Foley’s in Fitzrovia, Trust Us, You’re Gonna Go Back!
17 Aug 2016
No, they revisit restaurants they come to know and love, for their unique or familiar menus, their indulgent service, and the memorable experiences they offer. The majority of us are far more likely to agree to a drink after work if the answer to “what’s the food like there?” is a good one, and we’re usually pleasantly surprised that the restaurant we chose for its exceptional menu also happens to serve craft ales and chianti – not the other way around.
So, when you discover a new place to add to the list, a restaurant you know you’re going to be revisiting and taking new dining partners with each time, so you can show off your discovery and watch their faces melt with pleasure as they try your menu favourites, it’s worth shouting about. Hence why I’m writing about Foley’s.
It’s well worth turning up a little early for your reservation at Foley’s, so you can make use of the stools they’ve set up outside their window front, which they’ve turned into a bar. Why don’t more restaurants do that? The number of times I’ve turned up too early or without a reservation and been turned away… I’m always tempted to just grab the bottle of wine from the nearest table (and a fistful of fries) on the way out to keep myself occupied until a table becomes free. At Foley’s, you can people-watch whilst waiting for your table as the barman hands you drinks and snacks through the window, and it’s all completely legit. Nobody is going to get judged or sacked. You might fancy spending all evening there, but that’ll change once you see the menu. You’ll be desperate to get to your table.
On my visit, I was fortunate enough to bag a seat right in front of the narrow kitchen that runs along one side of the restaurant downstairs. Always request this spot, it’s a real, raw culinary experience with natural theatrics. It’s like watching a live episode of Masterchef with the best TV-dinner there is. I was surprised by the number of chefs squeezed behind the ovens and stoves on a Wednesday night, but when my food arrived, far more intricate and complex than the menu would have you believe, I understood completely.
We were advised by our waiter to treat the menu as if it were tapas – spicy, modern European tapas – which is always music to my ears, as tapas suggests you ought to just order the entire menu. Once prepared, your food is served, whether or not the other dishes are ready. This style of dining means that the feeling you get when you come back from the bathroom and your food has arrived is an ongoing sensation throughout the evening. Just when you think you’ve had your lot, that other dish the Head Chef personally talked you into ordering arrives. Such a win.
Grilled Octopus was served, suckers seared and tentacles crispy, but unbelievably tender. Season it enough and put a blindfold on, I think you’d be hard pressed to name what meat you were eating. I’d have happily eaten a Disney-sized octopus from Chef Mitz’s menu. Charcoal Chicken Thigh Ends were deliciously slippery on the tongue, despite still managing to boast that charred taste of summer, and I sneakily ate more than my fair portion of it. Pork Belly had the delightfulness of pulled pork with the bold unmissable flavours of crispy pork fat, and was paired with earthy toasted cashews. We ordered aubergine because we felt we had to – it was listed under the vegetables menu and although I live off of a diet centred around pork and carbs, we felt we needed to, you know, ‘green it up’ a little. But know this; I’d go back to Foley’s and order only the aubergine, again and again, and again. Oven baked and doused in chilli lime yoghurt, with a sprinkling of juicy pomegranate, puffed quinoa and feta, it was as if our dessert had arrived early, but we both agreed not to tell. The aubergine fell apart as if it were strudel, its flavours undecidedly masked or enhanced by the savoury yoghurt and sweet fruit. Just order it, promise?
I’m sure Foley’s has its flaws, every restaurant reveals a few, but it wasn’t the waiter, learning for the first time how to open a bottle of wine at our table with the help of his manager (and nailing it). It wasn’t Chef Mitz keeping a beady eye on each of his chefs and calmly replating when he found it necessary. It wasn’t that the music was a tad too loud (it made Wednesday feel like Friday), and it definitely wasn’t the chefs watching your reactions as you tasted their carefully prepared dishes. In fact, it was all of those things that made Foley’s a little bit special. Incredibly transparent and totally and utterly refreshing. I’ve been back twice already.