The Fox and Grapes SW19
REVIEWS, February 21, 2011
Overall Value
out of 5
  • Food
  • Service
  • Ambience
Fox & Grapes, 9 Camp Rd, London, SW19 4UN

A former inn, prettily located on Wimbledon Common, whose interior has been converted to a large, contemporary-style dining room offering rich cooking of high quality; though many aspects of the operation are individually impressive, we left feeling that the experience’š in these admittedly early days, did not entirely ‘gel’.

What could be more English than an ancient inn in the middle of an ancient greensward? On a sunny day – as it was the Thursday lunchtime on which we visited – this Wimbledon Common-side destination has something of the chocolate box about it. The interior therefore comes as a bit of a shock. That’s not to say that it’s not pleasant, just that it’s not remotely in keeping with the exterior. In fact, pretty much all of the ground floor has been ‘opened up’ to create what’s effectively a large and airy dining room, in a style which doesn’t even nod to Olde England.

Perhaps that’s because this is a Clause Bosi establishment. Claude may have made his name in Ludlow (at Hibiscus, now uprooted to Mayfair), but he’s still a Gaul at heart. Likewise his brother, who’s got a bit of history in running English pub dining rooms, and is the manager here.

We didn’t initially take to the menu. Though elegantly set out, in English, it’s not really a gastropub menu. It turns out that this is really a mid-price restaurant of some ambition. Odd on such a menu to find, as a starter, a large slice of pork pie. The fact it turned out to be a very fine pork pie doesn’t make it any less peculiar – many people wouldn’t want the calorific or fat content of a piece of pie like that in their entire meal. We noticed this all the more, because the menu didn’t really offer any obvious lunch-like alternatives. Even the beautifully-presented salad of warm beetroot, endive and blood orange also comes (as advertised) with goat’s cheese and a walnut and honey dressing.

Main courses similarly showed an épater-la-bourgeoisie determination to lace almost all dishes with the sort of calorific content we’d guess Wimbledon’s ladies-who-lunch would normally go some way to avoid. Seemingly healthy pollock (very good), for example, came plated on shredded cabbage drenched in butter. A side dish of new potatoes was similarly doused.

It was not as the spuds were even needed – the waitress had failed to point out that the coq au vin (probably the healthiest dish) already came with a generous plate of mash included. Another waiter, arriving at our table where we were having wines of different colours failed to work out that perhaps the fish was for the gentleman having the white? Hardly a hanging offence, but all contributing to the slight sense of impersonality, of disconnection.

We were too full for puds, which is perhaps a shame as they looked the most obviously gastropubby part of the menu. But what’s with a description such as ‘English Apple Crème Brûlée with Burnt Cambridge Cream’. Perhaps some sort of Entente Cordiale joke? An espresso was of very high quality, however, reminding us that, individually, many aspects of our visit had been impressive.

Somehow though, in these admittedly early days, we still left feeling that this was an establishment which had managed to be fractionally less than the sum of its parts.

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