Gabriella finds out what’s new at an old Soho favourite
You know what you’re getting with Jackson and Rye. Whether you’re after breakfast, a working lunch, an evening meal or a lazy weekend brunch, it just kind of works.
The blending of east-coast US and French brasserie has seen Jackson and Rye expand at a reasonably rapid pace to five locations. It’s empire now extends to five restaurants from central London and the City down to comparatively leafy Richmond and Chiswick, and as far afield as Guildford in the heart of Surrey’s Stockbroker belt.
We headed for the Wardour Street branch, nicely nestled on the cusp of Soho and a short hop from Theatreland and the West End.
We’ve come to try the (reasonably) new menu, while also tucking into some old favourites. The New York-inspired interior looks as good as ever, with lots of polished wood and marble surfaces and warm, welcoming lighting.
After a busy day at work, and a quick scurry through a rainy London night, we’re both famished and freezing when we arrive. Fortunately there’s some warm sourdough bread and olives on hand to fill our stomachs while we check out the new menu.
We are asked if we’d like to sample a cocktail and, as luck would have it, we do. I quench my thirst with a Love Child Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a blend of Belvedere Vodka, lychee, vanilla and Cointreau, topped off with prosecco. My dining partner, with slightly irritating predictability, orders the signature Old Fashioned. I have to admit it’s a good choice here, perfectly blended with Small Batch Rye (obviously), Bourbon and Angostura Bitters.
A slightly empty stomach means the cocktails go to our heads pretty quickly, however the starters arrive speedily and provide us with some much-needed ballast. The Crunchy Chorizo Prawns are the winner of the first act Ã¢â‚¬â€œ deliciously spicy with a mango mayo on hand to add some tangy fruitiness. They’re ably supported by Highland Smoked Salmon – lovely and light and served up with a fabulous sauce of dill crÃƒÂ¨me fraÃƒÂ®che, capers and lemon.
I continue the fishy theme for my main course. I love a bit of sea bass and Jackson and Rye doesn’t disappoint. Mine comes served up with a deliciously crunchy skin with a generous side of samphire, brown shrimps and crab butter.
My dining partner has been persuaded to deviate from the Old Fashioned and looks very happy with his Paperplane which mixes Old Grandad Bourbon, Amaro, Aperol and lemon juice. The real reason he’s happy is that he’s been served up with a Barbeque Platter, with enough meat to sustain a small village.
His plate is piled high with a huge range of barbequed beasts – smoked St Louis ribs, Peri Peri chicken wings, pickles and fries. The real hero of this dish is the brisket, which falls apart with the slightest touch of a knife and melts in the mouth Ã¢â‚¬â€œ or so I’m told.
After mammoth mains we could have skipped desert but we soldier on. My dining partner is a connoisseur of CrÃƒÂ¨me Brule however, this is a rare miss on the night. We’ve both had the Jackson and Rye CrÃƒÂ¨me Brule, which comes with distinctive vanilla, orange and Cointreau custard so we know it can be fab. Unfortunately something’s up tonight and beneath the crispy sugar topping the custard is runny when it should be firm and plump.
I can’t offer too much sympathy though Ã¢â‚¬â€œ my Chocolate Fondant with salted caramel ice-cream is beautifully indulgent and leaves me feeling warm, smug and very, very full.
Jackson and Rye has always got the fundamentals right. It’s now big enough to call itself a chain (if it wants to) but I like the fact it hasn’t lost sight of the things that made it good in the first place.
It’s not cheap but it is good value for money and it’s consistently good while still being slightly quirky and distinctive. The new menu hasn’t re-invented the wheel and has kept lots of the old favourites in place while bring on board new dishes that enhance an already-strong offering.
With so much choice in Soho, Jackson and Rye is one of the few places I keep coming back to. After an enjoyable evening of hearty, quality food, and a small but perfectly formed cocktail list, I’m already looking forward to my next visit.