Meat. It’s all about meat. Not life (well, sometimes) but in this unassuming basement on the Piccadilly side of Soho it is most definitely all about meat. I remember when Blacklock launched early this year, to a flurry of social media activity from the most respected food bloggers and Instagram stars. Although the hype has died down (a bit, not completely) they’re still always busy and for good reason. I’ve been a few times and this is a kind of mash-up of the various visits.
Having got married at the beginning of July (my excuse for recent blog-neglect), and following weeks of wedding obsession and constant attention to detail (not necessarily my forte), once it was over I was extremely pleased to down tools and head off to Italy. A 16 day extravaganza of hot sun, beautiful cities and beaches, and above all cheese, wine, pasta and anything else in sight that I could consume. Oh, and spending time with new hubby..
You’re probably aware, along with the rest of the world, that celebrated chef Mark Hix has turned a disused tram shed (from 1905 don’t you know) into a chicken and steak restaurant in Shoreditch. You may or may not also be aware that there is a Damien Hirst formaldehyde-encased cow standing on a huge pillar in the centre of the room, with a large cock perched on its back. It’s definitely a novel way to stand out.
First things first – these are perhaps the worst food photos on the internet. I’m not sure what happened – it was fairly dark, I was on my third (delicious) yuzu margarita and I was rushing due to the usual time pressure when you have two hungry friends chomping at the bit whilst staring at a table of delicious delicacies… but still, my apologies.
Although I didn’t realise until I walked in, this was my second visit to Jackson & Rye on Soho’s Wardour Street. I attended a networking breakfast there a few months ago and from what I remember (I’m not great in the mornings) it was fabulous, so I was more than keen to go back for dinner.
From the team behind Grillshack and backed by Richard Caring of the Ivy, Carluccio’s, Scott’s and J Sheekey among others, Jackson & Rye is loud, lively and exactly what you’d expect from an American themed restaurant in Soho on a Friday night – in a good way.
Roast lamb rump on courgettes and tomatoes was tender and packed with herby flavour. Rump steak was delicious if slightly past the requested medium, and chips were thin and the ideal combination of crispy and fluffy that you come to expect from anywhere better than McDonald’s. I ordered creamed grits with sweetcorn on a whim, and thank God – they were smooth, creamy, salty and sweet, the perfect partner for roasted meat. I was expecting something sloppy and vaguely porridge-like, so they were a lovely surprise and something I’m very keen to have again, and soon.
We also threw in half a lobster as a side dish, why not, January’s crap and you need all the little joys you can get! It was juicy and delicious as you’d hope, simply grilled with lemon.
Not a huge fan of dessert usually but this was big hunks of charred marshmallow with blood orange sorbet and hot chocolate sauce to pour over the top (main pic) – wow, it was light, rich and fruity all at the same time, and just totally gorgeous.
The American Merlot (when in Rome) was far too delicious – this combined with the daft proximity of the next tables meant I was extremely close to clearing all their dishes with my backside on leaving, and I was forced to apologise both before and after. No complaints about the wine, but perhaps they could allow another few inches between tables for privacy, dignity and the fact that we struggled to get all our plates on it at the same time. Obviously space is at a premium in Soho and they want to cram in as many covers as possible, but it does give an air of the assembly line.
Overall dinner at Jackson & Rye is fun, hearty and delicious, with a great menu, plentiful booze options and lovely staff. Definitely worth another visit, although go with a group for a bigger table.
Since my first fabulous evening at the gorgeous Hawksmoor Air Street early in the year, I’ve been itching to try ‘little brother’ establishment Foxlow in Farringdon. With talk of local seafood, shortrib to die for and Hawksmoor-worthy steaks, what’s not to like?
After a drink at the bar we were seated – it wasn’t busy but hadn’t quite reached the echo-y awkwardness of being totally empty. We went for the curried mussels and smokehouse rillettes to start – I’ll admit to looking up the definition of rillettes beforehand, which excited me a lot (pretty much meat mashed with fat – halfway to pate), and they didn’t disappoint.
The meat was gorgeous; rich and tender, complimented perfectly by crunchy toast, capers, strips of gherkin and cucumber. The mussels were plump and soft, and while my mussel preferences normally default to anything with wine and/or cream, the curried sauce was salty and fragrant – heaven. One of those moments when you have to try VERY hard not to pick up the dish and drink from it.
Hotly-anticipated mains exceeded all expectations; I’d heard great things about the ten-hour beef shortrib and oh my god, it was incredible, absolutely melting off the bone. I hate the word ‘unctuous’ but it kept springing to mind, and is probably a spot-on description. It’s served with kimchi, a Korean fermented cabbage salad – not the most appetising description granted, but it was tangy, crunchy and spicy, ideal for the soft, rich meat.
We also had the D-rump steak served with bone marrow, and added anchovy and chilli butter, fries and some baby gem with parmesan – didn’t really need cheesy lettuce to be honest but I’m nothing if not determined. The steak was perfection (as expected) and smearing it with the butter and the meaty jelly from the bone it felt like the most indulgent dish ever.
Like Hawksmoor the service at Foxlow is great. Our waiter (I wish I’d got his name) was a star, brought extra bread for the mussels when he noticed we’d hoovered it all up, made spot-on recommendations, drew the D-rump on his pad to explain it (it’s the inside part of the bum cheek, so doesn’t work as hard as the rump and is more tender) and was generally very personable and lovely.
At £90 for 2 x two courses with drinks and service it’s not bad at all, given the quality of the food and the fact that you feel so looked after. Will certainly be back for brunch!
*The fabulous pics are courtesy of Foxlow – mine were awful