To be honest, I think I knew that I was going to like Foley’s before I’d even been to it.
For a start, the new restaurant is helmed by Mitz Vora, former sous-chef at one of my favourite restaurants in London, the Palomar. And then there’s the concept. A contemporary kitchen inspired by the historic spice trail (think elements from all over: India, China, the Middle East and even the Mediterannean)…
Expectations were definitely heightened when fellow foodie, Lemma, and I arrived at the Fitzrovia-based eatery to find an al fresco-esque bar at the front, neatly lined with an array of spices which wouldn’t be out of place in my Indian home.
The rare sight of blue skies in London was reason alone for celebration that evening, with summer-appropriate tipples very much in order.
I oped for a Sherbert fizz, an elegantly refreshing mix of prosecco, elderflower liqueur, lemon sherbet and mint. As its name would suggest, Lemma’s Happy Days was also a perky choice, involving vodka, coconut water, a mix of juices (pink grapefruit, lime, pineapple and even ginger), bitters and a dash of agave syrup.
The roasted lotus seeds (or makhana, as we call them back in India) served alongside, were quite a moreish touch as well!
Dinner was off to an uplifting start with some spiced sweet potato fritters.
The devilishly deep-fried dish offered a rich lift to the classic Bombay street-eat, vadas, with a lusty saffron coconut curry, pickled red onions and grilled pineapples doing much to revive our jaded palate.
The bold play on familiar flavours continued over a series of beautifully presented plates, each a riot of colour and textures.
Much like at the Barbary (the Palomar’s new brother restaurant in Covent Garden), cauliflower and aubergine were two sure-fire hits, albeit for creatively different reasons. Served with tzatziki, diced tomatoes and smoked peanuts, the roasted cauliflower had a sharp and spicy edge to it…
While the aubergine arrived festooned with pomegranate, dates, puffed crunchy quinoa and feta on a zesty chilli lime yogurt. All the trimmings aside, I loved the resolutely earthy flavours of the veg too…
… But it wasn’t flawless, I’ll admit, as we found it a tad too salty. It was a similar quibble with our next round of eats – super greens for me and hake for Lemma.
Packing in quite a punch, my salad was densely layered with gem lettuce, kale, avo, red onion, fennel, feta, spiced and crunchy quinoa, with a handful of pistachios and sliced oranges tossed in for good measure. In close competition, the hake featured tamarind, fennel, coconut, crispy chickpeas, okra, coriander and kale.
You could say that there was almost too much going on with each dish, making it difficult for us to draw out and enjoy any distinctive flavours or elements for themselves…
But this was a view that we quickly abandoned when it came to dessert – a concoction of sweet-somethings piled up, in the form of a Fat Boy Elvis.
More precisely, it involved warm chocolate-chip banana cake with banana cream, a nougat-like peanut honey, strawberry jam and the childhood classic – popping candy (we skipped out on the bacon, which usually comes with this dessert).
Although a bit too sweet for me (ironic I know, coming from a sugar junkie), two cups of homemade chai weren’t amiss either, especially when presented with a chocolate spoon to stir in!
We’d started the evening basking in the sunshine outside, but eventually made our way to the den-like basement, drawn to the heat of the open kitchen.
Dining by the counter here meant that we could chat freely (and even share shots!) with the kitchen team, including Chef Vora, who – like me – hails from Bombay.
The atmospheric ambience lent much to our overall experience and needless to say, we were in remarkably good spirits by the time we left!
Foley’s, 23 Foley Street , London , W1W 6DU