Restaurant Review: Cullenders Parkside, Reigate

Cullenders Parkside has transformed an iconic restaurant building in Reigate Photo: Simon Weller

Cullenders Parkside has transformed an iconic restaurant building in Reigate Photo: Simon Weller - Credit: Archant

Matthew Williams experiences this latest all day dining offering situated just across the road from Reigate’s beautiful Priory Park.

Tucking into the arancini nero Photo: Simon Weller

Tucking into the arancini nero Photo: Simon Weller - Credit: Archant

Even in an average year, hospitality is an industry that twists and turns with changing tastes, flavours and landlord demands. This year, as you may have noticed, has not been an average year.

When Marc and Joelle Cullender took the keys of what had until recently been Surrey’s longest standing independent restaurant, La Barbe in Reigate, to launch their latest project, they could not have foreseen any of this.

They had barely begun to strip the walls when lockdown hit. They are battle hardened, however, with years of running delis and coffee shops in the area.

Months of takeaway meals from their home kitchen followed until they could finally finish transforming their new home.

At first, they relaunched with a breakfast, brunch and lunch offering perfect for people to enjoy takeaway across the road in the glorious Priory Park. Then, they were allowed to welcome guests.

Finally, the finishing touch came this autumn. They welcomed chef Jon Coomb, formerly of the award-winning The Westerly in Reigate, into the fold to launch their relaxed bistro dining in the evenings.

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Surrey Life visited twice in the first official week of opening and found a welcoming bubble away from the madness. I will focus on the dishes we enjoyed on the first evening here, to avoid jumping around the houses.

Joined by a food loving friend, we order a batch of the arancini nero as well as our starters of deep-fried polenta and Catalan-style pork rillettes.

Cullenders Parkside offers relaxed bistro-style food Photo: Simon Weller

Cullenders Parkside offers relaxed bistro-style food Photo: Simon Weller - Credit: Archant

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The arancini are crisp on the outside and unctuous on the inside. The deep-fried polenta is a hit with my partner in dining, while my rillettes is a classic. Flavourful and homely flavours.

The confit of Landaise duck main is a vibrant affair, while my crisp pork belly has a touch of cassoulet to it. There is nothing overly fancy about any of this, it’s just well prepared, unpretentious and perfectly cooked good eating.

For desserts, I’m blown away by my Basque cheesecake. It is light as a feather and combines beautifully with the honey and figs. The chocolate peanut butter tart is a rich and decadent delight.

Having faced so many challenges this year, I can only applaud the cool calm Cullenders Parkside has managed to achieve so quickly. They have made it all look like a walk in the park.

When the lights dim for the evenings, it’s perfect for a date night or catch up with friends and family. It’s fantastic to see a building with such a storied food and drink history enter an exciting new chapter.

What we ate

Starters: Arancini nero, £1.75 each; Deep fried polenta, truffled honey and pecorino, £5; Catalan style pork rillettes, sweet guindillas and toast, £7

Mains:Confit of Landaise duck, beetroot, puy lentil and sweet pickled onions, £19; Crisp belly of pork, white beans and chorizo, £19.50

Desserts: Basque cheesecake with honey and figs, £7; Chocolate peanut butter tart, £7

Drinks: A bottle of Naciente, Pinot Noir, Chile, £24

Cullenders Parkside 71 Bell Street, Reigate RH2 7AN Tel: 01737 223767 / cullenders.com. Keep an eye on the website and on Instagram @cullendersparkside for updated opening times and takeaway menus available during periods of cornavirus lockdown restriction.

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