Surbiton: where to eat, shop and visit
PUBLISHED: 17:04 18 May 2012 | UPDATED: 20:07 20 February 2013
There's something in the water in Surbiton (quite literally, as you'll see in a bit) that seems to have turned it into one of our county's most creative communities.
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine September 2011
Theres something in the water in Surbiton (quite literally, as youll see in a bit) that seems to have turned it into one of our countys most creative communities. Visit on the right weekend and youll find anything from makeshift ski slopes to golf with dough balls going on, as Matthew Williams goes on to explain here
Best-known as the fictional home of 1970s sitcom The Good Life (though the programme was actually filmed in London), Surbiton has become a byword for suburban living, which seems to have made it a popular location for TV and film crews. The late 90s comedy, Stella Street, which focused on the antics of a group of British and American celebrities, was also set in Surbiton. Dont go searching for Stella Street though; its another figment of a writers imagination. Far more tangible is the towns railway station, which was where Harry Potter read about the Death Eaters attack at the Millennium Bridge in the Daily Prophet at the start of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
When a group of local residents and traders joined forces to organise a monthly farmers market, they sought to bring the countryside into the town and, almost two years later, it is still running and raising money for good causes. On the third Saturday of the month, 26 farmers and producers offer a selection of fresh seasonal produce and speciality foods. Maple Road Farmers Market is a community interest company, run by and for the community by volunteers. Since the market began, residents, traders, stallholders and customers have together helped raise more than 13,000 for community causes, helping everyone from senior citizens to young carers.
Diners are spoilt for choice in Surbiton, whether its the award-winning The French Table (0208 399 2365), the sophisticated Indian Maya (0208 399 4434), the family-run Italian Da Lucio (0208 399 5113), gastropub dining at Harts Boatyard (0208 399 7515), or the stylish Hotel Bosco (0208 339 5720), where they also serve an impressive range of cocktails in the Bosco Lounge.
If the weathers good, you can take a leisurely stroll all the way to the deer at Richmond Park along the Thames, while in the opposite direction Hampton Court Palace is even closer. If the walk seems a bit too much effort on your lazy Sunday, then theres always the chance to jump on a Turks Launch boat.
If you happen to see people sliding down the High Street past Surbitons Coronation Clock Tower, supported only by ice cubes, chances are they are getting in some early practice for the annual Surbiton Ski Sunday in October, which raises money for local charities via residents throwing themselves down St Marks Hill in a bid to break the suburban skiing world record. The same group also organises the British Bread Golf Open in November (a chance to hit dough balls at a floating hole and target in the Thames) and the monthly Homage de Fromage cheese club at The Lamb pub.
Take a walk down to Seething Wells on the Portsmouth Road and see some of the buildings of the Lambeth and Chelsea waterworks and their surviving filter beds. The significance of this area for public health cannot be underestimated as it was clean water from here that allowed Dr John Snow to prove that cholera was waterborne. In 1854, he was able to identify a handpump in Soho that had contaminated water and had led to the deaths of over 500 people in ten days. Find out more about the story by visiting the website: www.seethingwellswater.org.
My Surbiton Weekend
Need to know:
Where to eat: The French Table (0208 399 2365) on Maple Road, which was famously pipped at the post in becoming the countrys highest-rated French restaurant on Gordon Ramsays F Word. Where to drink: The Gordon Bennett! (0208 390 7222) where youll find an extensive wine list, among other beverages. Something to take home: Something fresh from the wonderful new bakery, The French Tarte, next door to The French Table. Somewhere to stay: The stylish sanctuary that is Hotel Bosco (0208 339 5720), where their cocktails are well worth a try too. Top tip: Dont go looking for the home at the heart of The Good Life (see film hunting, above)!
Getting there: Located just off the A3, Surbiton also has one of the finest modernist railway stations in Great Britain that is well-served to and from London or Guildford.
