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The Westerly

Chef Jonathan Coomb’s new restaurant in REIGATE, Surrey

There are some gardeners whose love of plants seems magically reciprocated by the plants themselves which flourish and flower with joyful profusion. We call those lucky gardeners green fingered. So what do we call those specially gifted chefs who seem able by some magic to transform raw ingredients into an elevated amalgam that is somehow more than the sum of its parts? Sticky fingered? I’ve been following the fortunes of Jon Coomb for several years now, and I can vouch for the fact that he is seriously sticky fingered.

His new restaurant in Reigate’s London Road is clean lined and modern with comfortable seating, rather small plain wooden tables and vibrant art, currently by Claire Benn, on the walls. It looks every inch the Modern Bistro and the menu strikes just the right balance between foodie adventure and bistro simplicity. The roots of many dishes have been transplanted successfully from The Stephan Langton, Jon’s previous country pub-diner.

If you’re a newcomer to Jon’s cooking, don’t miss out on his current country terrine – today’s was pigeon and bacon bound together with chicken liver (£6.95). There’s always a marvellous home made chutney, this time it was pumpkin from last autumn’s batch, whose spices and pickling vinegar have now married softly. A raviolo of fresh beetroot and ricotta was full of colour, flavour and texture (£6.25), and the croquette of pig’s head (£5.50) was soft and moist inside its crisp coating of breadcrumb, served with gribiche, a salsa made from finely diced capers, gherkins and hardboiled eggs. A wedge of home smoked salmon was subtly flavoured (£6.00), its inherent richness offset by a crunchy salad of sharp apples and fennel in a soured cream dressing: simple but good. All the combinations of ingredients in these dishes have been carefully thought out.

From the main dishes, one of Jon’s favourites is always based on the central theme of roast cod (£14.50). Whenever I’ve had it, the fish has been daisy fresh, its flesh coming away easily into tender flakes, often accompanied by a smooth and tasty brandade, made from salted cod. The fish stew (properly called a bourride, £16.50) was a magnificent, creamy concoction containing monkfish, red mullet, bream, prawns, mussels and clams. I chose slow cooked belly of pork (£13.00), which was almost jelly-like in its yielding texture, yet still contrived a crisp topping of wafer thin crackling, almost like a porky brûlée! Its generous accompaniments of comfortingly silky mash and piquant homemade piccalilli were particularly well judged.

I don’t think Jon has ever claimed to be a pastry chef, yet his puddings (all £5.00) have always been simple but good, using a mix of homely and more exotic ingredients, like his cutting edge Amalfi Lemon Sorbet drizzled with limoncello. He always provides a good tart, so to speak, today’s being plum and almond, uncharacteristically unseasonal perhaps, but knowing Jon, probably made from his own preserved plums! A sauternes flavoured crème caramel was served with lightly caramelized blood oranges. Sadly we had no room left to try his wicked chocolate brownies.

The wine list is as carefully sourced as the cooking ingredients and many of the wines are available in half litre carafes. Service is friendly and utterly professional under the direction of Cynthia, Jon’s pretty wife.

The Westerly is highly recommended by Dine Online
Clifford Mould, May 2007

The Westerly, 2-4 London Road Reigate Surrey RH2 9AN
TEL: 01737 222733

Update June 2007: We've been back already and were just as excited and satisfied. The Gazpacho was really refreshing - ideal for a summer evening but just as enjoyable on the rainy night we visited. The fricassee of calve's kidneys and sweetbreads in a rich dark reduction was just the kind of dish Jon excels at. The caramelised peaches were yummy and the lemon sorbet with limoncello was sharp and zesty.

NB the WESTERLY IS CLOSED on Sunday and Monday. Dinner is served Tuesday to Saturday and Lunch is available Wednesday to Friday

Feedback from Adrian Pennelli

I dined here on Saturday 9th June 2007, quite simply stunning!

Ok, I admit, I worked with Jon years ago (20) and his skill was plainly evident then, but now, now its on another level. I am not writing this as a favour, but from respect!

A delicate touch is often marred by poor ingredients and vice versa. Not here, Jons' commitment to the purest quality in his products is matched by his skill in their transformation.

The menu was terrible, the reason: our party of 4 wanted all of it. Not the usual 'I'll have the …., as it’s the thing I dislike the least!'

The attention to detail is perfect, the rocket leaves served with the Croquette of Pigs head, were the freshest I have had in a restaurant (Picked yesterday I am told-and I know this to be true!). The Skates Saffron Mash was melting with a richness and depth that only fine saffron can provide. The Peanut Butter Cookie with the Malted Chocolate Ice-cream (served at the optimum temperature) were a seriously difficult to master mix of crisp shortness, with a slightly gooey perfect centre!

Coupled with a great room and attentive friendly professionalism from the team, orchestrated so well by Jons wife Cynthia it really is the best in Reigate.

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