Langleys Restaurant and Wine Bar is on a road in Surbiton that I do not often frequent; which is a shame, as many I know in the town rave about the nearby Sarada for Indian cuisine, and I quite enjoyed the Prince of Wales for pre-drinks (the Surbiton Flyer was full). At the end of the day, this part of Surbiton is only ten minutes walk from the train station, so there is little excuse, especially for those of that are rarely parted from our Bromptons.
Service and Decor at Langleys
We were greeted by a very warmly welcoming South African Maître d; someone that clearly has a lot of passion for the business and his customers. This enthusiasm and passion extends clearly throughout the serving staff who would be a credit to establishments asserting their presence in higher leagues of gastronomy. I’ve commented on this effect before; I’ve seen it at Brigade Bar and Bistro and Fifteen in London where the staff clearly enjoy what they are doing which is very much against the tide of what you hear about the service industry.
In terms of decor, Langleys has a classic brasserie feel – open plan, high ceilings, dark wood. It certainly feels the part.
We started with two cocktails; friend had a prosecco mojito which was apparently lovely (not getting a look in proves that), and I opted for a chilli martini. Just like Langleys itself, this doesn’t mess around and was a bold creation pulled off well. Savoury cocktails can be an acquired taste, one that I have had for a while, but even for those that don’t think they would like it, give it a whirl – the worst case scenario is some hairs on your chest! The wine list has some South African leanings, I think unsurprisingly, given the welcome – we had a lovely red from Stellenbosch, an area that endeared itself to me when I visited it in late 1999.
Food at Langleys
This is where things really start to come into their own. We started with some bread and olives; the latter were plump and green and well marinated, but served in a Kilner jar…… I have to say, personally, I am a little over this – I think when I realised that Homebase were stocking them was the moment when it moved from cute Shoreditch presentation to mainstream and, dare I say, boring. The bread was an artisan variety with room temperature butter (always a win with me), oil and vinegar and a basil aioli.
The basil aioli was a light green, with a nice basil flavour, but for me, if you’re calling it an aioli, the key ingredient needs to be a lot more in your face. I was expecting a robust hit of this delicious green herb; what I got was a feeling the chef was holding back slightly. Also, in the brasserie style, a small ramekin of decent sea salt would’ve been appreciated – a little sprinkling on good bread and butter is always appreciated.
Starter for me was a Caesar salad, lightly enough dressed with homemade croutons, pancetta crisps, chargrilled chicken, flakes of parmesan and, importantly, both a freshly poached egg and a lack of anchovy. The dressing itself was of the right consistency and a good hit of garlic, all coming together to be an excellent incarnation of this classic. Friend had homemade fishcakes, which were a good portion of fish lightly bound in potato and not the other way around – another good representation and in both cases decent portions (again, in keeping with the brasserie theme).
My main was the pork belly, which was excellently cooked with the fat mostly rendered out and a good top of crackling, served with a decent apple fragranced jus, well executed mash, some black pudding and I think spinach, but could have been chard. Friend opted for the roast saddle of lamb, served in a similar way to the pork belly with mash, some greens and a meat appropriate reduction – it was slightly pink – personally, I would have served it pinker, but that’s a personal preference that not everyone signs up to.
Again, in both cases, the main portion sizes were decent which meant that the pudding pudding list only got looked at and not indulged in. They have a selection of artisan cheeses*, from the more commonly known Blacksticks Blue and Stinking Bishop (Lancashire and Gloucestershire respectively I believe), to one called Blue Murder which hails from the Highlands, a Somerset brie and Cerney Goat’s Cheese (Cotswolds). An awful lot of credit is due here for a British cheeseboard – however, Norbury Blue is made, literally, 10 miles away and it feels like a missed opportunity to showcase local talent, which is a raison d’etre of a decent local restaurant in my opinion.
I’ve used the word “brasserie” a lot in this review of Langleys – it isn’t a word they use until you get into the blurb on their website; even then it’s played down by saying “brasserie-style”. This is a shame, because it’s a classic example of the style, from the welcome and service, through to the decor and the food – and importantly through to the bill too. The word “brasserie”, alas, has taken a bit of a kicking in recent years – cheapened by the people at Côte and Blanc (the latter using primarily the name with Raymond Blanc’s involvement being the “creative direction of the menu” only these days). A brasserie cannot be, by my definition, a chain restaurant. Of course, the definition of “brasserie” isn’t set – it’s subjective. It certainly conjures images of an informal French style, with typically French dishes and almost any asserted definition will give a nod to these things. I think Langleys should reclaim the word and use it loudly and proudly and not hide behind “restaurant and wine bar”. Of course, the proprietors know their business and clientele better and it may be the chains have done irreparable damage already.
Finally, I have made some pedantic constructive criticisms here; at a level of detail beyond that I would normally do at the price point Langleys sits in. There’s a reason for this; to borrow a football analogy we have a Championship team knocking on the Premiership door. In the vicinity, in its class, there’s only The French Table, which is most certainly a restaurant in its approach (with tasting menus and a more clinical decor) and not a brasserie. Both are in a not dissimilar price bracket, and both, for me, beat the Michelin starred Savoy Grill – and, if I am going to conclude I’d prefer to visit Langleys again of the two, which is indeed my conclusion, then they both should be judged by the same yardstick!
|Price Range||£60 a head (2 course Dinner with cocktails and a bottle of wine each)|
|Phone||0208 390 7564
|Address||158 Ewell Road, Surbiton, KT6 6HE|
* my photo of the menu was blurry so this has relied on their website to jog my memory of the types.