French Restaurant Reigate, Surrey, cooking tips : La Barbe

Head Chef - Patrick Brandao

Head Chef - Patrick Brandao


One of the area’s leading French restaurants, La Barbe in Reigate has been serving the Francophiles of Surrey for more than 35 years – and now there is a new head chef at the helm.

Hailing from Biarritz in South West France, Patrick Brandao trained at L'Ecole Hotelière de Biarritz, which brought him into contact with such celebrated chefs as Alain Ducasse and Pierre Gagnaire, before spending two years in Switzerland at acclaimed restaurant Auberge Aux 2 Sapins in Montricher.

He then went on to join the brand-new restaurant L’Impertinent back in Biarritz, where he started out as pastry chef and progressed to Sous Chef, and within 10 months they had achieved their first Michelin star.

Having joined La Barbe in February, Patrick promises exquisite French flavours in the relaxed and welcoming setting that people have come to know and love.

“My vision is to take the very best of traditional French cooking while also adding a modern twist,” says Patrick. “I believe in using the finest ingredients possible and, in order to do this, it’s very important to work closely with our suppliers and to be in constant contact with them.

“In addition, I like to try and source locally whenever possible – for example, our meat comes from Ye Village Butchers in Walton-on-the-Hill – and, as I get to know the area better, I am looking forward to sourcing more of our ingredients from around Surrey.”

Inspired by his background on the Atlantic coast, Patrick will also be featuring some seafood specials on the menu, including his favourite dish of octopus, as well as changing recipes based on what’s in season.

He is also a big fan of using high-quality olive oil, which he compares to wine in terms of the subtleties of flavour, ranging from “peppery to lemony”.



Chef 's tips

We are always pleased to hear any tips you may have. Please share them with us, send us an e-mail!

Adding flavours and storing them!


  • If you use fresh herbs on a regular basis, save the measuring cups from medicine bottles; they can be used to measure spices and herbs
  • To keep chopped herbs fresh, store them in a container that doesn’t let the light in and keep the container refrigerated.
  • When a recipe tells you to fry onions and garlic, always add the garlic last to prevent burning.
  • For garlic popcorn, just add a couple of peeled cloves to the popping oil.
  • Tomato paste doesn’t keep well once open so freeze the remainder in an ice cube tray for handy sized blocks.  This technique can also be used for chopped fresh herbs!


Good health tips

  • If you want to lose weight from your hips, avoid spicy food because it overstimulates the glands that cause fat storage in hips and bottom.
  • Eat vegetable soup as a starter to lose weight; the fibre causes the rest of the meal to pass through your digestive system more quickly
  • To remove excess fat from soup and stock, fill a plastic bag with ice  and drag it across the surface. the fat will cling to the ice cold bag or pour the stock through a large funnel filled with ice cubes. Alternatively, drag some kitchen paper over the surface and it will soak up the fat.


Useful new tips from La Barbe kitchen

  • To loosen a tight jar lid, wind an elastic band around it to form a great grip.
  • To peel garlic easily, peel down the stem of the clove and soak in very hot water for ten minutes and the skin will come straight off.
  • To get the maximum juice out of a lemon you can roll it hard on the chopping board or place it in the microwave for a few seconds.
  • When chopping, put a damp towel under the board to give a firm grip on the table.
  • An over salted casserole can be saved by adding fizzy water or by placing a potato in the casserole for 20 minutes and then remove.
  • If there’s too much fat on top of your casserole or sauce, gently float a piece of kitchen paper across the top and it will soak up the excess.
  • Keep brown sugar soft by storing with a couple of marshmallows

  • Use a large muffin tin to cook stuffed peppers in the oven - it will help keep them upright.

  • Add half a teaspoon of baking soda to the water when hard-boiling eggs to make the shells incredibly easy to peel off



Balancing your diet before the very unhealthy festive season.

  • In general, there are no “good” or “bad” foods; only good or bad diets. To maintain health and function efficiently, our bodies need 13 vitamins and 16 minerals as well as fats, carbohydrates and protein. Plus plenty of water. How to achieve the balance:
  • Eat regularly and enjoy your meals and snacks.Eat a wide variety of foods
  • Eat enough food to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat plenty of food rich in starch and fibre.
  • Don’t eat too much fat.  Do not eat sugary food too frequently
  • Ensure you get plenty of vitamins and minerals in your food
  • Go easy on alcohol and salt.  Remember that both snacks and meals count towards the balance!



