'With the quality of the food and the central Putney location, they really should be onto a winner'

House of Roxy, Putney

Open Mon–Thu midday–midnight; Fri midday–2.30am; Sat 5pm–2.30am; May Bank Holiday Sunday 5pm–2am

The style:

The description of House of Roxy combining first-rate tapas with speakeasy chic ticked all the boxes for my best Sex And The City impression. However, unfortunately – and this place has opened so recently you can almost smell the fresh paint – they seem to have made the mistake of launching without first deciding what they want to be: restaurant, bar, or club. It’s not that it’s all bad, and there are flashes of very good (particularly the food), but it smacks of identity crisis.

House of Roxy is a tale of two halves, split between a restaurant on street level and a bar downstairs. The two share a common entrance, but it’s here the commonality ends. While the restaurant is all high-ceilinged civility, replete with wall-art and glass doors, the bar area contrasts starkly with multi-coloured graffiti murals, more bouncers than clientele and blaringly loud music (audible even at 8pm upstairs in the restaurant due to the designer’s preference for hard furnishings and laminate floors). ‘Speakeasy’ is a blatant misnomer on all fronts: the bar is brash and feels more like a provincial branch of Vodka Revolution than a refined accompaniment to the restaurant atop.

Unfortunately, the classiness of the restaurant seems equally superficial. While the décor is modern and bright, the fixtures feel flimsy and cheap. The illusion crumbled further upon venturing to the pokey and drafty bathroom, located downstairs, which  necessitated walking through the bar area. This made me feel like an uncool older sibling coming down to check on a cooler, younger sibling busy getting drunk in the basement. Altogether awkward.

The crowd:

The crowd was quite a mix, probably reflecting the newness of the place. In the restaurant the crowd was mostly couples, spanning a forty-year age range, but with no children in sight. In the bar was a generally younger crowd with a couple of larger groups – plus a lost-looking trio of fifty-somethings who had presumably wandered down post-dinner.

The food:

The food, I have to say, was the saving grace for House of Roxy. There’s a choice between a tapas menu and limited à la carte. We tried the scallops with cauliflower puree and tempura prawns from the tapas menu for starters (£6–£7), which were delicious – especially the scallops which were beautifully soft. For our mains (£15–£18) we had the lamb chops in redcurrant jus (also delicious, and perfectly cooked) and enjoyed the summery Mediterranean flavours of the sea bass with Lyonnaise potatoes. For pudding we got totally carried away and had lemon tart and cheesecake – both, again, very good. Aside from the fish, which was ever so slightly dry, I really cannot fault the food – it was mouthwatering.

However, again disappointingly, the service ranged from friendly – albeit very informal – to nonchalant. Inconsistencies and indiscretions indicated a limited level of staff training, at odds with the lofty pretense of House of Roxy as a high-end dining experience. This was worsened by the acoustics; you could hear every word of the staffs’ discussions about what level of discount they should offer to the table who returned their wine, and who West London Living was, anyway.

The drinks:

After dinner we ventured into the bar, which was tiny, cramped and – dare I say it – a bit smelly. I ordered an Amaretto sour and a virgin mojito. Service was slow and the barman seemed to rather give up on the sour halfway through, abandoning the egg-white (a key ingredient) after accidentally popping the yolk and just left it out of the cocktail. Although the mojito was excellent in taste and presentation – much like the inconsistencies with style and service, why can’t they get it right every time?

I had a fun evening in House of Roxy, but most of this stemmed from the running theme of confusion and awkwardness which we found quite amusing. For other, less patient clientele, this may not have been the case. I’ve been to other places where the restaurant/bar duo works extremely well (if anyone’s planning a trip to the Cotswolds I’d thoroughly recommend the George Hotel in Cheltenham), but here it just seemed confused and ill-conceived. My advice? Cut your losses; separate bar from restaurant and focus on the individual character and most importantly, customer experience of each. With the quality of the food and the central Putney location, they really should be onto a winner.

141 Upper Richmond Road, Putney, London, SW15; www.houseofroxy.com; 0208 785 9203

Bars & Pubs |