What: A new restaurant on Fulham’s Wandsworth Bridge Road that’s currently serving diners on a covered and - thankfully given this unfortunately-timed cold snap - heated terrace adorned with hanging plants. FENN takes its name from the old English word for low-lying wetland, a nod to its focus on ‘locally sourced, British seasonal dishes’.
Who: FENN is owned by Luke Wasserman, Toby Neill and Johnnie Crowe, the team behind Hackney’s NEST. The trio previously operated the set menu-only Harlequin in the same spot. FENN is a play for slightly more casual territory - it offers a flexible a la carte menu alongside a set menu - and is also more stylistically aligned to NEST in terms of its branding and overall proposition. Heading up the restaurant day-to-day are long-standing back and front of house partnership Joe Laker and Harry Cooper. Both are former senior team members at Mark Jarvis’ influential Clerkenwell restaurant Anglo and opened Belgravia restaurant Liv for him last year.
The vibe: Entered via a pair of reclaimed French antique doors, the newly-created 14-cover terrace is attractive and comfortable with bench seating and handmade wooden furniture. Opening on 18 May, the main dining room backs onto an open kitchen and has a simple, naturalistic feel with navy walls, black and white images of outdoor scenes and the same rustic furniture as the terrace. A new 16-cover private dining room and wine cellar is located downstairs.
The food: Laker’s food - which is overseen by Crowe as executive chef - is just as one would expect from an ex-Anglo chef: high quality British ingredients cooked accurately and simply in a manner that sees the quality of the produce do most of the heavy lifting. What is already an accessible a la carte selection is made even more so by the presence of a few dishes with more casual leanings, including FENN's 'FFC' fried chicken with smoked salt mayonnaise; and a beef tartare dressed with fermented chilli and smoked oil. Alongside this, FENN offers an equally unfussy £45 five-course chef’s menu of the type pioneered by the likes of Robin Gill’s The Dairy and - indeed - Anglo. There is some crossover between the two menus, with other dishes including beetroot, goats curd and candied walnut; halibut, Cornish crab and sea herbs; and nutmeg custard tart.
To drink: A tight drinks list is presented on a single sheet of A5 but a larger selection of wine is available on request (it was Cooper’s view that slamming down a big list would be out of keeping with FENN casual positioning). The list favours wineries that are sustainable and embrace low intervention production methods. Key suppliers include Les Caves de Pyrennes, Ellis Wines, Newcomer Wines and Lea & Sandeman. FENN also incorporates a wine shop, offering bottles at ‘takeout’ prices for those drinking at home. A selection of creative alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails is also available
And another thing: This stretch of Wandsworth Bridge Road is quite isolated - the nearest station is Imperial Wharf, which is about 15 minute's walk away - and has something of the backwater about it despite its affluent catchment. Appealing to the local market will be absolutely key here. Like Harlequin before it, FENN is offering something more contemporary and carefully realised but it's fairly priced and far from challenging. Given the pedigree of the day-to-day team and the fact that the owners already know the area well, it's likely to be welcomed with open arms.