Foxlow (Soft Launch), Clerkenwell

I was lucky enough to get a reservation for the soft launch of Foxlow. Being part of the Hawksmoor group their soft launch events (50% off food for one week whilst they iron out the kinks in the kitchen and service) go within minutes of the email going out. As in, four minutes. They said that they would be emailing about it at a specific time; I set a Google Calendar reminder; I typed faster than I’ve ever typed before, and somehow I managed to get a reservation. Apparently they received over 10,000 emails within four hours of their email going out. I was lucky.

Being part of the Hawksmoor group we know that Foxlow is almost certainly going to be good. Hawksmoor has such a good reputation in London, they’re obviously not going to create a restaurant affiliated with the chain that messes with this good-will that they have built up. Let’s get this out of the way now: it is good. Let’s spend the rest of this post explaining why I (well, we… my wife Nuhar accompanied me) enjoyed the meal so much.

First of all, the branding. It’s pretty cool. They have a framed poster of a sans-serif font in the downstairs dining room. They have a sweet-looking bar serving awesome cocktails (as is the Hawksmoor style).

Basically, it’s a nice interior. A bit dark, but that’s not a problem (unless you’re taking photos and forget to set the white balance as I did for these ones; sorry!)

The wine is reasonable. It starts at £19, but we’re not overly keen on French wine, so we opted for the (£22?) Italian option. Perfectly drinkable, nice even. If you have money to spend then there are supposedly nice wines that cost a lot more (I wouldn’t know, I’m a wine neophyte; I’m more of a craft beer guy).

Okay, so let’s talk food. Here’s the menu:

So far, so good.

I went for the Brixham Crab with devilled mayonnaise and Nuhar went for the crispy five pepper squid.

The crab was lovely. A little expensive for a starter at £9 perhaps, but the crab (when squeezed with the lime wedge) tasted so fresh and delicious. The lettuce added a much-needed crunch to the texture. As for the devilled mayonnaise… divine. I was smearing, scraping, and making every effort possible to ensure that I consumed as much of this heavenly concoction as I could.

The squid? Even better. Nuhar and I share our starters (well, sort of… we have a couple of bites of each other’s). The squid was perfectly cooked. Flash fried for the bare minimum amount of time. It was not chewy at all and just kind of fell apart in the mouth. I’m usually a bit squeamish about squid (because y’know, tentacles) but I wish that I chose this as my starter. Next time I will.

I should point out that there were a few teething problems (e.g. the wrong dishes being served to us) but that’s what a soft launch is for, right? I have zero complaints there. The staff were friendly, smiley, apologetic, and kept pouring us wine. I would go so far as to call the service “good”, or even “damned good”. For a soft launch that’s a good thing.

Right, on to the mains.

I went for the Iberico pork “pluma” (served medium) and Nuhar went for the eight hour slow-cooked bacon ribs served with maple and mustard. For sides, we went for skin-on fries with bacon salt, and sprouting broccoli with chilli and anchovy (which we shared).

The Iberico pork was good. It was a reasonable size (meaning that I didn’t leave the restaurant so stuffed that I felt like I wanted to curl up into the foetal position). The four parts of the pluma were different sizes though, meaning that “medium” only happened for two of the pieces, whereas the other two pieces were medium-well. Again, I’m putting this down the to the soft launch – it’s why we only paid 50% of the regular price. I’m sure that they will iron out the small kinks before launch date, or shortly after.

Nuhar’s pork “rib” was nothing short of epic. It was a ridiculously large piece of meat with plenty of meat and fat on it. And because the fat was slow-cooked for 8 hours it melted like butter. The BBQ sauce that it came with (separately, in a quaint little pouring device) was sweet and delicious, as you’d expect.

The sides were good. The fries were pretty standard fries, nothing to write home about. The bacon salt was okay I guess – I couldn’t really taste the bacon, but at least they didn’t charge extra for the bacon salt option.

The broccoli with chilli and anchovy was really good though. My main concern was that it would be a bit overpowering (I like anchovy, but not that much). At first I thought “mmm, subtle”, but after a while I wish they went a bit bolder and ramped up both the chilli and anchovy content. Subtle is good, but I definitely feel that the dish could have benefited from both of more.

I feel that this is a pretty important point: Nuhar left about 1/5 of her bacon rib, because it was just so ridiculously huge (despite feeding me huge chunks of it). The default response from the waitress when taking our plates away was “would you like a doggy bag for that?” Foxlow gained huge points from me here. Yes, yes I would! I was working from home next day and I turned it into a fantastic bacon rib + mozzarella + BBQ sauce toasted sandwich for lunch. No waste. Love it.

Now we should probably talk desserts.

The bourbon caramel soft-serve sundae was fantastic. Decadent. Sweet as hell. The hot bourbon/maple sauce in a little jug on the side was a nice touch. I didn’t really taste the bourbon though (and I know my bourbon). Still, it was delicious. Ice cream and hot maple with a bit of pecan…. what’s not to like?

The banana split was equally decadent. Banana, ice cream, cream, chocolate sauce, even chunks of shortbread hidden amongst the well-designed mess. It was glorious. If you eat at Foxlow (and have enough physical space in your stomach) you absolutely have to have a dessert. At about £5 (normal price, not soft launch) they’re very reasonable.

We even ordered salted caramel popcorn (£3), thinking that we could have it as a side dessert to share. Luckily it came in a bag as we were way too full to eat any more after these very large desserts. It sits in our cupboard and we’ll be having it tonight. It looks delicious – whole pecans and everything.

All in all, this would normally cost you about £100 (three delicious courses for two people, including wine and service). We paid closer to £65 as it was a soft launch. Would I pay full price? Yes, for a special(ish) celebration. Definitely not a weekly haunt for me though, as I’m not made of money.

Foxlow have a few issues to work through (again: it’s a soft launch, I don’t want to sound too critical), but as it is, it’s fantastic. The value is reasonable for the quality of the ingredients and the service. I have no reservations in recommending it.

Go there: it’s good!

Foxlow on Urbanspoon

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