Chiswick is a London suburb made for summer evenings. Full of tree-lined lanes, beautiful terraces of red-brick homes, parks laid with picnic blankets, kids and dogs chasing frisbees, and a plethora of pram pushing yummy mummies.
It also – IMHO – has the highest High Street ratio of pubs and restaurants per head of population this side of the Atlantic. (That statistic might have been made up, doesn’t make it untrue though.)
This visit was a rather sad one – to say bon voyage to my favourite Nashville native, the one and only Wanderblogger. Having lived in Chiswick (and having learnt to pronounce Chissick the counter-intuitive British way) for nary a year, Sarah and her family are off to pastures far more tropical in search of Asiatic adventures. Her blog was one of the first I really looked up to – the glorious photography, evocative writing and cheeky sense of humour – and upon meeting in real life, I knew hers was one smile that I would revisit.
I’ve rambled on about Marylebone before, thinking I might create a series of London village posts, and er, been distracted by life rearing its busy head. When we plotted one last meal before she jets off, we knew it had to be in Chiswick and with the lure of No. 197 Chiswick Fire Station opening in the place of a slightly seedy bar, instagram lured us in.
To start with we split the first dish we ever shared as friends – a bowl of salt and pepper squid also on Chiswick High Street – which was delicious. Golden batter encasing bitesized morsels of the ocean (my only thought is that they were a little small those morsels) topped with a bevy of garnishing including a generous sprinkle of rock salt.
Unordered but delightfully welcomed, our waiter also brought a warm loaf of bread which we smeared butter on with the glee only people banned from fresh bread could understand (I was having a bad tummy day so threw gluten caution to the wind, blaming an upcoming coeliac test.)
My Tennessee date chose the pan fried gnocchi to my fascinated interest – the plate was empty if that’s any indication of how good it was – but I went full on gluten heaven with a burger.
Occasionally I like to conjure the days where I was a vegetarian and with menu selections getting better and better, it’s often the garden end of the menu calling my taste buds. (Yes, that is waxing poetically ridiculous and I don’t care.) On my plate arrived the halloumi and courgette burger. A tower of dense brioche, crumbed & deep fried halloumi slivers, ribbons of raw courgette and a cucumber dip to smear on. It was glorious – the combination of textures were spot on and didn’t leave me missing meat. Unfortunately I ended up deconstructing it because even my mouth isn’t that big… the skin – on fries were perfectly seasoned and incredibly moreish. I really should have offered Sarah some, but she is abandoning me after all….
The decor is tres instagram chic, bringing a cool modern interior to a beautifully historic building. All it wants for are firemen sliding down to rescue the damsels sipping their glasses of rosé – but the wait staff do a pretty good job. (Except when they pop over to ask how your food is, then too late you realise your glasses are empty from talking so much – rookie error.)
I’ll be back, that’s for sure. Bring on the sunny weather! I’d love to scheme a West London get together on one of the big group table out the back, or a cozy double date in the booths lining the wall.
Every time I visit Chiswick it makes me wonder why I don’t spend more time there (misbehaving District Line aside.) One of my reasons will no longer be there, but that is no excuse really. Even worse, Sarah booked a table by the window intentionally for the beautiful natural light and people watching opportunities. I’ll miss that lady.
We might just have to find another lovely restaurant on the other side of the world to share a few glasses in!