New restaurant - your opinion required


New restaurant - what would you prefer?:
14 years ago...

I am representing a local restaurateur who is seeking to determine opinion on what (if anything) might be missing from the high street in Surbiton by way of a restaurant concept. The individual is fiercely independent (ie not part of a chain) and has had representation in Surbiton high street with a restaurant in the past.

The potential location would be very near to the station, so would be aimed at commuters passing through on their way home / way to work as well as for a meal out with friends / family in the evenings or at weekends.

One potential option being looked at is an authentic American Diner serving all day breakfasts, burgers, salads and South American specialties. This would hopefully be of value to a wide range of audiences at all times of day. Perhaps something along the lines of Bodeans or Lucky 7 in Notting Hill

Many thanks in advance for any advice provided.


what a strange question to post! - surely any 'restauranteur' should be an expert in their chosen cuisine? sounds very weird to just decide to open a restaurant and then choose a cuisine as an afterthought! the restaurants i love are the ones where they clearly have a passion for their particular food. i can't imagine the proprieters of the french table or da lucio suddenly deciding to open a thai restaurant because there is a gap in the market...

Da lucio did exactly that - they sublet their building to a great bunch of genuine southern Italians who had great passion for their cooking. That's when it was called Terra Mia.

The owners only took back the lease when they saw how well the site was doing.
Terra Mia then moved to Kingston, where they're still passionate about what they do.

You're right about the French Table though.

What we need in Surbiton is a *Real* Spanish Restaurant!!!!!
Within a 1.5 mile radius we have some very special restaurants, (and some mediocre one's). In that radius we have 3 exceptional Italians, 2 or 3 great SE Asian restaurants, fine Indians, Nepalese, Sri Lankan, Vietnamese, Thai, Persian, French....and any others I can't think of right now.

So, where is the Spanish Restaurant? That proper family-run authentic restaurant, not chain style (a la La Tasca.)

Infact the closest "Spanish" is the mediocre La Tasca in Kingston. Let's face it - La Tasca chain doesn't cut the mustard, but there's where the choice stops.

If I want a true Spanish and atmospheric gastronomic experience without breaking the bank, the closest and fastest option I have is to travel to Croydon or Purley. La Rueda in S.Clapham is rather overpriced and not exceptional.

As there isn't a proper Spanish restaurant remotely in the Surbiton hinterland I thjink it would be eagerly awaited ny not just me?

In response to smabey, I agree about the Spanish restaurant & wouldn't even bother with La Tasca. However there is a great spanish a little closer to home in Richmond called 'Don Fernandos'. It's been there forever & does wonderful tapas & lovely sangria.

Oh yes, and whatever restaurant you decide to open, make sure your staff are HAPPY and SMILING at your customers or they won't get any tips from me nor will I return. It is so important to have nice, friendly staff when you need something.

Can we simply have a chef who knows how to cook -- not a delivery from Brake Bros and just boil in the bag/microwave so you don't even need a chef -- good old English food with plenty of it -- at least a restaurant where we will go back more than once and not be ripped off by extra charges for vegetables, extra charges for the bread and olives they put on the table that you think will be gratis, being pushed into having a few bottles of wine, then they expect a tip for a poorly cooked meal, etc. etc. Every time we have a meal out, we decide its cheaper and tastier to cook at home. A decent restaurant -- and I dont mean bitty bits of food like Indian Thai and Chinese but proper food that fills you up.

A brave person to open a restaurant in this economic climate. Surbiton is fast becoming an area of Coffee Shops, Restaurants and Charity Shops. I do not think this is a bad thing. Far better this than a high street of empty shops.

Just need the council to ban Cars on Victoria Road after 19:00 in the summer and we can have a nice sit out side environment to while away those long warm days with street musicians playing gently in the background. Allow a few stalls to set up along the pavement all adding to the atmosphere.

I think it needs a Ping Pong

As has been said Surbiton has plenty of restaurants of certain genres, but I've been disappointed with the quality of the Chinese ones, so a GOOD one of those wouldn't go amiss.
An American Diner sounds good too, or how about a Mexican or even Tex-Mex.

