When Time Out London published an article on hot summer openings, our interests were immediately piqued by one particular restaurant – Foley’s. This Middle Eastern-inspired modern restaurant lead by ex-Palomar’s Mitz Vora is indeed worth shouting about!
The restaurant is set on two floors. The more formal ground floor is reserved for bookings while walk-ins can get a seat on the kitchen counter in the basement, where all the food is prepared in front of your eyes.
We had reservations for the evening so were seated upstairs but next time we are definitely ‘walking-in’ to get a glimpse of the chefs in action!
The interior design is understated, which is refreshing . As you enter, your first glimpse is an open bar with stools outside on the pavement – a clever way to draw people in.
The narrow entrance opens up to a relatively large and bright space at the rear.
Walls are distressed brick, wood top tables and shelves with potted plants, giving the space a contemporary and minimalistic look.
The ambient music was just the right volume and the booths are intimate enough to have engaging conversations. The whole place had an austere sophistication about it.
The food is inventive sharing plates and prices range from £6 – £12. We were recommended to have one each from the ‘Bits and Bobs’ section – equivalent to a starter and 2-3 dishes from the rest of the menu to share.
Upon arrival, we were offered some complimentary lotus seed nibbles (which was an absolute firecracker of a nibble). It was quite unique and something we have never seen before, and rather spicy (as if dusted with scotch bonnet powder) and tangy, but at the same time highly moreish and addictive.
First up was the Spiced Sweet Potato Fritters with Grilled Pineapple, Cured Red Onions and Saffron Coconut Curry (£6). The fritters were quite hard and crusty on the outside but soft on the inside. The herby potato mix went very well with the sourness of the cured onion. The mild coconut and saffron sauce added a creamy and smoky base to the entire dish. Sadly I couldn’t taste the pineapple but nevertheless I would highly recommend this dish as a starter!
Another dish from the ‘Bits and Bobs’ section that seemed to be quite popular amongst the diners around us (judging by the number of plates that went past) was the Ceviche Endive tacos. We will have to wait till next time to give our verdict on this one!
From the vegetable section, we were instantly drawn to the Aubergine with Pomegranate, Dates, Chilli Lime Yoghurt, Puffed Quinoa and Feta (£8). The aubergine has had a bit of a renaissance in our family palate. This one was mildly spiced, with the crunchy puffed quinoa and tangy pomegranate providing texture and fruity flavours. The underlying chilli yoghurt had a lovely sweetness to it which balanced out the smoky aubergine and the salty feta. Combined together, it was (as described by Husband) a velvety rich and voluptuous dish! Apologies that the photo below does not do justice to how magnificent this dish was!
The fish dish of the evening was Hake with Tamarind, Fennel, Coconut, Crispy Chickpeas, Okra, Coriander and Kale (£9). Personally, I am a big fan of Tamarind and don’t get to see it much in London restaurants. Here, it is intelligently used to lift the Hake which has a more mild and subtle flavour, while the warmth of the coconut does not let the sourness of the tamarind overpower the dish. I liked the crispy kale and chickpeas adding a third dimension of texture to this delicate fish dish. It was a novel plate of food, definitely in a league of its own!
First to arrive from the highly anticipated meat dishes was the Pork Belly, with Tamarind BBQ, Apple, Green Papaya, Buttermilk, Cured Red Onions and Toasted Cashews (£9). I am a bit of a self-confessed pork belly fan and this dish could easily be amongst my top five! Even Husband, who normally doesn’t like Pork Belly, was rooting for this one!
This stellar creation was fiery, putting the aforementioned lotus seeds to shame! There was quite a spicy kick coming from the juliennes of papaya and cured onions. The thinly sliced green apples tried their best to offset the heat, but then the Tamarind relish exploded onto the scene, almost snatching back the limelight. The pork belly itself was melt in the mouth – a little of bit of fat, a little bit of meat, a little bit of fat, a little bit of meat – all scooped up with the creamy buttermilk sauce.
The final meat dish was the Lamb Rump – Confit Belly with Herb Humous, Spiced Peppers, Cornbread, Feta and Dukkah (£11). It was another clever dish, which was packed full of flavours and perhaps the most ‘middle eastern-inspired’ of all the dishes we had that evening. The lamb was tender and cooked to perfection, the cornbread added texture and the herby humous was a great take on the classic ‘mint sauce’ accompaniment to lamb. Last but not least, the spicy and aromatic dukkah (North African nut, seed and spice mixture) lifted the whole morsel into one spicy party-in-the-mouth sensation!
After all that food, there wasn’t much room left for dessert. But the Baklava Cheesecake with Cardamom Cheese, Puff Pastry, Walnut, Pistachio and Rose Petals (£6) was so tempting that we ordered one to share. The picture below, again, does not do justice to this very accomplished dessert. As soon as I had my first bite of the cream cheese and puff pastry, I was immediately transported to the spicy souks of the Middle East with its various nuts, seeds and spices. The warming cardamom notes coming from the cheese reminded me of home (India) and grandmother’s cooking, evoking memories of childhood. I am not into desserts that much, but cooked like that, I can be a convert in no time!
One note about the service – spot on! Friendly and always smiling, the timely delivery of each plate to the table, allowed us just enough time to savour each dish and its individual elements, flavours, ingredients – which is key for a complete gastronomic experience.
Foley’s is indeed a very sophisticated restaurant, which aims not to play safe, but to dazzle its diners with its ingenuity and often (pleasantly) unexpected combination of ingredients and flavours. I would highly recommend a visit!