After several attempts for get a table booked for both dinner and their much reviewed and hyped about brunch, I finally managed to get a table at the new East Coast American joint Jackson + Rye last Monday night for an early dinner. While I'd only heard good things about the brunches, I'd read mixed reviews of dinner, so I was curious as it was one of London's new openings that I was really pumped about. You know me and all things American. I also find it easier to like American places that are not Californian too, because I have no much loved point of reference from across the pond. The Good Life Eatery in Chelsea was a big disappointment.
There is a cocktail I really, really love on the menu at Jackson + Rye. Meet the Lucky's Highball, a blend of rum, ginger beer, bitters, lime and triple sec. I ordered this right off the bat because I love ginger beer based cocktails (remember my heartbreak when the Southern Iced Tea was taken off the menu at The Diner?), and rum (along with gin) is one of my favourite cocktail spirits. The bitters, lime an triple sec were just massive plus points, and I will be starting up a bit of alchemy at home to try and recreate this. Sweet, but with that little bit of edge, I could drink too many of these. Sherin ordered a Rye Manhattan but decided she was not a fan (I'm not a whiskey fan so I did not finish it either, I don't think the flavour had enough depth to it) so we both ended up on Lucky's Highballs from then onwards, with the exception of my glass of champagne.
The Jackson + Rye website has a 'Offers' page which lists a few fun ways to get freebies at the restaurant. For example, if you sign up to their mailing list you can get 50% off of your breakfast Monday to Friday. I was taking advantage of the offer where, according to the website between 12pm and 7pm if you check in on Facebook on your smartphone and show it to your server you get a free White Peach Bellini or a glass of champagne. I wanted the bellini, but our server told me I could only have the champagne, regardless of what it said on the website. To be honest, there were a lot of servers working in our section but the service was not brilliant and it was rather slow. We were dining early at 6pm, so I could understand this if we were there when the place really started to fill up a bit later on, but not at the beginning of our visit. However, we had a different server who came with our bill, and he was absolutely lovely. I think it is just luck of the draw.
To start, I went for the Crispy Squid with Chipotle Mayo. The squid could have been crispier, it was not soggy but it was not crisp either. However, the squid rings were big, juicy and perfectly cooked: not rubbery at all, and the mayo had a great flavour which went with the squid really well. (If you were wondering, I'm a massive calamari fan, and the best crispy version I've had in London is at The White Cross in Richmond.)
Sherin went for the Market Soup, made with butternut squash and with ricotta ravioli. The soup was lovely and creamy, and I loved the theatrical nature of the self pour. They're really into pouring things over other things at the table here, as you will see when we get to my dessert, which is one of the three (alongside the Lucky's High Ball and also some cookies I'm also about to share with you) reasons I'm choosing to review and recommend somewhere I had a bit of a mixed experience with. For some of my newer readers, my review policy is that I don't give bad reviews, I just don't write about the restaurant. My reviews are critical, but they recommend!
I love fried chicken, slaw and burgers of any form so the first thing off of the menu I decided on was the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich with Spicy Slaw and Chipotle Mayo. It was the same mayo that came with my squid, but I don't think it was suited as well to my sandwich. It was a good sandwich, but it did not blow me away to the point I'd recommend it outright as a good chicken sandwich in London to anyone, or order it again. The chicken was lovely and moist, but I think it could have been crisper, and the slaw was not spicy at all; I think if the slaw had had a bit of a kick to it, it would have saved the whole sandwich. Sherin ordered the Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms, Leeks, Rocket and Parmesan which was perfectly light and delicious.
The hands down best thing I ate at Jackson + Rye, which I do think is worth a visit for (maybe go for dessert late at night sitting at the bar after eating elsewhere in Soho for one of these and a Lucky's Highball?) was my dessert of the Melting Chocolate Sundae with Butterscotch Sauce. All my non American readers, let me introduce you to the phenomena that is Magic Shell. You buy it in squeeze bottles like any regular sundae sauce in the grocery store and when you squeeze it over the top of your ice cream it magically forms a hard shell that you can crack with your spoon. Jackson + Rye's version you don't break with your spoon, you melt away to reach the centre with a jug for hot and delicious butterscotch sauce. The sundae itself was all things fantastic and indulgent about both America and sundaes in general. I had expected it to be ice cream the whole way through, but the gaps between the two scoops of vanilla were stuffed with the most rich, delicious and dense chocolate mousse I've had in a very, very long time. This is a dessert I will remember for quite some time, and not just for the theatrics. And I'm not usually a sundae kind of girl, I ordered it on Rose's recommendation!
Sherin ordered the Baked Cheesecake with Berry compote, from what I tasted was very nice, but I want to finish off this mixed bag of a post with the first fantastic thing I had (sort of) at Jackson + Rye: the chocolate cookies. We both wanted them but we were so full after all of that food (and Sherin had only had a sandwich all day, and as I had a lunchtime class, my last ever actually I had not eaten since a bit of sushi at about 11am) so we took them home with us. I had mine as a stop gap between getting out of bed and starting work and actually making myself breakfast the next morning. It was lovely, sweet and chewy in the middle, just as the perfect cookie should be. If you still have room after a meal for these, do order them!
So after all of this, would I go to Jackson + Rye again? Not for lunch or the dinner service, no, but I would not rule out a brunch visit. I might not plan to go there specifically as I have a list of almost 150 new places I want to eat at in London that I want to get through, and I like discovering new places (I rarely visit places more than once, kudos to places like Dishoom, Bill's for the house red and the steak, and Whyte & Brown that I just keep on coming back to), but if I am in Soho and I can't get in somewhere else for breakfast I'll be sure to give it a go, as I have heard great things. If I want just a good American food fix in the city I'll just head to one of the (now many) branches of The Diner, which in spite of the food and cocktails not being quite as good as some others I've had in London, is always good and consistent with a good atmosphere and service. If in doubt, go to The Diner. Also, they list their blend of Iced Tea on the menu, but if you ask you can get specifically Sweet Tea (though I ask for a little less sugar as I don't like it as sweet as they make it, but that is personal preference) or plain ol' Iced Tea, which I get with lots of fresh lemon.