Surbiton now has its very own gin bar and restaurant – an evening at No 97 leaves Paul Critcher stirred into delight
Surbiton’s Maple Road is a stylish parade of bars and restaurants that makes this buzzy corner of south west London a great foodie destination. Not only does it have the monthly farmers’ market, but also fine dining restaurants such as The French Table, smart pubs such as the Antelope and now its very own gin bar and restaurant in the shape of No 97.
This labour of love created and owned by restaurateur Sam Berry and his partners has only recently opened, but is already drawing plenty of customers looking for fine cocktails, great food and a bubbling atmosphere full of chat and laughter.
Inspired by the owners’ travels, No 97 is an eclectic mix of all that they would place in their dream hangout. So, there’s a smart central horseshoe bar where fantastic cocktails are whipped up by another Sam, a bartender with a comprehensive knowledge of all things booze related. There’s an open kitchen where chefs create beautiful tasty dishes that are served small-plate style as is the custom in Barcelona (not quite tapas but more like starters). For something a little different, downstairs there’s a snug gin bar, while outside an enclosed terrace makes dining al fresco an option at any time of year.
Having absorbed the atmosphere at the bar along with a Half Hitch gin martini (stirred not shaken, thank you very much!) followed by a smooth Malbec, my dining partner and I, at Sam’s suggestion, picked out three dishes each. Dishes are served as they come, so that they are at their very best, straight from the pan to the diner with no delay.
First up was the charcuterie of the day, served with Nduja butter, house bread and pickles – the tasty fatty speck was a wonderful way to begin. Then came the truffle-infused buffalo mozzarella – the creamiest mozzarella I’ve ever had. Next up, poached duck egg with barley risotto, the egg yolk acting as the perfect sauce for the nutty tasting barley. But things were only just beginning, we still had the Galician octopus with black quinoa and chorizo sauce – beautifully cooked; the Madagascan prawn – delightful; and the star of the evening, braised pork belly with heritage carrots and crackling – delicious!
No 97 has all the hallmarks of a restaurant that is likely to succeed – pleasant and enthusiastic staff, an excellent venue, great tasting modern food and cocktails to die for. I for one will definitely return.