Saturday, 3 December 2011

Union Jacks

For sometime now I’ve been aware that age has finally caught up with me and I simply cannot keep up with blogging about the endless stream of new openings in London. It’s actually quite a relief that the task is now eagerly undertaken by a nimiety of younger food bloggers who possess enough energy and fire to frantically race each other to the line with the first review. And when the plethora of reviews concerning a half-decent joint materialises- we’ll always expect the same positive and tiring outcome (endless aplomb, effusive gush, comped meals etc). These reviews invariably become so overly saturated that they simply put me off visiting or writing about places like Roganic, Jose in Battersea, or The Young Turks (MEATliquor being an exception and with post to come). Call me an old grumpy git if you like but I’ll stick to my own agenda and maintain a bit of that ‘contrarian rebel’ tag that has been bestowed upon me.

So if I’ve contradicted myself by posting this review, then so be it, because I needed to jump the gun and share the experience tout de suite. I actually admire Sir Jamie a great deal but I’ve never been to any of his restaurants until today. Saturdays mean lunch with feisty daughter and today was an exception; she had to meet her friends at their beloved hangout and our lunch-date venue had to be well within da hood. The piazza of Central St. Giles has somehow transformed itself into a cosmopolitan food courtyard and before you snigger Zizzi was unbelievably rammed whereas Cabana was deserted and the same kind of dead calm was also noted at Byron’s. The half-full Union Jacks was chosen because feisty daughter wanted fish and fish fingers were conveniently on the menu.

The lunch we had today was faultless and that’s saying something, as I’m not even that keen on pizzas. The architect responsible for Central St. Giles as a whole, Renzo Piano, is largely responsible for
the charming and comforting ambience of all the said restaurants. The service unlike most new openings was excellent and there was never an instance whereby a self-centred tattooed waitress would appraise the level of hoi polloi-ness within you before granting a smile.

with sweet tea cosy

We shared three starters of the following-


Nothing can replace Heinz Tomato Ketchup but our Jamie has managed topple Birds Eye with their fish fingers. Beautifully seasoned and fresh tasting, the by–catch fingers were outstanding
(breadcrumbs or not). The tartare sauce was also good enough on its own as a moreish sandwich spread.

The potted prawn and crab was equally impressive- it was sweet, nutmeg-gy, and luscious. But
Michel Roux Jnr would shriek at the shrapnels of crab shell I encountered. Serving this trio of fish at room temperature (it was after all fridge cold) with fresh wholemeal bread (instead of the Melba toast of granary bread) would’ve been immeasurably better.

The sausage or rather a coil of chipolata-sized Cumberland was obviously made by a ‘local’ food hero- it was peppery, herby and first-class. A few of my Eastern European friends have been pretty damning about Blighty sausages but they’ve yet to sample a true Cumberland, Lincolnshire or this one for that matter. And what little bacon that came with it was
smoky, sweet and crispy. One of my usual dislikes is grain mustard but the ale and sage mustard suggested otherwise.

If this place were to serve breakfast then I can expect a tremendous Full English on the menu.

And as far as small plates are concerned, the Riding House Café need to go back to the drawing board and follow Union Jacks’ take instead!

The OLD SPOT flat
Roast shoulder of pig, quince & Bramley sauce, Cropwell Bishop Stilton, crackling & watercress.

The pizza Taliban would flip at this...wot no effing mozzarella and toms? Obviously to save his bacon Jamie had to call his pizzas flats. Well f**k that because it’s still a bloody pizza and a bloody good one to boot. The thin crust faithfully complied with the hallowed Neapolitan doctrine. The sweetness of the quince and apple gracefully embraced the tender shreds of pulled Spot and the addition of the world’s greatest cheese was pure genius. Jamie Oliver, you bugger, you’ve just created a world class pizza and it’s British!

We ended our meal with a RETRO ARCTIC ROLL.
Another well researched and developed dish. It brought memories of an Abigail's Party moment and a lit sparkler to go with the pudding wouldn’t go amiss. The addition of the honeycomb chunks was a clever touch. Unashamedly lovely jubbly.

Union Jacks is seriously good and if this is to be the pilot of many more branches to come then I’ll be saddened if complacency begins to creep in. Recommended.

4 Central St. Giles Piazza


Anonymous said...

Good to see Renzo Piano getting his well deserved credit for the design of the restaurants themselves. He must have been heavily involved in the schemes of central st gile's tenants. What a hero! And what foresight from all those tenants to get Piano to design their restaurants for them. Three cheers to Renzo!

Ben said...

There's nothing worse than having to cut a quail's egg in half to share. And I can't read a review for Roganic without the effusive voice of Brian Sewell or Uncle Monty popping into my head.

Anyway, looks fun and keep up the contrarianism.

Helen T said...

Sounds like my kind of place, no messed around with food. And anywhere with a) tea in decent pots and b) comedy teacosys would get my vote. And then that pizza...! Will add this to my list of places for next trip to London

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an utterly confused mess.

How does pretentious tomatoless pizza nonsense, builders tea and fish fingers ever end up on the same menu.

Can't see this lasting.