  • To make your lettuce last longer, cut the core and sprinkle a bit of sugar in the cavity.
  • Freeze parsley on its stem in a clear plastic bag; when you need it, remove it from the freezer and rub it between your fingers; the parsley is automaticlly chopped
  • To keep watercress fresh longer,immerse the leaves, but not the roots in a jug of water
  • Always buy broccoli with tight heads, this way  they won’t drop off when you cook them
  • Wrap celery in aluminium foil when putting in the refrigerator and it will keep for weeks 
  • To keep potatoes from budding, place an apple in the bag with the potatoes.
  •  The simplest way to slice a bunch of cherry tomatoes is to sandwich them between two plastic lids and run a long knife through all of them at once!


From the Fishmongers

  • To ensure that you get the best range and quality of fish, choose a fishmonger that supplies your local restaurant. (Give the chef a ring!)
  • Fresh fish should have a firm texture. Push your fingers into the flesh; if your indentation stays there, the fish is not really fresh.
  • The tail of a truly fresh fish will be stiff.  A fresh fish should have bright scales and pink gills, the eyes must be clear, bright and not sunken.


Crabs and Lobsters

  • Always place your crab in cold water when cooking it; this will keep the legs attached to the body to make a perfect presentation
  • When your crab is cooked and cold, remove the” dead man’s fingers”, these are the gills and have a very bad taste; there are five on each side of the inner body.
  • To open a crab or lobster claw; use an old pair of scissors to cut along the ridge of the claw.
  • Attach your lobster to a plank of wood (not pine) before cooking to keep the tail straight.
  • Always cook your crab in well-salted water with aromatic garnish.


Its barbecue time again so…

  • Before lighting your barbecue, brush the grid with olive oil to bring out the flavour
  • Place the red meat close to the charcoal or in the centre of the Barbie and the chicken or other white meat on the side or higher grid
  • Barbecue charcoal is ready when 80 per cent is covered with grey ash.
  • Keep on rotating and turning your food to avoid the nasty black burnt bits.  Cook your fish last, as it will take only a few minutes


Festive drinks tips

  • To chill champagne, wine or even beer quickly, just add a handful of salt to the water and ice in the bucket and the bottles should chill in 15 to 20 minutes
  • Magnums of wine will generally be of superior quality than a similar wine in a regular size bottle as the ratio of wine to air is greater. So if you are entertaining a good number of guests, go for a larger bottle (and it looks great!)
  • Try to impress your guests by drinking the best and most expensive wine first, and then bring out the cheaper stuff when everyone is slightly merry.
  • When you’re pouring the champagne, put a little in the bottom of each glass first before topping them up. This stop them overflowing and wasting all the bubbly
  • And finally if you’re feeling hungover, vitamin C is the most important ingredient in any hangover cure. Soluble, flavoured vitamin tablets are virtually designed for hangovers.
  • Cure for headaches: take a lime, cut it in half and rub it on your forehead. The throbbing will go away 
  • Don't throw out all that leftover wine. Freeze into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces


Clean that Pan

  • If you burn a pan; leave some cold tea to soak in for a few hours and the black burnt crust will then come off quite easily; if this is not strong enough boil a spoonful of bleach and a cup of water for a minute and then rinse.


Oooh Too Much Garlic

  • If you have put too much garlic in a stew or a sauce you can neutralise the flavour with parsley (this will work with your breath as well).


Pre-prepare Potatoes

  • You can peel your potatoes the night before as long as you keep them well covered in cold water.


Crisp and Juicy Apples

  • To ensure apples remain crisp and juicy, store them in a perforated plastic bag in the bottom draw of your fridge


Check They're Fresh

  • To check if a bunch of grapes is fresh, shake the bunch gently. If any grapes fall off, they are not fresh.


Non-Soggy Tart

  • To prevent a fruit tart from becoming soggy, sprinkle a little semolina powder on to the base before adding the fruit.


