frenchman from Normandy, his interesting name derives from the Olde English pre-7th century name ‘Hereweard’, a compound of the elements ‘here’, an army, plus ‘weard’, guard or defence.
6 We inherited a collection of prints dating from the late 19th/early 20th century from the previous tenant, a barber, who previously operated in the same premises; hence the name La Barbe (The Beard). I did wear a beard myself because of it for 20 years, before my children insisted I shave it off. Not to be confused with “Quelle Barbe!” Literal translation: “What a bore!”
7 Over the years, we have catered for a number of celebrities, such as creator and writer of Only Fools and Horses John Sullivan, and ventriloquist Ray Alan, famous for his act with monocled, upper-crust puppet Lord Charles. Next year, we are hoping to welcome the French rugby team during the World Cup – they will be based in Croydon during the tournament.
8 I always liked Reigate because of its dynamism, the independent shops, Priory Park and the community spirit, so when the opportunity to open the restaurant came up in 1982, I could not miss it. Despite the changes of the last 30 years, Reigate has managed to keep its vitality and Reigatians have retained their ‘joie de vivre’.
9 Every Saturday before July 14, we organise a Boules tournament in Tunnel Road in the centre of Reigate. This year’s was the 20th tournament. On Bastille Day, we celebrate the beginning of the 1st Republique, and we commemorate the Revolution with a restaurant party that often gets booked up a year in advance.
10 Most of our staff support a British football team. Sophie supports Arsenal, as does our manager Gurvan. Romain, the chef, supports Chelsea – as does Kevin, our chef de partie. Michael, the kitchen assistant, and Arthur, the commis chef, support Manchester United.
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