78 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 3JL
As a restaurant in the East of London, you have to do something different. That’s not a consideration, it’s a must. A pickled cow suspended from the ceiling, a cocktail bar accessed through a fridge door, a single plumb floating in perfume served in a man’s hat. You know, that sort of thing.
A lot of it can seem naff. Don’t make me name names, as I can’t. My mind has gone blank. I see regular emails and/or features in Time Out though, that talk of all this naffness as if it’s the next best thing in culinary genius. That said, if Twitter chatter and queue length are anything to go by, people seem very impressed each and every time, so clearly it works.
Forgive me, I still cringe at the latest Ã¢â‚¬Å“you’ll never guess what this restaurant in Dalston is doingÃ¢â‚¬Â clickbait link as it flies up on Facebook. I can’t guess the specifics or I’d probably be working for someone hip like Buzzfeed. I can aim a guess in that general direction though. Pickled herring burgers, dinner served upside-down, plates that are mirrors with all the food served as dust, sucked up through a rolled up dollar bill.
The Jones Family Project on Great Eastern Street have gone down this road: doing something different, not the rolled up money idea – I’ll leave that for someone else. But guess what? It’s not naff and I actually quite like it (note: quite is a fairly strong word for me – come on, I am English).
Jones Family Project are hosting a picnic in their ever excellent upstairs bar, complete with fake grass rolled across the floor. Fortunately, you get to sit on proper chairs, not cross-legged on rugs waiting for your legs to go dead at the knees (how old am I?). To this, they bring a hamper, filled to the brim with small boxed goodie and a few bottles of elderflower infused gin and perry mix.
That drink, almost universally disliked by our group, was enjoyed by me. It’s a sweet low percentage (when compared to a cocktail) booze that warms you up and refreshes simultaneously. Granted, after polishing off some of the best cocktails Jones Family Project (and I actually think London) has to offer, it’s a little lame; but it’s a picnic – a sip of summer’s sweetness, not a hard slog through glasses of paint-stripper strength booze. What is wrong with my fellow diners? Perhaps they won’t get an invite again (joke).
The food is your standard picnic fare, minus a pie; yet glammed up in the way you’d expect a chef would do if they invited you to the park. The sausage roll, for instance, was served up with a mustard ketchup that I could have slathered on most foods, including the triple chocolate brownie we finished with. Oh that brownie. So sticky, so rich, so indulgent. It would take a whole afternoon of frisbee to burn that one off, but it’s the summer – if you can’t enjoy yourself now, when can you? Aside from Christmas, Easter, Autumn, Spring, Valentine’s, and any other food related season.
My favourite dish was probably the coronation smoked chicken wrap. I’ve not had coronation chicken since those days when my lunch consisted of the cheapest bread roll, smothered in the cheapest chicken, mayonnaise and flavourings mix. So that would be yesterday then. Still, it’s a hark back for most people to school lunches and beyond. And not an unwelcome one, composed as it is by people who know what they’re doing. The spice was slight in this wrap, with enough pepper to give a slight after kick to each bite, and a subtle smokiness that reminded me of something more Mexican than Queen Lizzie. Perfect.
Although in no way related to a picnic, a mention must go to the pre-dinner drinks and in particular the Dazed & Coff-uzed. Technically a negroni – the fashionable drink of last summer, although one that will hopefully hang around this year – this is a mouth-slappingly good complex concoction of herbaceous flavours that hang on a smokey hit of mezcal and force you to go back for sip-after-sip-after-sip, each slightly different in taste to the last.
If you’re not sold on the idea of a picnic indoors, that’s fine – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I know. But head to Jones Family Project anyway, grab a cocktail and watch as others enjoy the picnic-ing experience. Who knows, you might change your mind!
Find out more about the Jones Family Project picnic on their website.