Jar Kitchen, Drury Lane – Home from Home in Covent Garden:
There are places I walk into and know I’m going to like. It’s an instant feeling of warmth and contentment, where every table is full of happy people. It’s the decor – the sort of design I’d like to have at home. And, it’s the list of things on the menu – enough flavour combinations that seem intuitively good to me, even without tasting.
How about whitebait with avocado and fennel seeds. Or the classic courgette flowers with goats cheese honey and walnuts. Would you believe in ‘Earl Grey salmon with oat crisp, watercress, spinach, pickled shallots and horseradish ricotta’? Or Ox cheek and cheddar croquettes with aioli. And that’s just for starters.
Jar Kitchen is the brainchild of two passionate food lovers; Lucy Brown and Jenny Quintero. They tell a great story, of doing most of the renovation work themselves, sanding down old doors to make the bar, pestering their friends and family for left over jars and generally going, through the pain of creating their own restaurant business from scratch.
They explain that the Chef, Dominik Moldenhauer, was a unanimous first choice. With a background of working with Heston Blumenthal at Dinner and Matt Stone at the Greenhouse in Perth he has sterling credentials. Here, the emphasis is on fresh, seasonal, locally sourced food and the menu Dominik has created is enticing.
As a guest of the restaurant, I was able to share a wide range of dishes from the current menu. Though, I have to admit, at times I lost track of what was appearing on the table. I’ll just have to go back and take things a little more slowly.
I believe we tried all of the starters on the menu. My personal favourites was the whitebait – a gloriously well seasoned concoction of crispy whitebait with melting avocado.
I loved the chicken liver parfait, the only dish which appeared in jars. It seems to be quite a challenge to get the texture of a chicken liver parfait right. Too soft and the result is an offal soup. Too firm and the mixture should be dubbed pate. A parfait needs a bit of gloopiness. Here, it was pretty much spot on, served with toasted raisin bread and (not quite enough) rich, smokey fig and onion jam.
Earl grey salmon seemed a little heavy on ricotta for me, but that may well have been the result of the inequality of sharing. The plate was beautiful to look at and I’d be happy to order it again just to check it out.
And what’s not to love about courgette flower stuffed with goats cheese, or ox cheek and cheddar croquettes?
By the time we reached the main courses there was an element of anarchy on our table of around eight. Driven by an apparent desire from each and every one of us to eat every dish which appeared on the table. My personal favourite was the beef short rib which came in a rich jus and was served with a side of caraway mash and braised shard.
I loved the pork belly too. Those who regularly read London Unattached will know how rare an accolade that is; poorly cooked meat with a high fat content is a particular bete noir of mine. But here, it was perfectly cooked and presented with a delicious concoction of pearl barley, peas and turnips.
While I have a photo of the seared monkfish I was far too busy eating to taste it.
Chicken breast came with a persillade to keep it moist and with sweet potato crisps on a bed of baby gem. Who could resist?
Of course the challenge if you go to war on the main courses is to have enough space for even a single dessert.
As it happens, three dishes appeared, all delicious but most memorable for me were the tiny cinnamon doughnuts.
Chocolate ganache was served with banana ice-cream and a peanut brittle was utterly moreish.
In third place for me, the creme fraiche cheese cake with lemon sorbet. But, it’s all a matter of taste when everything rates well over 7 out of 10.
The wine list at Jar Kitchen is small but nicely formed, starting at £19 a bottle with all but the most expensive available by the glass. It’s the kind of place where you’ll linger, so having a good value wine list is essential.
I like this place. It’s easy to eat well, the flavour combinations are surefooted but at times original. Prices are eminently reasonable for Covent Garden, with starters mostly around £6.00 and with every main under £20 and plenty to choose from under £15. Somewhere to visit with friends for a lazy, comfortable evening or, for that matter for breakfast or lunch.
176 DRURY LANE
0207 405 4255