I may have eaten before eight, but that’s the only part of this writer’s visit to the Folly that reflected Tony Bennet and Lady Gaga’s rendition of ‘The Lady is a Tramp’, one of the highlights of their jazzy evening playlist.
A few minutes from the music faculty, on the riverside of the Thames, sits The Folly restaurant, which is named after the bridge. I visited in the early evening, and the restaurant was strikingly different from the cold streets outside, warm in both temperature and atmosphere with yellow glowing fairy lights and a clean but homely ambience. The restaurant is decorated with bird cages in an almost rustic way, with a hint of a boathouse atmosphere but no compromise on elegance. The view is spectacular, of the river itself but also of the small boats cruising along on tours, and during the daytime in the summer the terrace is the perfect place to avoid the hustle and bustle of Westgate with a cocktail or lunch.
The drinks menu is reasonably priced and inventive, with classic cocktails plus a few new ones, and a great wine selection. I tried The Duchess of Oxford, blackberry liqeur and elderflower topped up with prosecco, which came marvellously presented with a flower on top, and my guest had a citrus press, which she highly recommends – for less than four pounds, which is about the same as a standard apple juice in many a chain restaurant, you can get a delicious lemon mix with fresh mint leaves.
I visited in the early evening, and the restaurant was strikingly different from the cold streets outside, warm in both temperature and atmosphere
The food itself was wonderful, with both impressive dishes such as the Seared Tuna starter if you’re feeling classy, but also some simple classics like The Folly Burger, which is £16.95 including sides – a bargain for the quality of the meat. Top recommendations on the main menu are the mussels, which my guest said were cooked with the perfect amount of chili, and the burger options, which aren’t your classic soggy-bun numbers; rather, The Folly has burger-making down to an art form, with high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients and just a dash, not a dollop, of sauce inside.
The desserts are varied and each comes with drink suggestions to accompany them. The upside down plum and pear crumble with brandy custard is the clear winner in the dessert section, made of fresh-tasting fruit and thick chunky crumble to recreate a classic dessert that never grows old. For the more contemporary diner’s palate, the Eton Mess is a classic-dessert-turned-drink, so whether you’re a proud alumnus or you just like the idea of corrupting Eton College’s famous creation with alcohol, it’s always a good choice.
Despite its classy appearance and high-quality food, The Folly isn’t actually a heinously expensive restaurant – yes, it’s definitely more a special-date-night or parental-visit destination than an alternative to college hall, but it’s in a strong position to compete on the price front with numerous chain restaurants around town, even before you take into account its unique location, exceptional service, and inventive menu.