Succulent steak and gooey fondant will have me returning to the popular Soho House destination in Chiswick, but a lack of lighting provided me with a first-hand encounter with the effect that ambience can have on the dining experience.
In a recent article published by EP Magazine, it states that “few consumers really know good food on an expert level, but they know good restaurants, they know where they want to spend their time and what they will pay money for …”. This concept was what Dine With Design was initially founded upon. I have almost become fascinated with the effect that design and ambience can have on the dining experience. The reason that I wanted to clearly outline this, is because my most recent visit to a local, popular and quite well regarded restaurant, High Road Brasserie in Chiswick, was almost completely ruined by ambiance; or lack of it!
A part of the Soho House family, High Road Brasserie is a restaurant and hotel that sits on the historical site of Foubert’s Hotel. The brasserie itself has a gorgeous vintage design with mismatched tiling, art deco detailing and an exquisite wrap-around bar at its centre. It was a beautiful summer evening, so we sat in the outside patio at the front of the restaurant. While I assume many would find the hustle and bustle from the main street distracting, I found it quite comforting and an added energy that only a high road location can offer.
We arrived just before the sun set and as it was a Friday night, I had already assumed we’d be waiting longer than usual to order. The wait was rather extensive but as dusk turned to darkness, the two dimly-lit, cone-shaped industrial wall sconces wouldn’t even be enough for a cat to spot a mouse. It wasn’t until we were eating dessert that candles were put onto tables.
Yes, the Arancini were a little dry but the accompanying red pepper dip was divine and my 9-ounce Sirloin was tender and cooked to perfection with soft, fluffy mash and a smooth, delicious peppercorn sauce that was a faultless complement! My partner couldn’t get enough of his Cheeseburger and I was lucky to steal a few frites before they disappeared. The chocolate fondant was gooey and rich and my Eton Mess was the light, sweet finish that I was looking for after a richly flavoured feast.
Although I can recall all the great things about the food, (and by the way, the Collet, Brut NV is some of the best champagne I’ve tasted!), the one thing I’ve mentioned to everyone when they’ve asked how it was, is that “it would’ve been better if I could see what I was eating!”.
The EP Magazine article says, “Design is itself subjective, and the reason of whether or not we like a restaurant can often be subconscious and down to the way it ‘feels’.” Not being able to see (or photograph!) my food made me a little frustrated and tarnished my experience of High Road Brasserie. It would be a lie if I said I won’t be going back but I now know what I’m in for.
Next time you find yourself really enjoying a restaurant, think about why and share it with people! Restaurant dining isn’t just about the food being the best in the world (this isn’t to say that quality food and presentation isn’t incredibly important also!), but it’s about creating an atmosphere, an ambience that will either relax guests, excite them or even inspire. Restaurant dining is an experience and I think it’s important that consumers are aware of this, and restaurateurs remember it.
Food presentation: 3/5
High Road Brasserie, Chiswick
162-170 Chiswick High Rd, London W4 1PR
+44 (0)20 8742 1717