[Editors Note: Union Jacks Holborn, that features in this review is closing,
but the Covent Garden branch just a short walk away still serves the same food.]
Last week I hopped on the train up to London to meet up with my friend Katie who was in town from Los Angeles; we used to sit next to each other in Ancient Greek Epic in Fall Quarter at UCLA. The last time we'd had lunch out together and reviewed a restaurant we went to Blue Plate Taco; something very 'LA' in Santa Monica. I'd been reading her travel diary blog she's been writing this Summer for friends and family, and I caught a stereotypical American view about British food not being too good. So, I decided this time around we'd go for somewhere very English and head to Union Jacks, the most British of Jamie Oliver's restaurants for a very late light lunch. I took her to Ottolenghi's in Notting Hill for dessert. A little potted British restaurant history of our food revolution over the past 10 or 15 years or so, if you like.
Strangely for me, when I usually start on the decor, lets start with the wine. While there were others listed, the very top of the menu was made up totally of Chapel Down wines, local to me in Kent and a vineyard I'm always very impressed by, so needless to say this impressed me. I remember I first tasted their wines when my friend came to the door for a dinner party with a bottle of one of their sparkling numbers, and after tasting it my Mother turned around and told him to give a that to a girl if he wanted to pull. Anyway, I went for a glass of their Bacchus white, and it was fresh, fruity and rich, but still perfect to go with fish pate and chips; very versatile. Whenever you see Chapel Down on a wine list and you want to go 'Best Of British', try it!
Instead of a big plate, as it was quite a late lunch and we were not too hungry, we both went for 'Small Plates' rather than larger ones, each with a side. I'd say that they were like big starters. Katie's looked fantastic and very British, a spiral of Cumberland Sausage topped with a mustard sauce, sage and crispy bacon.
For her side she had a broccoli, which looked like it would entice even the staunches non broccoli eater, and I think we both commented that with the roasted garlic, chilli and lemon it reminded us of the small plate of broccolini served up at Gjelina on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Los Angeles, the best vegetable I had in LA.
After lots of debate over if I should have the Prawn Cocktail or the By-Catch Fish Fingers with my side of crinkly chips (which beat out Jamie's Bread) I finally went for Smoked Wiltshire Trout Pate on Rye Bread, and I did not regret my choice! The pate was rich, the perfect balance of smooth and chunky, but not overwhelming. Very more-ish. The rye bread was thin, chunky, homemade and the best rye I had ever tasted, nutty and unique and the pate and the side were dredged in just the right taste and amount of olive oil to add rather than detract from the dish. I want this again, and I want to try to recreate it at home.
I liked the decor and I felt that I really had to go back again for an evening meal; to sample their pizzas, desserts and most importantly the impressive cocktail list around the bar area, perhaps to play on the table football table? This was my first foray into one of Jamie Oliver's restaurants, but now I've had such a great meal at Union Jacks, I've added his new(ish) Recipease in Notting Hill, one of his Italians, his new Diner, and Fifteen to my 'Places To Eat In London' list. Barbecoa is already on there, and has been for ever!