Jackson + Rye – Restaurant Review

Daniel John Lynch

Last week I stumbled across what is quite possible the hottest new restaurant in London, Jackson + Rye. Over the past few months, there have been quite a few new openings in London, which is great, but a majority of the restaurants seem to be lacking anything original. In a city that offers pretty much everything, you really need to have something special to make yourself stand out from the crowd, and Jackson + Rye is oozing that special something.

I received an out of the blue message on Facebook from my friend Sam asking if I was about and fancied a drink and a catch up. I was sold at drink. We met up at what can only be described as the dullest and blandest bar in London. There was no music, the lights were up at full blast and their drink selection was so boring that I was tempted to order a Carling (don’t worry, I didn’t)! Before we took our last gulps, I asked if he fancied going for dinner. Basically asking if we could go anywhere that wasn’t here. We were thinking of where to go, when I remembered walking past this new, busy and buzzing restaurant earlier on in the day, Jackson + Rye. We headed down there in the hope of being able to get a table. It was 7:30 on a Tuesday night, so it couldn’t be that hard. We arrived and it was heaving!

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As you walk through the beautifully panelled doors, you’re greeted with this stunning marble topped bar. The whole restaurant is dimly lit, giving off a warm and homely feeling. I was tempted to kick off my shoes, grab a bourbon, put my feet up and read a paper. Obviously I didn’t do that, but my word it was tempting. We were promptly shown to our table and read out the specials, which all sounded great, but when I saw the menu, WOW! Forget the specials, everything I ever wanted on a menu was right in front of me! This was American diner meets soul food whilst kicking your diet in the balls and living it up in heaven (the after life heaven, not the club). How the hell would it be possible to choose?!

To get me through this difficult “Sophie’s Choice-esque” dilemma, I started with a drink. Sam ordered the Goldrush. This is a zesty and light cocktail made with Rittenhouse Rye,  lemon, honey. It was good, but mine was better. Black n Rye. This was pure indulgence in a glass. Rittenhouse Rye, Kahlua,  coffee, sugar. Caffeine, sugar and alcohol. Best combination ever!

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Once our drinks arrived and we had dissected the menu, we were ready to order. We were going to go all out tonight, so we decided to share a starter. Truffled Mac & Cheese with parmesan. Yes, you heard me. Truffle. The dish came out and it was just spot on. Piping hot, rich, creamy, cheesy and it had a tiny hint of truffle, which was incredible. A perfect starter. I will warn you now though, it’s not ideal to share. You’re better off getting 2 dishes as you will be fighting for the last mouthful. For mains, Sam opted for the Cheeseburger with Shoestring fries and I went Thick Cut Rump Steak with a Béarnaise Sauce.

The steak was beautifully seasoned and extremely tender. It was flavoursome and presented with a bit of watercress and a caramelised shallot. The burger looked fantastic too. served on an open bun, one side topped with a moist beef patty (cooked to your liking) and melted Gruyere cheese. On the other side, lettuce, gherkin, beef tomato and pickled onion rings. The slightly nutty and sweetness of the cheese worked brilliantly with the sharpness of the pickled onions. For such a classic dish, it actually tasted better than most burgers out there…and believe me, there’s a lot! The shoestring fries were something new to me. They were tiny. Take your normal French Fry, cut it in half and then you have a shoestring fry. They seem a lot lighter than your standard, but taste just as good.

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The food had been a great success, but whilst eating, I looked behind me and I saw quite possibly the best thing in my entire life! No, not Dan Osborne, Better than that. A whole wall stacked with every kind of whiskey, bourbon and rye you could possibly think of! This place was getting better and better by the second. To see just how good this place really was, I went to see if they had my favourite bourbon, Pappy Van Winkle. Alas, they did not. I went up to the manager in the desperate hope that my excitement hadn’t been for nothing and asked if they would get it in, to which he replied “actually, we have the bourbon and the rye downstairs.” WHAAAAT?!?! 2 minutes later, he presented both bottles to me and straight away I ordered the 13yr old rye. I asked Sam if he had ever tried it, and to my surprise, he hadn’t. So I offered him a sip. Just a sip. This I would not share.

We moved on from our mains and as you usually do, went on to desserts. Sam opted for the Pecan Pie with Rye Ice Cream. The pie itself is a delight. Not overly sweet, packed with pecans and a light base and crust, but the ice cream, that was just incredible. I had to ask the waitress if the chef would consider making a container full for me to take home. She laughed and walked off. I was being serious. The ice cream was sweet, smooth and creamy with a dense smoky tone going through it. I opted for the Melting Chocolate Sundae with Butterscotch Sauce, wait till you hear this, served in a tankard. At the bottom is a scoop of vanilla ice cream, on top of that is a ball of whipped cream, mixed with popping candy that has been set in a chilled chocolate case. You pour over the hot butterscotch sauce, which melts the chocolate and whipping cream to create the best excuse for obesity ever made. If you’re in Soho and only have 10 mins for lunch, go to Jackson + Rye, just to experience this dessert. That is all I can say.

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Sam and I had had a pretty amazing meal here, so decided to get a night cap before heading off. Seeing as this had turned in to a night of pure indulgence, we had the Leaded Shakes. Sam went for the Dark & Stormy Float. Take your classic Dark & Stormy, but make it with Gosling’s Rum, spicy ginger beer,  rum & raisin ice cream. That simple and that delicious. I went all crazy and American and ordered the Pretzel Shake. Bourbon, pretzel, vanilla ice cream mixed together. I didn’t want to leave. I was so happy.

Jackson + Rye has only been open for a few weeks, but it’s fast becoming a Soho institution and it’s easy to see why. Service is friendly, cheery and charming, the food is reasonably priced, well portioned and delicious. But most of all, it’s good honest food. There’s not been a restaurant like this in Soho, or indeed London for such a long time and it’s so refreshing to have something this good and that is accessible for everyone. You don’t have to go in for a full on dinner, you can show up at lunch time and have a sandwich at the bar, or turn up at 8am and have a muffin with your coffee, no problem. What makes it even greater is that you’re made to feel welcomed and appreciated. Nothing was too much for the waiting team or indeed the manager. Every response to a request was made with a smile and every effort made to make sure our experience was an enjoyable and fun one.

Total bill: £98.70 including service.

About Daniel John Lynch

I’m a fat man trapped inside a skinny man’s body. After many years of working in the hospitality industry and travelling around the world, I’ve finally decided to do something with my worldly knowledge and write. I’m also a documentary film maker and lover of food and all things London. Follow me on Twitter @danieljohnlynch