What? An independently run restaurant on Covent Garden’s Drury Lane with a farm to fork ethos and focus on seasonal, sustainable Modern British cooking.
New? Jar Kitchen opened back in March 2015, by friends Lucy Brown and Jenny Quintero. It has survived two years in a competitive market so hopefully it’s here to stay. They’ve just welcomed Head Chef Paula Borreguero to the team, fresh from Soho’s 10 Greek Street.
Where? 176 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, WC2B 5QF, www.jarkitchen.com
On the Menu: The menu depends on what’s in season so on the website it says it changes daily. It wasn’t quite daily as we were relieved to find the ndjua and sweetcorn croquettes that we had sussed out online beforehand but I’m sure the main produce changes more regularly – think rack of lamb with hummus and wild mushroom, and skate with rosemary roast potato and brown shrimp. You’d expect somewhere of this size (small) to have an equally concise wine list but it is refreshingly extensive – old and new world wines, organic where possible, are available by the glass, carafe and bottle, as well as craft beer and a dozen or so classic cocktails. As well as a great value express lunch and pre-theatre menus, they also do a bottomless brunch on Saturdays which we reviewed this time last year (read it here).
First Impressions: I’ve been to Jar Kitchen before (pre-theatre) so knew how to find it but I reckon it’s easy to miss. The dark blue exterior sits on the Holborn end of Drury Lane and offers a break from the endless chains in the area. It’s inviting and cosy, with a big curtain over the door and a little table for two outside. The restaurant was bustly but had a laid back atmosphere – you certainly get ‘neighbourhood’ feel they are aiming for and little jars of wild flowers on the table are a nice touch.
The Look: DIY but in a charming way, Jar Kitchen is rustic and homely; dark grey walls and stripped wooden flooring will want you to paint your living room, and hanging Kilner jar lights will have you hunting for the glue gun. Request a table in the window for the best spot in the house and either people watch outside or look in to the room and witness the action of the kitchen’s pass/open bar.
What We Ate: The compulsory pre-visit menu browse meant I’d eyed up a few starters beforehand. The ndjua and sweetcorn croquettes, in particular, didn’t disappoint and the warm focaccia was a surprising favourite – although not a starter. Freshly baked in-house daily, it came with a pot of aioli for dipping/spreading/scooping (we did all three). It was addictive. I got the impression that the mixed grain salad is a bit of a speciality (it’s not new to the menu) and piled high with roasted baby carrots, almonds, pomegranates and a drizzle of yogurt you can see why. It’s the type of thing you’d want for lunch every day and the add-on of slow roast lamb made it even better. A stuffed courgette flower proved a popular choice – in fact I’m pretty sure every table in the restaurant had one at some point during our visit. When Barrafina down the road is full, you can get your courgette flower fix here.
As well as being vegetarian-friendly, the dishes are the type of thing you’d want to serve at a dinner party; simple yet impressive, hearty yet pretty. My halibut came with two little seaweed fritters in a cream sauce and whilst the skin was wonderfully crispy, the fish itself was a little overcooked for my taste. A side would’ve been welcome too – I remember thinking the broccoli and walnut sounded appealing so it would’ve been a good suggestion. My guest’s sea bream was a little more hearty thanks to a bed of slightly mushy peas it sat on. Full marks all round to the crispiness of fish skin – always key in my book.
The pudding menu was equally imaginative and intrigue led us to try the pine needle ice cream (it tasted exactly how the needles smell) and beer-misu (a beer-soaked version of tiramisu). The ice cream, in particular, was beautifully presented with chunks of rhubarb and a slice of dried blood orange and made for a fitting end to a comforting yet creative meal.
What We Drank: A glance over the cocktail menu led me to a (strong) Langley’s G&T, served Spanish-style in a huge glass with a sprig of rosemary and slice of lemon. My guest stuck with wine – a Pinot Noir was suggested by co-founder, Lucy, and let to a second glass once the food came. Fresh mint tea rounded the evening off.
Go With: Go with friends before heading to the theatre (School of Rock is on a few doors down) or impress your date with somewhere a little off the beaten track.
Final Word: Jar Kitchen is a great little place to have up your sleeve. It gets busy so book ahead, or chance your luck if you’re in the area. Hopefully they can squeeze you in.
Like This? Try These: Rabbit, Native, Counter Culture
Jar Kitchen: 176 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, WC2B 5QF, www.jarkitchen.com
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Fran can be found sipping espresso martinis by night and, by day, on the hunt for London's best brunch. Bonus points for a runny yolk and the perfect flat white.