Magical Peeling Tomato

  • To skin a tomato: with the tip of the blade cut a shallow “X” in the bottom of the tomato and drop in boiling water for a few seconds and pop into a bowl of icy water. Leave until cool and it will peel off like magic


Green Avocado

  • If you have half an avocado left over, store in the fridge with the stone and it will stop the flesh browning so quickly


The Whole Asparagus

  • The base of asparagus is not always as tough as it looks; it’s just skin. By peeling the base you will find more you can eat.


Fresh Chicory

  • To keep chicory looking fresh after it has been prepared, wrap the container all around and protect it from direct sunlight.


Creme Brulee

  • When making Crème Brulée add one whole egg to the yolks to make sure it sets properly.


Cleaning off the Burn

  • If you need to clean a burnt glass coffee jug, use a mix of salt and vinegar.


Succulent Ham

  • When using ham in a recipe make sure to use ham carved off the bone which has a succulent and dry texture infinitely superior to the flabby sliced ham found in packets and it can be cut into thick slices for any special dish.


Super Cake Rotator

  • To decorate a cake either with icing or chantilly cream; pour a few drops of oil in a soup plate and insert another one on top of the oil and place your cake on it. This little device will be perfect to rotate your cake.


Proper Pan-Fried Steak

  • To pan-fry a steak properly, preheat a flat or ridged frying pan over a high heat, then add a small amount of olive or sunflower oil. Pat the meat dry and place in the frying pan.  Cook for an equal amount of time on each side until done as desired. Salt after cooking to avoid drawing out juices; and add a noisette of butter during the last minute of cooking.


No need to shed tears while preparing onions

  • Peeling them off in water should do the trick.


Preparing a beetroot salad?

  • Don't worry about red fingers, rub your fingers with lemon and off it goes.

Tips for a great barbecue


  • For home made burgers that are cooked right through, poke a hole in the centre when forming and for burgers that are rare on the inside, slip a small ice cube in the center.
  • Before making your barbecue brochettes soak the bamboo skewers in cold water a few hours in advance, this will prevent them from burning.
  • When cooking white meat on a barbecue, give it colour first and then cover with a lid, this will give you a moist finish full of flavour.



  • If you haven’ t got time to chill the beer or white wine for your guests, just chill the glasses instead.
  • Tie your bottle opener and cork screw on to a length of string attached to the garden furniture; they have a habit of disappearing just when you need them.
  • To add that certain something to your drinks, frost the edge of the glass by dipping the rim into egg white followed by castor sugar au naturel or with food colouring.


How to make your food taste richer without the extra calories.

  • When pan frying meat, fish or vegetables, flavour the oil with your favourite seeds.
  • Finish your mash potatoes with hot skimmed milk and truffle oil.
  • Cracked peppercorn crust on any red meat works a treat
  • Use fresh fruit puree to garnish your cakes instead of double cream.  In winter glaze your carrots with honey and cinnamon.  In summer sprinkle chopped fresh herbs on the food
  • Lemon juice and a dash of olive oil are perfect for dressing your salads ( even warm new potatoes with chives)



  • When buying Golden Delicious, choose the ones with more brown spots on the skin. The more spots the more flavour.
  • Stop cut apples from going brown by sprinkling with lemon juice.
  • Don’t lose all the filling when cooking baked apples, before you put them in the oven, plug the top of the hole with a little piece of marzipan.


Biscuit making tips

  • Save time when making biscuits; instead of cutting lots of individual round shapes, just roll the dough into a sausage, refrigerate until hard and cut slices off it.
  • For really crispy biscuits, use half flour and half corn flour.
  • To make shortbread with a delicious luxury taste, add a tablespoon of custard powder to the raw mixture.


