Food For Thought: Taste of the suburbs

Dining out in Fore Street, Hertford or Sydenham Road, SE26 may never have quite the same ring as Wardour Street or Notting Hill Gate, but things are definitely stirring in restaurant kitchens in the areas surrounding the capital.

Dozens of new eating places are opening in suburban high streets, offering dishes such as Roast Monkfish, Salmon Sula and Grilled Calf's Liver right on commuters' doorsteps.

"If people work in London, they're used to good-quality food, and when they come home they want to be able to find the same kind of thing nearby," says Jackie Tinkler, operations manager of the Orange Balloon group. In the last year or so, the group has opened pounds 25-a-head restaurants in Tonbridge, Twickenham, Hertford and Berkhampstead, and has more in the pipeline.

A few weeks ago, restaurateur Trevor Gulliver, the man behind the award- winning Putney Bridge and St John, stunned many when he opened his latest venture, Pukkabar, in deeply unhip SE26.

"People have been making jokes about Gulliver's Travels and where on earth is Sydenham, but for us it is perfect. We've got people coming not just from Sydenham, but from surrounding areas such as Dulwich and Brockley, and they really seem to appreciate what we are doing."

And as well as lower overheads, there are other advantages to being outside the West End. "Here," exclaims Trevor, "you can even park."