Going back a while, but anyone remember 'Cars' on the Brighton Road? I think its now that awful pub/kindergarten. Really good chargrilled burgers, steaks etc. with a '50's American garage' theme. Something along those lines would be great!

Yes, I remember cars restaurant in Surbiton and if my memory serves me there was another one in Richmond. Very tasty food and my mother also liked them because of that 50s 'Happy Days', Fonz feel that reminded her of her youth!!


New restaurant ?

For what it is worth the following are well covered ;

Sao Siam : for Thai Tolworth Broadway, but a good thai could work in Surbiton as well
Italian : Casa Viva Surbiton Hill, great local Italian with the best steaks & fish around , also fantastic pizza
Chinese : Seven Stars Tolworth Broadway, fantastic food and service, but again a good Chinese in Central Surbiton is needed
American Diner would be fab in Surbiton, but this has already been done with Fortunes, many moons ago ! would have to be something very authentic and I doubt that this would be possible as the mark up on decent steaks & ribs does not allow a good profit margin.
Sushi would be interesting and ring the changes.
A proper ENGLISH restaurant, oh sorry I forgot, that's a bit boring for Surbiton, it brings back memories of the Good Life on BBC !!!

Best of luck to any new restaurant

These restaurants in Tolworth may be excellent, but I doubt many people from Surbiton would go that often. The whole idea of living somewhere like Surbiton is that you can walk to a reasonable range of restaurants in 5-10 minutes and have a nice pint on the way there or back. If you have to get a cab/bus/drive a few miles away the evening will be ruined for some people.

I echo the recommendations here, though - Thai, American, Japanese, steaks would all be great here - just no more Indian, Italian or Chinese please!

Can I suggest you try the 'Surbiton' page on Facebook - nearly 800 members as of today and likely to be fairly representative of those that eat n drink out in Surbiton.
Good luck - I look forward to seeing what appears!

STEAK - decent bloody steaks ...

Like several others, I would prefer something different to grace our high street (i.e. not Chinese, Italian or Indian). The prospect of an American diner is quite unappealing although I support the idea of the new establishment being sufficiently affordable that one can merit going on a regular basis. Personally, I was hoping that a Japanese restaurant that includes, but is not limited to, sushi would appear in the premises that were supposed to open on the ground floor of Surbiton Plaza just off St Mary's Road. Alas, the impact of the Surbiton Plaza development has been nothing but negative on our little town and only Zizzi has appeared thus far.

Regardless, my vote is for Japanese or something else that will add value to the local area, rather than detract from it. Perhaps a modern Japanese-fusion restaurant that offers sushi, dim sum (a la Ping Pong) and maybe some thai as that is pretty popular. Failing that, a Spanish/Tapas place would be popular in my opinion.

I went to a Cambodian restaurant in California a couple of years ago. It wasn't good. Please don't open a Cambodian restaurant in Surbiton. Please.

Bodeans would be a jolly good model to follow. I work in Fitzrovia and the Bodeans in Soho is a genuine Friday treat for a great lunchtime meat feast. We're well-served in the Kingston area with Italian and a slew of Asian & Oriental restaurants. We lack a good steakhouse or independent Tex-Mex. Something that serves quality British meat (though it's tasty, Japanese and Argentinian beef just seems a bit naughty to ship around the world) would be most welcome.

Failing that, a quality Greek restaurant would hit the spot too. Something of the order of Retsina ( though one suspects it would need Greeks at the helm to ensure such authenticity.


We have many large dogs in Surbiton,how about a Korean?

There doesn't seem to be anything resembling a decent steak house in Surbiton - I mean one with a range of steaks where, when you order it medium rare, it actually comes medium rare. I would quite like that.

I agree the old Liberty Bell was fantastic. Unfortunately L'Esperance which now occupies the building does not meet the same standards. Mediocre food, appalling service and a chef who clearly can't cope with a full house. Not that that is likely to be something that happens often.

The Liberty Bell was quite mixed but tended towards American and Italian food. An upmarket American diner style restaurant done in a similar style to the Bell would fill the gap left by it's closure.