Meaty Tips

  • To make your own marinade for pork, use a table spoon of honey mixed with grated ginger ( sweet and spicy)
  • Try placing a layer of cream crackers or Pringles on top of the sauce in a shepherd’s pie or cottage pie; they’ll absorb the juices from the sauce and keep the mashed potato fluffy
  • To tenderise meat, cover it with slices of kiwi or pineapple for 10 to 15 minutes ( remove fruit before cooking)


Tips for the Cake Maker

  • If you don’t have a cake tin with a removable base, don’t worry. Grease your tin as normal. Cut a long strip of kitchen foil and put it in the bottom of the tin so that each end of the foil strip goes up the side and hangs over the hedge. Put a circle of greaseproof paper in the bottom of the tin and fill with the cake mixture. When you need to get the cake out, gently lift it using the foil tabs.
  • If you want your cake to have a flat top for decorating, spoon out a bit of the mixture from the middle of the tin before baking. If your cake always comes out cracked, put a dish of cold water in the bottom of the oven before baking.
  • Cakes are completely baked when you can stick a skewer in and it comes out clean.
  • To stop cakes and pastries sticking to the inside of shaped cutters, brush the insides with a little oil.


Here are some egg tips

  • If you have trouble peeling hard-boiled eggs, crack the shells and soak them in cold water for a minute or two, then the shells will split off easily
  • If you have undercooked a boiled egg, just pop the top back on and wrap the egg in cling film. Place gently back into the pan and finish off the cooking.
  • Take care when separating eggs; the whites do not whisk up so well if any trace of yolk gets into them!


Vegetable tips

  • To skin tomatoes, cut a shallow 'X' in the bottom of the tomatoes and place into boiling water until the skin start to split. Immediately plunge the tomatoes into icy water and leave to cool down. The skin should now peel off like magic!
  • To check the quality of raw beans, put them in water. If they sink, they're good. If they float, throw them away.
  • For a neat potato salad, cut the potatoes up before cooking, put them into a deep-frying basket, lower into a pan of simmering water until cooked.


Wimbledon Season! So here are a few strawberry tips

  • Once you've picked your strawberries, do not get them near water or they'll turn soggy and tasteless.
  • Strawberries are a good way to clean your teeth as they remove plaque and leave your mouth feeling fresh
  • To bring out the flavour of strawberries when cooking them in desserts, add a touch of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice to the recipe.


Nice 'n Spice

  • To get the best out of spices, roast them before use


Char Resistant Wooden Skewers

  • To prevent wooden kebab skewers charring in the oven or the barbeque , soak them in water for 20 minutes before cooking


Safe Barbie

  • When using the grill or barbeque keep a spray bottle filled with water ready to douse any flare-ups.


Bulging Cans

  • If a can of food has an outward bulge, throw it away as the content will be bad


Sweet Smelling Kitchen

  • If you want to keep your kitchen smelling sweet and fresh just put some orange (or mandarin) peel in the oven medium heat until the fragrance can be detected.


No Problem Peeling

  • If you have problems peeling hard boiled eggs, crack the shells and soak in cold water for a minute; the shells will slip off perfectly.


Evenly Dressed Salad

  • To dress the salad evenly, pour the dressing down the sides of the bowl rather than directly on to the salad


Low Fat Casserole

  • To soak up the excess of fat on a sauce or casserole just float a piece of kitchen paper on the top


Perfect Shellfish

  • When you prepare shellfish it must be very fresh and should be cooked the day you buy it. The cooking process needs to be quick and stopped at the right time to prevent it from becoming tough.


Refridgerating Mushrooms

  • To keep mushrooms in the fridge in perfect condition, make sure they are wrapped in a paper bag to absorb the excess humidity.


White Cauliflowers

  • To keep your cauliflower white during cooking, just add lemon juice to the water.


Roast Leg of Lamb

  • If you like garlic and want to bring up the taste of the lamb, rub in some garlic cloves and baste with vinegar half way through cooking time.



  • To bring out the flavour of fresh strawberries add a few drops of lemon juice, balsamic vinegar or a pinch of black pepper.



  • To protect the tip of the asparagus when steam cooking, wrap them with foil.


A Perfect Red Wine Casserole

  • At the end of the cooking process of a red wine casserole i.e. coq au vin or boeuf bourguignon, add a few grams of dark chocolate to remove the bitterness and give a shiny finish to the sauce. On the other hand if the sauce is too sweet just add a few drops of kirsch alcohol


Garlic Breath?

  • After eating too much garlic, forget the Chewing Gum, just eat a little bit of fresh parsley and your bad breath will disappear (nearly) !
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