Foxlow is near Golden Square in west Soho, where drunken hacks used to take long drunken lunches before having stupid drunken ideas. My favourite stupid drunken idea was from a Guardian hack and it involved renting an ice-cream van and asking Nick Cohen and A.A. Gill to drive around in it, selling ice creams, bickering and hopefully breaking down, before writing up the experience for a Silly Season special. But drunken hacks no longer take long drunken lunches in Soho. They get drunk at home, if there is one, or drink in the queue at Eat, if they can afford to eat. The piece was not commissioned, the years passed, and I am now a guest at the funeral of my own profession each day. A.A. Gill is dead, Nick Cohen is sober, and even Silly Season has gone. (That Jacob Rees-Mogg rose as a possible Conservative leader in August is, in my view, both the invention of a new sexual fetish and a coincidence.)
Or rather, it is forever Silly Season, and the remnants of civilisation crack under the glut. I was, for example, chided last week for Israel’s genocidal tendencies during something called ‘the seven-day war’. I had not heard of this. Either it was a secret sequel to the six-day war, shrouded by the global Jewish media conspiracy which somehow includes Rupert Murdoch, or people who hate Israel have added an extra day.
Foxlow is consolation in a tall stone house. Like almost everything these days, it is something built from a misremembrance of something else (in this case an American diner), but it is reasonably charming for Soho, which is hellish now, and for all the wrong reasons. It is no longer the addled hell of the Colony Room, in which a drunk could suck on the extremities of her own shame near moderately famous artists, but the more organised hell of Brent Cross shopping centre, where she can, if so moved, visit Accessorize with her mother. The restaurants are stupid: Hip Chips, Mister Lasagna, the Cadbury’s Creme Egg Hunters’ Lodge that offers ‘an immersive haven for Creme Egg lovers’. The Regent Palace Hotel is now an Ugg Boot shop; the native rough trade, so bewitching to the young suburbanite, have been replaced by the fashion hags at their fake university on Greek Street; the bookshops of Charing Cross Road sell novelty gifts, if they still exist.
This is the fourth in the Foxlow chain and it comes from the makers of Hawksmoor, specialists in blood and English baroque, who do a good steak and a bacon chop that can penetrate the subconscious unasked. The others are at Chiswick, Clerkenwell and Balham.
It is decorated like the Bette Davis vs Joan Crawford feud; squares, curves, splashes of red and plenty of alcohol. It calls itself ‘a neighbourhood restaurant’ but that is an Americanism — a delusion — we can forget about. Soho is not a neighbourhood at all, although it used to be; for that, you need neighbours and here there are only clients. No, Foxlow is a theatre that serves the sort of food that numbs, steadily: immense breakfasts; steaks (hangar, sirloin, ribeye, flat iron); lovely, flaky fried chickens; a baked Alaska, for nostalgia; sundaes; ice creams; ribs. They serve it in the quiet, for on a weekend morning, Foxlow is as silent as a glade. Here you can pretend you are something that you are not, living somewhere that has never existed — a romanticised 1950s America — which is, by any estimation, an improvement on 30 different types of lasagne, one type of Creme Egg, and listicles of any kind.