Can i just start but saying no to the following, Chinese, Italian, Curry,
greasy spoon (Or Similar)! Surbiton and the surrounding area has far to many
of them and we need something new and unique and also tasty.

Just looked at Lucky 7 and it doesn't look bad but to be honest it just
looks like another cafe with a few extra things on the menu which im sure
will taste very good but I don't think people will give it a chance.
The menu from Bodeans on the other hand looks very impressive and if you can
mix this in with 'authentic' décor then your on to a winner. Its just my
opinion but if you want a successful restaurant then you need to perfect the
food and the atmosphere you cant have one with out the other.
There is no use just sticking some neon coke bottles on the wall, go all out
take a chance make people want to come in and look around and then sit down
to a tasty meal whilst enjoying the ambience!

I know money doesn't grow on trees but if your not prepared to (Or can't)
make it work or go the whole hog then you might as well save your money and
forget about it.

Good luck

Sounds great and something Surbiton is definitly missing. If we have some Brazilian Rodizio as part of the mix, I'll be there loads!!

I think the original concept of a fusion between American Dinner and South American specialities sounds great. Definately something Surbiton is currently missing. A bit of Brazilian rodizio included in that and I'd be there a lot!!

Sounds good to me. Tex-mex is always a winner. Don't forget the daytime market of mums with kids and babies and children's parties. Something akin to Giraffe in this respect would be good. The old St Marks/Rat and Parrot location could lend itself well to this type of venture?

Good home comfort food....

There's already a number of mediocre/poor Chinese restaurants in Surbiton. A good Thai would be fantastic but they don't tend to have all-day appeal. I think the original poster's idea of an american diner would fill a niche.


Get that Churrasco fired up and i'm on my way.

It think it sounds like a great idea - I imagine it would do well (if the food's up to scratch and it's pitched at the right level). I would defintely give it a go.

The old Liberty Bell on the Ewell Road was a great neighbourhood restaurant - it was pretty packed Wed through to Sunday.

It did so much better than the two restaurants that have subsequently opened on the same site, the lateste being Esperance.

I think it was successful because
a. grand characterful interior
b. a varied menu that had a bit of everything and appealed to people seeking a casual bite, or a proper evening meal.

To replicate the same success, you would need to acquire one of the old Victorian buildings and do a good job inside, or go for a cutting edge modern interior, like Bosco's did (which has failed as a restaurant because they're more interested in being a bar).

The success of the French Table, the relaunch of The Italian Taste and arrival of Zizzis shows that you can do well in Surbiton, but only if you actually give a damn and provide good food in attractive surroundings.

Numerically, there's a lot of competiton from the number of restaurants in Surbiton, but a lot of them are tired and dated.

Or alternatively, why not buy the Chineses across the road from Bosco, adn turn it into a top class Thai / Asian Fusion restuarant.

You gotta be joking!
The old liberty bell had something in common with those towns that the man with no name used to stroll into in spaghetti westerns...

it was so dead it went out of business.

Surbiton has loads of restaurants.
Doesn't really need another, but if its any good then best of luck to them.

In its final years, The Liberty Bell was doing some of its best ever business, however the manager and head chef married and decided to move to spain, and the owners decided to retire after having spent so much time building up a great place.

Yes Surbiton has quite a few restaurants but not that many decent ones. If it's good it will be a welcome addition.

Absolute dribble.

It was really busy, and only closed after being made a silly offer they couldn't refuse by the overly ambitious and short lived Victoriana.

Liberty Bell......

I lived around the corner from this restaurant for 2 years. Passed by it on my way home every evening

I NEVER saw more than 2 covers in there of an evening.

It was never busy and closed 'cos it was empty, same as Victoriana.

truth hurts, sometimes....sorry

load of tosh.

I lived in Browns road 2003 to 2004 and can vouch it was full every thurs fri saturday.
Could hardly ever get a table on fri / sat night without booking.
It was a good spot - way better than the dated Terrazza and better food than Positano's.
A good neighbourhood restaurtant, with varied menu suited to casual dining.

