JACKSON & RYE Soho, London
Wondering what places to eat in london? Chad Armstrong reviews one of the most talked about kids on the block in the heart of London’s Soho.
Soho has been undergoing a revival in recent years. Smaller fashion brands such as Percival, Sunspel, Wolsey & boutiques like Machine-A have returned. Similarly the cheap takeaways and dull chain restaurants have moved on to be replaced by a succession of restaurants able to draw Londoners back to where only tourists used to tread. One of these is Jackson & Rye on Wardour Street.
While Covent Garden’s Balthazar is serving up Manhattan-styled-French, Soho’s Jackson & Rye delivers speakeasy-Brooklyn. It is far more relaxed, livelier and egalitarian. Replacing the generic Asian-cuisine of Satsuma which formerly stood on this spot, we now have Americana served with a whiskey-loving flare. Unsurprisingly, J&R comes from the same minds & talents as nearby Grillshack, no bad thing.
With an interior by Martin Brudnizki (the man behind the redesigned Browns women’s store on South Moulton, as well as the restaurants Hix, Holborn Dining Room, and numerous Soho House & Jamie Alexander projects), the space is warm and well appointed. The tables are rather close together, but the upside of the crowded dining spaces is that the buzzy room is perfect for a spot of Soho people-watching. Try to avoid being seated downstairs if you can. The small overflow dining room has the elements of the upstairs dining room without the advantages of the space or buzz (no windows, but a lovely big mirror). Much like all restaurants of a certain calibre, the bathrooms are stocked with Aesop hand-wash & moisturiser (no complaints there).
After a few visits, I can say the wait-staff are quite uniformly friendly and efficient, with the right amount of banter and attention without hovering. Thankfully too, they happily offer genuine recommendations off the menu. I always respect waiters who will steer me away from the menus lesser items onto more interesting or better produced fare.
On the cocktail front, the waiter suggested the Black ‘N’ Rye, a warming coffee, whiskey & Kahlua mix (a house specialty) and it didn’t disappoint. The Rye Manhattan also went down well. The Aperol Spritz was a lighter summery concoction, along with the Deuce Royale, ripe for those with a sweet tooth.
Among the appetizers, I found the Truffled Mac & Cheese to be a little on the light side for my liking and the Shrimp & Grits left me a little cold, the Crispy Squid and Carpaccio however were bang on.
Where J&R kicks into gear is the grill, with excellent steaks and generous serving of chicken (both the Lemon & Rosemary Roast Chicken and the Crispy Buttermilk Fried Chicken were fantastic and worth returning for). The Lobster was juicy and far better in quality than that found nearby at Lobster & Burger (which I’ve always found to be too dry). To be honest, I’d pass on the full lobster in favour of ordering a half as a side dish to one of their steaks, surf & turf style.
In keeping with current trends, yes, there is a kale side dish (with mushrooms & truffle cream which must surely negate any health benefits in the best possible way). One thing to note for the bacon lovers is their Slab Bacon, a thick cut slice that is juicy and rich.
Which brings me to the desserts; you’re frankly a fool to go past the Melting Chocolate Sundae (warm butterscotch sauce melts a hard, frozen chocolate topping over ice-cream). I tried the Blueberry Cobbler and Baked Cheesecake, both of which were on par with others in the neighbourhood. The Leaded Shakes also make for a good dessert option; the Dark & Stormy Float (Rum, spicy ginger beer over raisin ice cream) was fun and went down far too easily.
While J&R keep tables aside for walk-ins on the day, the venue obviously gets very busy on weekends so booking is definitely recommended. For those daring a walk-in, you can either grab a seat at the bar and wait if there is space, or J&R offer an SMS service which allows you head out for a drink elsewhere and they’ll contact you when your table is ready. Groups can be catered to, but I think you’d be pushing the levels of comfort to have more than 6 or 8 at a table, 4 is the perfect number.
Jackson & Rye looks destined to become a Soho staple, forming a comfortable middle ground between Soho House’s Soho Kitchen & Bar and Dean Street Townhouse.
This isn’t aimed at fine dining; here we have good relaxed meals for the social class. Bring your crowd, and you’re in for a treat.
Jackson & Rye
56 Wardour St, Soho W1D 4JF
020 7437 83388
– Words by Chad Armstrong
Editors note: Jackson & Rye have recently announced the opening of a new restaurant in Chiswick, London, this June. The new restaurant takes the place of Jamie Oliver’s Union Jack, which is closing.