Percy & Founders is a new restaurant in Fitzrovia, part of a shiny development that has replaced the beloved (in architectural terms) Middlesex Hospital. It’s from the people who brought you (™) posh pub-grub places including The Thomas Cubitt, The Orange and The Grazing Goat. The executive chef is Diego Cardosa, who worked under Angela Hartnett at The Connaught, and, latterly, Murano. It seats at least 200, and on one side a window looks into an expensively restored chapel, one of the few remaining elements of what once was.
Stephen Unwin: What is this, a Harvester that’s been through the wash?
Karen Krizanovich: It’s a bit hotel-y, but there’s no queuing, and it’s got that big bar area. “Elbow room, laughed Daniel Boom!”
Simon Gage: You know what, I’m a reviewer who doesn’t really care about the food. Probably because I’m a vegetarian, so just an afterthought for most restaurants. It’s either goat’s cheese, risotto, or goat’s cheese risotto. Or maybe a goat’s cheese tart. Sometimes tartlet.
SU: Probably explains why you’ve kept your youthful figure.
KK: Yeah, dining with Simon makes me fat; you always have food on your plate because of your chipmunk-sized stomach. And Stephen always promises me food (yes!) then eats it (double yes!) so that works great for me.
SG: I’d rather have a great interior and a great atmosphere than a great menu, I really would. And I’m not sure about the atmosphere – there’s a hell of a lot of space in here to fill – but this is a good interior. Masculine. And I like that tree with a bench in the entrance.
SU: Bit hospice garden, no?
SG: Maybe a reference to what they razed to the ground! That view through to the chapel is incredible, though I’m not sure we should’ve got this table; already getting annoyed with gawpers hanging around.
KK: Simon, I asked for that chapel because I’m afraid of new buildings.
SU: It’s the sort of decor that wouldn’t scare my mother, which is a good thing depending on your definition of a good thing. And that chapel is stunning, but I don’t really want a whiff of Jesus with my food.
SG: I do have the sneaking suspicion it’s been designed for all the Russians and Chinese who are no doubt busy buying up whatever remains of the apartments in the huge block that surrounds this place. That might be why it feels a little like an airport lounge. And I don’t reckon the locals who have been mightily pissed off by this turning of a beautiful hospital into a whatever Barbican-lite will be placated by a couple of paintings looted from that hospital hanging in the bar. Or is that just me?
SU: It’s me too. And I didn’t realise diners still needed to see the kitchen, pots ‘n’ profanities ‘n’ all. I’ve seen Masterchef, I know what goes on.
SG: I also don’t want to smell of someone’s deep-fried calamari. I don’t wear Acqua di Parma for nothing, you know.
SU: Ooh, do they do deep-fried calamari?
KK: Luckily, I’ve memorised the menu and they don’t. And I think it’s important to see the kitchen – it’s there anyway! – just in case you’ve got a boring dinner to attend. And boy have I attended.
SG: They do an all-day menu. Actually, the menu is quite limited, isn’t it? The vegetarian options are spring vegetables with whipped goat’s cheese for starter – told you there’d be goat’s cheese involved! – and, for main, tagliatelle with field mushrooms, which tastes quite plain but I don’t mind plain. My palette hasn’t been buggered by years of Monster Munch. These greasy truffly chips are delicious though, aren’t they?
SU: When in doubt, add truffle. I’ve put on a dress size just looking at them. And I would, probably, eat everything on this menu, which is rare. And I couldn’t give a rat’s backside if the Chicken Wellington is a gimmick – I’m sure meat and two veg seemed faddy at some point – though I’m not crazy about sharing plates, which is a bit Aunty Jean’s on Boxing Day for me.
KK: My sea bass with charred broccoli and samphire didn’t taste of much, but it’s perfect for orthorexics like me who want fewer calories while still dining out.
This crispy short rib tastes like they’ve deep-fried the condiments, but I don’t really mind
SU: This crispy short rib tastes like they’ve deep-fried the condiments, but I don’t really mind because I’m washing it down with whatever this delicious red is. What is this delicious red?
KK: What about this lobster and prawn Scotch egg we’re only trying because some other critic slagged it off?
SU: Kinda needs some of those condiments, but not bad. And don’t get me started on twists-on-classics, again. Let them do what they want, let them eat gluten-intolerant cupcakes!
SG: Cannot fault the staff though. Some of them are even very attractive.
SU: And the lighting’s pretty good, so you could even bring a date.
KK: I do spot children, though.
SG: Children should be banned in central London.
SU: I do think there are fewer and fewer places just for adults. Go to Giraffe and let them suck on a balloon.
quite nice that they’re not cynically squeezing in as many covers as they can, but it does also reek of “family friendly”
KK: Have you noticed the space between tables too?
SG: That is quite nice that they’re not cynically squeezing in as many covers as they can, but it does also reek of “family friendly”.
SU: I repeat, Giraffe.
KK: At least you won’t get arse-grazing-plate when someone goes to the loo.
SG: Can we be bothered finding out who Percy is, by the way?
SU: I’m more concerned by the ampersand.
SG: I think it might grow into itself. It is very new and that needs to wear off a bit but I’m very grateful that it hasn’t gone along the chipped enamel and bare lightbulbs route. OK, there are bare lightbulbs up there but they are in nice copper fittings not some old plumber’s piping. As to the food, it was fine. I just pray for the day I can have something a goat hasn’t been near.
KK: I like this place for its space, the chapel, the very friendly service and the fact I don’t have to queue. The drinks were nicely priced at the bar (and wifi, yay). The food was okay. But, as they say when a place has a great location, which Percy & Founders does, it doesn’t need good food to get on. Of course, it is starting a deli across the way.
SU: Whatever this place lacks – robust food, décor that doesn’t look like it came out of a catalogue – it makes up for with its staff. Attentive, but not creepy. The biggest battle is the fact that most locals will have the hump with this place before they’ve even crossed the threshold, which means they have to try that little bit harder to win people over. That new deli they’re opening over the road – it’s going to by fancy, apparently! – might help. Alongside a daylong Happy Hour.
Percy & Founders, 1 Pearson Square, London W1T 3BF, United Kingdom
020-3761 0200; percyandfounders.co.uk