Whenever a big name chef puts their name to a new venture, be wary, be very wary. Either the original restaurant that made the chef famous suffers from neglect, or the new joint doesn't live up to the inevitable hype. This is the very problem facing Claude Bosi, the two Michelin starred chef at Hibiscus. He's opted to leave the running of his newish pub, the Fox and Grapes, to his brother, Cedric. That's probably the right decision but would diners at the Fox and Grapes feel a little short changed? Well there's only one way to find out...
We spurned proper starters but did share a Scotch egg and a basket of bread & butter. Although Scotch eggs are becoming a bit ubiquitous, this was a superior version, with the wild boar sausagemeat lending it a gamey flavour. The bread was superb too, nice and fresh from the oven.
My Cornish pollock with leeks, greens and an egg in a mushroom vinaigrette was perfectly executed but it failed to excite me. I've come to the conclusion that like many environmentally sound options, pollock is a bit boring. My mate's Cumberland sausage and mash was again well made but at the end of the day, it was bangers and mash.
The only slightly bum note of the meal were the triple-cooked chips that turned out more like potato wedges. When the triple-cooked tag is attached to the humble chip, they had better be out of this world. These weren't.
Although the Fox and Grapes is a pub, it feels more like a bistro or a restaurant than a boozer. And that's also the case with the prices; starters are around the £8 mark with mains around the £15 mark. Our bill came to £60 between two with a bottle of water, two pints of bitter and 12.5% service. Given how busy it was, service was good enough, although I was initially hacked off that they had no record of our lunch reservation.
There's nothing wrong with the Fox and Grapes; the food is of a generally high standard, but it's just too simple. Perhaps my expectations are unrealistic, what with the Claude Bosi connection, but the menu lacks a little bit of magic in my opinion. You could argue that it's a pub, and that it serves pub food, but the prices, the pedigree, and the ambience left me wanting more.
As I don't live too far away, I will be back. Besides, there's a paucity of quality places to eat out in Wimbledon. But for those of you not local to southwest London, I wouldn't bother making the journey.
Fox and Grapes, 9 Camp Road, Wimbledon Common, London, SW19 4UN
Nearest station: Wimbledon (then take a taxi or the 93 bus towards Putney)