Southern Comfort Cooking
Anne Flaherty enjoyed a meal at Jackson & Rye
Recently it seems as if everyone in Chiswick has taken to eating brunch- the American stopgap that is somewhere between breakfast and lunch and gives diners a perfect excuse to hit the booze while it's still morning!
I understand the latest trend is the 'brimmer', a step further up on the all-day breakfast ladder that gives you bacon, eggs and pancakes at any hour of the day or well into the night. I'm not sure I could face a fried egg at 8 pm but others might.
American-themed (though British-owned) Jackson & Rye chose Chiswick as its first venue outside central London (it is shortly to open in Richmond) and boasted a menu inspired by Southern cooking- a mouth-watering vision of shrimp and grits, buttermilk-fried chicken, chunky steaks and Bloody Marys. By the way, all-day brunch stops at 4.30 pm so no 'brimmer' here.
There's such a proliferation of pizza, pasta, burger and noodle (though no Mexican ) restaurants in Chiswick, I wanted to believe Jackson & Rye would offer something unique. So I went along recently with a friend to see how it was faring.
The staff at the restaurant are very friendly and although I was first to arrive, I was pleased to be seated quickly and offered a menu and drink within a few minutes. We sat at a small corner table beside the window where I had a good view of the street outside. The interior is pleasant, with low lighting, an attractive bar area showcasing the whiskey collection, white bar stools and pendant lamps.
At 7.30pm it was about half-full but then tables filled up downstairs throughout the evening. In many Chiswick restaurants the acoustics are poor, the rooms so noisy that proper conversation is a struggle. But here the music wasn't too loud and neighbouring conversations not at all intrusive. My friend arrived as I was enjoying a peach Bellini and we took stock of the menu. Tables were close together but we didn't feel too cramped.
Our lovely Spanish waitress was helpful with advice. The 'Specials' of the day were a little underwhelming, a pork chop dish or salmon with new potatoes. We reckoned we can have this any night of the week at home, so we moved to looking at the a la carte American-style choices, such Mac and Cheese, Shrimp with Grits, Crab Cakes and the delight of New York, Rueben sandwiches.
My starter was to be a Crab and Avocado dish - white crab mayonnaise with guacamole & spiced tomato juice, priced at £7.95. This was a little heavy on the mayo and less so on the crabmeat. It was wonderfully fresh to the palate. But the dish needed needed a spicy infusion, some heat to offset the mellowness of the avocado. The tomato soup swimming underneath might be the place for the chef to add a dash of something piquant like Cayenne pepper or some ground Coriander. My friend chose the Tomato and Basil soup, which came in a metal jug poured into a bowl over an aubergine & Mozzerella tortellini. She pronounced it "very nice by itself and it doesn't really need the piece of pasta."
Onto the main courses and by now the place was filling up, mostly with couples. My friend was hovering between steak and chicken. There are several steaks to choose from: Spiced Flat Iron, Rib-Eye, Rump, Striploin, Steak & Eggs. So much choice that she chose the chicken!
The Blackened Chicken was Cajun spiced and served with smokey mayonnaise full of the flavour of the Louisiana Bayou. Priced at £13.75 it came with crispy shoestring fries.
For my main course I chose the Chargrilled Lobster. I did not want the full American experience of bibs and cracking acoutrements, so I asked for all this to be done in the kitchen. Being a friendly and customer oriented place, they duly obliged. The lobster was a decent size, simply served with a little bowl of smoked butter and shoestring chips. The sweet meat was complemented by the smokiness of the butter and there was a slice of lemon which gave the watercress a fresh zing.. I really enjoyed the lobster and thought it was very good value at £24.95 considering the size of the portion. We shared a mixed tomato salad as a side dish.
Service was prompt and friendly - we were asked several times if we needed anything and the waitress was genuinely friendly.
The dessert menu continues the American theme with offerings such as Pecan Pie, Blueberry and Apple Cobblerr, Cheesecake or Melted Marshmallows. I opted for the Melting Chocolate Sundae. This comes in a little bowl with a hard chocolate shell on top over which you pour butterscotch sauce which then melts into the cup. This appeals to the child in me as I like to watch the chocolate shell collapsing into the vanilla ice cream - we got two spoons and soon demolished the dessert.
We drank glasses of GAVI DOCG 2012 and had a peppermint tea and English Breakfast tea before ordering the bill ,which came to a total of £92, service included.
I didn't get a chance to sample any of the whiskey on offer- Rye is a big, spicy whisky with a long finish, which has come back into fashion with the interest in classic cocktails. You can enjoy it 'straight up' or on the rocks on in cocktails such as the Manhattan and the restaurant has a large selection.
My verdict- The food at Jackson & Rye was simple and well-cooked. The service was attentive and friendly. The atmosphere was pleasant. It is a nice place to go for a meal with the family, or with friends, or as a couple. It is not a destination restaurant, but it is a good neighbourhood addition to the Chiswick High Road.
October 18, 2014