Sam’s Waterside, Brentford review

Image above: The centrepiece at Sam’s Waterside: the bar, where you can also eat

Open a month, the restaurant that residents of Brentford have been waiting for

Brentford’s on the up. Finally. A new town centre is beginning to emerge from the long years of planning blight. There are now some 300 people who have moved into the newly built flats on the high street.

About two thirds are still unoccupied but the pioneers have been greeted with a brand new Morrisons, a Specsavers, a Sam’s Larder for special groceries and coffee and a new restaurant for fine dining.

Sam’s Waterside opened a month ago. The new restaurant from Sam Harrison, the owner of Sam’s Riverside in Hammersmith and Sam’s Larder delicatessens in Hammersmith and Chiswick, welcomed nearly three thousand people in the first two weeks of ‘soft launch’, when Sam offered his new menu at a 50% discount while they were still trying things out and the kitchen staff were getting used to working at speed.

The day we went was quieter, but still looked companionably full, with about 30 or 40 people sitting down for lunch on a rainy Thursday.

“People don’t know us well enough yet to organise their Christmas parties here” Sam told The Chiswick Calendar, so this is probably the best time to go, before word gets round and it’s heaving and you can’t get a table.

It looked spectacular, the glasses at the marble-topped bar gleaming in the lights illuminating the centrepiece of the restaurant with its pretty flowers and the Christmas tree twinkling in the corner. As you walk in from outside, immediately your spirits lift. The whole atmosphere leads you to believe something good is about to happen.

The staff are lovely. Sam is going for a friendly neighbourhood vibe and that’s certainly what you get from the very welcoming maître d’ and our attentive waiter, who, Sam told us, had not worked in a restaurant before but has the right personality naturally to succeed in hospitality.

Images above: Starters Crispy Duck and Heritage Beetroot

The food at Sam’s Waterside is very similar to that of Sam’s Riverside – modern European with lots of fish and shellfish and the best of British produce, freshly prepared in the kitchen. Like Sam’s Riverside, a feature is Oyster ‘happy hour’.

The price range is a bit cheaper, with main courses ranging from a burger at £16 to halibut at £38 on the day we went. The menu, put together by the head chef Jacob in collaboration with Sam, changes two or three times a week.

I had crispy duck with watercress, persimmon and citrus to start, while my companion had the heritage beetroot, with seeded cracker, tahini and orange blossom. For mains we had the Cornish fish & shellfish stew, with grilled sourdough and harissa mayonnaise, and sherry braised pork cheeks, with three cornered leek mash.

The courses were beautifully presented, the fish stew with a strong, distinctive flavour, the pork cheeks more subtly flavoured comfort food for a grey winter’s day.

To finish we had dark chocolate fondant, salted caramel ice cream with toasted hazelnuts, and the cheese – a Baron Bigod brie with pane carasau flatbread, damson jelly and wildflower honey. Delicious.

We could have had Chiswick House apple pie, made with apples from Chiswick House Gardens, with homemade vanilla ice cream. Sam collaborates with head gardener Rosie Fyles to buy produce from the Kitchen Garden. He also buys honey from Brentford producer Sara Ward at Hen Corner.

READ ALSO: Kitchen Garden at Chiswick House supplies Sam’s Riverside

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Image above: The Christmas tree in front of the windows looking on to the canal to the south

“I don’t do any of the cooking, but I can talk chef”

Sam trained with Trusthouse Forte, having studied hotel and restaurant management at what was then Oxford Poly.

“I do the menu development with the head chef” he told me. “I don’t do any of the cooking, but I can talk chef”.

He ran Rick Stein’s restaurants in Padstow for four years before moving to Australia to work in Luke Mangan’s restaurants in Sydney, which he loved, but ultimately decided was too far from home. He became known to Chiswick foodies when he opened Chiswick Brasserie in 2005.

“When I opened I had seven competitors” he said. Ten years later when I closed Sam’s Brasserie there were 77″.

He describes Chiswick as “a bit edgier” in those days. “There was a good gay scene, and I was able to hire lots of staff locally”, which is no longer the case.

Brentford is now beginning to have that buzzy, on-the-up kind of feel, he thinks.

“People in Brentford have been waiting for a fine dining restaurant” he said.

The actor Lesley Manville (Mrs Harris goes to Paris, Princess Margaret in The Crown) has been in, and given Sam’s Waterside the thumbs up. She is one of many who have told Sam this is what they have long been waiting for.

Image above: View onto the canal side, looking east

Outside the restaurant is still a building site on the canal side, with workmen constructing a dock, but in the summer when the work is finished and it is opened up there will be tables and chairs outside so you can sit and watch the sun go down over the water, it will be even more attractive.

By then Sam is expecting a Gail’s bakery and a Pret A Manger to join him alongside the canal, and a new cinema complex. The Kew Bookshop, beloved by the residents of Kew Village, is also planning to open a new branch here in January.

I can see a steady trail of Chiswick residents making their way here. Meanwhile we have Sam’s Larder in Turnham Green Terrace, which is a member of our Chiswick Calendar Club Card scheme. See their offer to subscribers here: Sam’s Larder, Chiswick, Club Card offer.

To book a table for Sam’s Waterside, go here:

Set menu, two courses, £23.50.

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