Get in touch with what you most love about Surbiton, your photos and how youd spend your perfect weekend there at www.facebook.com/SurreyLife
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine April 2009
Living in Surbiton
Long known as the setting for The Good Life, Surbiton is blessed with a friendly community, a Thames-side location and its close proximity to London. Here, MATTHEW WILLIAMS speaks to five people there to find out what they love most
Along with her husband Eric, SARAH GUIGNARD is proprietor of The French Table restaurant, and this year the happy couple are celebrating their eighth year in Surbiton. They say they are especially looking forward to long summer nights in the town.
"Working at The French Table is my dream job," says Sarah. "I get to serve amazing food made by my husband and with a great team behind me!
"Maple Road is filled with extremely friendly people who appreciate nice things, and there is a real neighbourly atmosphere among fellow businesses.
"There's plenty to do, too, with all the shops, and in the evening I would recommend having a few cocktails first at Gordon Bennett's or Rubicon.
"Interestingly, not many people know that The Good Life was actually filmed in Northwood and not in Surbiton, despite it always being based on the town. Also, in the 1960s, the Coronation Hall which is now a pub was almost converted into a naturist health club: ooh er!"
Born in Sri Lanka, PHILLIP JEGANATHAN has lived in Surbiton for more than 20 years. As the managing director of Surbiton Sugarcraft, he has supplied everyone from the House of Lords to the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 with their cake-decorating needs.
"You may recall the advert for the Skoda Fabia, where the vehicle was recreated in cake," he says. "When the advertising agency wanted to know if it was possible to make such a cake, we made and supplied a sample to show how it could be done. From this model, they made the full-scale version!
"Surbiton is a fantastic place to live and work, and everything you want is in the local area. Kingston University is excellent (I know because I studied there!) and schools such as Richard Challoner and Tiffin School also perform well above the national average.
"Plus, every June, Surbiton Racket and Tennis Club hosts The Surbiton Trophy - a chance to see some of the world's top tennis players in action before they go to Wimbledon."
CLARE MARIE JONES has lived in Surbiton for two years and is a freelance florist. When she has a spare moment, she particularly enjoys taking a stroll along the river.
"The proximity to London makes it easy to meet up with my old friends in town and make my daily flower trip to Covent Garden market," she says. "Locally, though, the walk along the river towpath to Kingston, Teddington, Ham or Richmond is great. It's worth the walk with lots of lovely little bars and cafes to stop at, to help keep you motivated. And the views are stunning!
"Surbiton hosts several seasonal markets, fetes and festivals but the best one is the Maple Road Summer Festival with live music among the entertainment.
"Maple Road has an amazingly eclectic mix of little 'finds' - from the fab shoe shop to the Gordon Bennett bar on the corner and the antique shop at the end of the road."
Selling women's shoes and boots from her Maple Road store, 'shoes at last', SARAH TAYLOR has lived in Surbiton for 23 years.
"The most enjoyable thing about Surbiton is the people - they are so friendly," she says. "Of course, I am at a major advantage having a shop, but even so, people who don't shop with me still say hello when you are walking down the street. It is lovely - a real sense of community - and I love it.
"People should definitely take a stroll down Maple Road - a beautiful tree-lined road with fantastic Victorian architecture.
"In the middle, there's a row of great bars and restaurants and my favourite time is during the summer months when everyone is open late.
"What I have found about people in Surbiton is that they like to get involved with what is happening locally. Whether it is raising money for charity or just having a party, residents want to know what is going on and make sure they are there, showing support."
Surbiton Hockey Club (SHC) is the second oldest hockey club in the world, though the name is slightly misleading as these days they are actually based in Long Ditton. However, the director of hockey at the club, BRETT GARRARD, has lived in Surbiton for four years.
"Before living in Surbiton, I lived in Holland and Thames Ditton," he says. "I love Surbiton because it has got the feel of the country but also everything a city has to offer on its doorstep.
"I've always enjoyed playing at SHC as it has a great family feel. For me, it offers top level elite hockey while combining a social network across the whole club's age range. It's always been a place to go and relax while enjoying your sport.
"In terms of where to go in the town, there's a new bar here called Hotel Bosco, where I spent New Year's Eve. To be honest, it's a bar that Surbiton has needed, offering good food and a great atmosphere. Also, the Joy restaurant is where the team and I eat after training - it's a family restaurant with good food."