By Paloma Lacy
Visitors to Crystal Palace are forever jealous of the number of pubs it boasts – at least six cool venues plus a few more traditional boozers that have been there for years.
I was, therefore, surprised to learn the superbly named The Faber Fox had recently opened its doors, upping the cool pub quota of this small town instantly.
Part of the Livelyhood Group, the place is beyond family-friendly.
In fact, a baby in tow seemed pre-requisite, which was handy as mine was with me, and nearly every table had at least two.
This was a busy Sunday and I couldn’t work out if this was because we all love a leisurely lunch at the weekend or at least in part owing to a cool blast from the air conditioning unit.
The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. A regular at sister pub The Mere Scribbler, in Streatham, I had a fair idea of what to expect from the menu – it’s pretty similar, understandably.
A roast seemed unmanageable in the blisteringly hot temperatures and I remarked to my friend that few pubs seem to have removed this Sunday essential from their menus in this heatwave.
Pub menus have become fairly predictable, but I think that’s as much to do with diner demand than anything else. People have come to expect the standard Brit dishes and the pub obliged accordingly on the main course.
The starters were more inventive, dishes like crispy pork dim sum, roast garlic and smoked chilli oil (£6.50) and calamari, sun-dried tomato and chickpea stew and garlic bruschetta (£7.50), both ticking this box.
We shared hummus, olives, pitta and vegetable crisps (£6.50), which failed to do the dish justice. Home-made hummus was just lovely and not overly garlicky, as can often be the case, and studded with juicy olives.
Dotted with crispy pieces of pitta bread, best of all were the crispy parsnip curls laid on top.
I actually thought this was some kind of rustic Italian bread because I didn’t detect even a hint of sweetness and it even converted my self-confessed, parsnip-hating lunch companion.
With roasts off the menu as far as we were concerned, we mulled over the possibility of grilled goats cheese salad with honey, chilli and baked beetroot (£9) and carrot and parsnip salad, smoked paprika, bulgar wheat, baba ganoush and pomegranate molasses (£9.50).
Both appealed but my veggie companion was super happy at the mere thought of halloumi, courgette, aubergine burger with pesto (£10), “most unusual for a veggie option”, as she put it.
And the reality didn’t disappoint, with the vegetable stack served in a squishy brioche bun.
I went with an old favourite, just to see how it measured up – Cajun panko-breaded buttermilk chicken fillet burger, with the addition of guacamole and jalapenos for some added pep.
I quite enjoyed the crispy, dry texture, but it should probably have been a little more on the juicy side. There is also a Whopper – combining a beef patty, chicken and bacon – for those with a big appetite.
The Faber Fox is doing all it can to attract punters with a weekly quiz, 2-4-1 on cocktails early Thursday evenings and a set menu.
Monday to Friday from 5pm until 7pm, two courses are £16 and these are from the main menu, not a strange hidden menu full of cheaper dishes.
The Faber Fox 25 Westow Hill, Crystal Palace, SE19 1TQ – Call 020 3582 2773