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Well, as one of the judges said, it's a pity we need a Frenchman to run a great English pub. But, there it is. In fact, there are two Frenchmen running the Fox and Grapes as chef Claude Bosi, chef-patron of London's Hibiscus, has teamed up with his brother, Cedric.
The pair opened the gastropub on the corner of Wimbledon Common earlier this year and put Patrick Leono, formerly sous chef at Hibiscus, in charge of the kitchen. Leono's remit is to take traditional pub food into a new realm. "We want to be a traditional English pub, but we want to be modern," he said when they opened.
And it seems they have triumphed. The menu offers old-style English pub fare with a good Gallic going-over. For instance, the classic prawn cocktail (£8) has been reinvented. Leono uses baby langoustines dressed in a cocktail of home-made mayonnaise and ketchup on a bed of iceberg lettuce with cucumber and diced avocado.
Similarly, that old stalwart, chicken Kiev has been shaken up and is now served on a bed of creamy leaks and parsley oil (£14) and is made from Label Anglais chicken breasts filled with garlic butter and coated in a mixture of fresh breadcrumbs and dried Japanese panko breadcrumbs.
It doesn't stop there. The kitchen has a Josper oven, which the brigade use to produce a range of charcoal-grilled steaks and burgers. Meanwhile, Leono has been experimenting with the oven for fish and vegetables. He serves pollock with grilled leeks which are marinated in olive oil and pepper and "put on the charcoal grill to get some colour and wood flavour".
Puds range from tweaked old favourites, such as rhubarb crumble with custard (£7) to more unusual offerings like vanilla and pear junket - much lighter than most pub desserts.
"The menu's simple, seasonal, clean and confident," said Rob Kirby, chef-director at Lexington Catering.
What really sealed this menu's success, though, was the fact all the judges wanted to eat there. Having hit 800 covers a week since opening and with a lunch menu priced at £14.50 for two courses and £17.50 for three, it looks as if plenty of other people want to eat at this Anglo-French pub, too.
ShortlistedThe Fox and Grapes, Wimbledon Common, London
â- Kenny Atkinson at the Orangery, Rockliffe Hall, County Durham
â- Lasan, Birmingham
â- The Opera Tavern, Covent Garden, London
Jason Atherton, chef-proprietor, Pollen Street Social, London
Charles Boyd, director, 8 Northumberland
Richard Hughes, chef-proprietor, the Lavender House
ZoÁ« Jenkins, general manager, Coworth Park
Rob Kirby, chef-director, Lexington
Michael Raffael, food writer
Simon Young, executive chef, Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel, London