This is the fourth branch of Foxlow, the chain set up by Will Beckett and Huw Gott, who founded Hawksmoor before selling the group to a private equity firm in 2013. Foxlow in Chiswick is on the site of the former Sam’s Brasserie, a restaurant that built up a loyal local following based more around the charm of the owner Sam Harrison than the quality of its food. The site is a tricky one, next to the Post Office but some way back from the busy high street. A perfectly competent Japanese restaurant called Chisou just opposite folded after a couple of years, as did its predecessor. However the Foxlow owners didn’t become millionaires by investing in dud properties, so have presumably concluded that their reputation can offset the second-tier location.
The evening got off to a rocky start. As we walked in the reception desk was unattended, but there were four visible waitresses and two managers for precisely two diners at that moment. We waited, and waited some more, and eventually wandered over to take a seat. A waitress setting out a table acknowledged our existence but did not stir from her more pressing duties, and it took two more waitresses noticing us before someone finally decided to seat us. The room was poorly lit, so much so that I needed to use a phone app to illuminate the menu just to be able to read it. I have no idea why restaurateurs deliberately set lighting so absurdly low. It is not “romantic” - it is merely annoying.
The menu highlighted steaks but also had plenty of alternative dishes. The wine list was quite inventive, with a fine wine list in addition to the regular one. Our choice of Chateau Musar 1998, a lovely wine, did not work out well as there was a problem with the cork, but the staff handled this quite well. Example wines were Domaine de Haut Bourg 2013 Cabernet Blend at £25 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £11, Hacienda Grimon Crianza 2012 at £36 compared to a retail price of £13, and the Chateau Musar 1998 at £80 for a vintage that is hard to find these days but would set you back £30 in a shop if you could find it.
I began with fried squid, which came with lime. The squid was modest in size and not exactly chewy though it would not past muster in Tokyo as sushi either; the coating could have been crisper (11/20). A salad with avocado, carrots and herbs was respectable, though the carrots were rather too soft (10/20).
Fried chicken was decent enough, the coating fairly crisp though the chicken not having much flavour (12/20). This was much better than salmon with fennel. The salmon was described as being cooked lightly with a pink centre, but arrived somewhat overcooked. Worse, it was salty even to my taste, and the fennel was drenched in too much vinegar (8/20). On the side, a tomato salad featured some distinctly squishy tomato (10/20).
For dessert, Bramley apple pie seemingly had pastry made in the kitchen, but had nowhere near enough apple compared to pastry, so the overall effect was too dry (10/20). Sticky toffee pudding was better, rich but pleasant (11/20). Coffee was not bad. Service, once we were seated, was well meaning, the wine topping up good and our waitress (from Warsaw) friendly and trying hard to navigate the problems that were unfolding around her, such as the wrong dessert arriving. The assistant manager was very responsive to the problems that we had and adjusted the bill to reflect the issues that we encountered but it still came to £50 a head, albeit with a good wine. If you shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per head would be around £55. Overall, Foxlow was clearly in its early days but was nonetheless disappointing, well below the level of its original branch.