Number one best cellar

FOUNDATION AT HARVEY NICHOLS

What better, angels, than to dovetail a review of the new Harvey Nichols restaurant with a little light shopping? Having shopped till the staff were popping up behind rails hissing "We're closed now, madam" (meaning "Leave, bitch, or I'll scream 'she is cellulite ridden'"), I made my way to the basement, hoping to glide effortlessly from retail to oral therapy. Alas, a nightmare of confused directioning, worthy of the sign posting system in central Reading, led to the wrong entrance - the one to the Fifth Floor bar, cafe and restaurant extravaganza, whose success has encouraged expansion into a new posh restaurant in the basement site of the former Joe's Cafe.

Exhausted and drained by my quest for the door, though still, essentially, brave - I eventually located it on the east side of the Harvey Nichols building. Foundation seems an odd name for a store restaurant, with its unattractive suggestions of sturdy undergarments, or thick, matte facial colour but of course, on descending the staircase, the meaning becomes clear - the whole design rationale is to make you feel you are in the foundations. It is a dimly lit, low ceilinged underground space dotted with air-con vents and smoke alarms and water pouring down one wall behind the bar in a really quite convincing imitation of someone upstairs having run the bath over.

Any fan of Absolutely Fabulous would expect to find at least a smattering of Luckybitches with white suits, orange faces and big hair, rasping at the waiters, "Glass of Bolly, darling, don't give me Moet because I'll know." But the clientele was more the sort at which Patsy would hiss "Shopgirl!" There were lots of tables of girls chewing on plastic cocktail stirrers, blowing smoke out with mouths in complicated shapes, here a fake Prada bag, there a pair of on-head sunglasses. Everyone, but everyone, was in black. There were more goatee beards than on the entire cast of The King and I, though not - as yet - on the girls (watch out for the female goatee in the autumn!).

My friend, who knows all about design, was not impressed. "Very late 80s. No texture, flat colour, ambient light full of graphic cliche. Ugh. I just knew there'd be one green or yellow wall." I foolishly ventured that the room was pleasingly New Yorky. "You think this is New Yorky!" he cried incredulously. I must admit it didn't seem to be exactly at the cutting edge of restaurant looks and personally, I'm never keen on a basement, especially a low ceilinged one, where the prominence of sprinklers, vents and smoke alarms has you checking the fire exits before you've even sat down. The point was, though, Foundation had only been open a week, and you could tell it was going to be a success. The whole Harvey Nichols operation is extremely clever at spotting and offering exactly what young people with money want. Good, trendy food, nice, if pricey drinks, and a place for young trendies to meet others in stylishly understated surroundings, with the weight of all those storeys of clothes pressing down, is clearly going to prove irresistible. Furthermore the lighting in the ladies' loos makes you look pretty, which, what with the waterfall over the bar and all the booze on offer, is very important.

Head chef Graham Grafton, formerly sous- chef at Chez Bruce and at the Fifth Floor, under the award-winning Henry Harris, is one of a group of chefs who have spread out from the Bibendum stable. Staff have the same winning blend of professionalism and friendliness which works so successfully on the Fifth Floor.

It seems rather hard, therefore, to force the poor waiters to stagger under the weight of menus encased in thick sheets of perspex held together by screws (thereby eliciting another "late 80s" snort from my companion): inappropriate for such a light, well thought-out list, a modern British mix with lots of seafood and Mediterranean influences: mussel and saffron risotto, meze, Bayonne ham and goat's cheese, sea bream, saffron butter beans, fennel and aioli, rabbit with wild mushrooms. There is also a separate yakitori menu.

I started with excellent and beautifully presented mixed yakitori. There's something wonderful about enjoying Japanese food just for a starter, knowing you're not then going to have to fry meat at the table, or eat yaks' curd when it comes to the main course. With the problems of the national herd much in our thoughts we were in a decidedly fishy mood. My date raved about not only the taste and texture of his pan-fried mackerel which came with sushi rice and spicy cucumber but also the on-plate design: a great tribute to the chef.

For my main course I enjoyed a superbly grilled piece of tuna, cunningly whipped out just at the point when it's still melting in the middle. It was served with what can only be described as crisps - which I always find disappointing almost the point of the hurtful. But it was easy not to mind too much if you thought about all those size 10s upstairs, and my date's baked cod in a basil crust was "just lovely, really, good." Foundation is clearly going to offer assured, stylish, tasty cooking at the more affordable end of the posh restaurant bracket (starters under a fiver, pounds 11.50 for a steak).

Unfortunately there was something about the boozy bar atmosphere, and the hovering ghost of Patsy, that made us rather let ourselves down. Having started with cocktails, then moved on to a splendid bottle of Pouilly Fume, before we knew where we were ordering another one. My notes on our desserts, which I firmly believe were vanilla creme brulee and cheesecake with grillotine cherries, were as follows: "vg, v. creamy mm, blurry goo." Lurching happily across Knightsbridge, dodging the cars, we agreed that despite our initial snooty sneers, we had blurry gootime and woshdefinly go bagagain. Yur. !

Lower Ground Floor, Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London SW1 7RJ. Tel: 0171 201 8000 Open Monday to Saturday, 11am to 11pm, and Sundays noon to 6pm. Average price per person, pounds 25. Set lunch, pounds 10. Credit cards accepted

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015