The Victoriana paid way too much for it, was too expensive and and weren't distinctive enough - just how many italian restaurants did they think surbiton needed!
They also made a mistake by frosting up the windows - when it was the Liberty Bell, people could see that it was a lively spot.
Only been in there a couple of times since it changed to L'Esperance. Thought menu was a bit limited and service just okayish. Hard to compete with the Fench table.

WHEN we LIVED in Teddington 1974-1983 it had a restaurant called Libertys which we used frequently. When we moved to Surbiton in 1983 shortly after Liberty Bell opened and was owned by the same person as the one in Teddington. In the early days it served the best burgers around for miles and the blackboard specials changed daily. Children loved the starters. We frequented it weekly. It changed hands a few times until the final people could not run it properly and we stopped going. We tried Victoriana once and have not bothered with l'esperence when we read the menu and saw "Chicken Nuggets". We now go to Gourmet Burger or Jamies in Kingston to get a good burger. So in answer to the original post maybe an Amercian diner serving great burgers etc might work but realistically Tolworth and Surbiton has too many fast food outlets already. Best restaurant is French Table.

Liberty Bell FACTS - from previous employee.

Opened in 1984.
NEVER changed hands. Same couple owned it until closure.
The fantastic head chef and manager moved to spain the year before its closure.
After that the standards slightly slipped, and due to satisfaction with having a business well run for so long, the couple decided to sell the business which then became the ridiculous Victoriana, and now the mediocre L'esperance.

I hear the the building is soon to be up for grabs soon, so please god somebody make it into how the Liberty Bell used to be in the good old days. Not just another 'Just Burgers" place. Lets have a classic louisiana - deep south -pulled pork- ribs - steaks - burgers - high quality american-ish food that surbiton needs. Please not an italian. Please not a bistro. Please not a curry house. Its such a cracking building, with such great history and interior. Why doesn't someone turn it into a great jazz bar or something. Argh. Good buildings deserve good businesses.

I have to agree with the above post. Spot on.
Liberty Bell did the best rack of ribs in London.
Bring back something at least as good if not better, please!!!

thanks for putting me straight. Same owner then, but a variety of managers and I agree the last ones were not the best. Bring back Liberty bell then like you say

Does the spirit of the Liberty Bell live on in the new Langleys Restaurant?

I've just had a peek at the menus - they're not a million miles away from the old Liberty Bell menus, and there's an emphasis on frequently changing specials, which was a big thing at the Liberty Bell.

The prices look a bit higher than I remember, but I suppose that could be 10 years of inflation. The posh burger and chips option, at £12.50 comes in £2 cheaper than the recently relaunched Grove's. Considering that this is a proper restauant, with a great interior, that looks like better value and highlights the Grove as being a bit too expensive for what it is.

Is it me, or does the kids menu look a little on the expensive side? A kids mains, desert and drink would probably come in at £11 to £13 ish. Young families make up much of the immediate catchment area, especially Berrylands, so I'd have expected the restaurant to pull out all the stops to get the families in at off-peak times.

Anyway, here's the menus. If anybody goes, especially old Liberty Bellers, then let us all know how you got on.

I went the 1st week it opened.
I had a sardine starter followed by a ribeye steak adn trippled cooked chips.
Very nice it was too. I shall be returning to go through the rest of the menu.

It certainly looks good, and I don't think the pricing is bad.

It is not really in direct competition with places like the Grove. That is there to serve the 'central-Surbitonites' as a neighbourhood pub with food. This one looks a little more special and worth travelling that bit further for a nice occasion.

It would not be somewhere I'd go every week, because it is totally the opposite end of town, and I guess a lot of people who eat out frequently would be the same. By the time I have got back to the station, walked home and got changed and then walked back through the station to get to Langley's half the evening would be gone. Fine occasionally, but not every week.

They should definitely try to attract people from their immediate surrounding area to make this a success.

I think Langleys Restaurant should do well as a neighbourhood restaurant - it's well located as the nearest restaurant for a lot of Southborough / Upper Brighton Road, as well as being handy for Berrylands & Oakhill.

An Argentine or Brazilian Churrasco house would be smashing,as long as the Beef actually comes from that region.

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