A month back I told a little tale involving me in my PJs at the Maidenhead branch of Waitrose on a Sunday morning, thumbing through the thinnest newspaper in the world and happening upon a restaurant review competition.
You may recall that my aim was to review the revamped Belgian Arms in Holyport; but with the submission date being this Thursday and me not having been to B-Arms 2.0 yet, I have had to review a different eatery. You may also recall that the revamped BeeBee Arms has been taken over by my boss, Sir Michael Parkinson. I figure that its probably best I veer away from critiquing his endeavors, lest I accidentally insult him and get sacked. So I have selected an altogether different celebrity to judge – Mr. Jamie Oliver.
Last Wednesday I met my darling friend Jessica Maden for one of our London dinners. These usually occur in Westfield, Shepherd’s Bush, for reasons I won’t go in to (Topshop). But seeing as we both currently work in central London, we decided to grab a bite somewhere other than a shopping centre. Jess had her heart set on Kimchee, which she lured me to on the pretence that it was A) easy to get in to and B) not too sushi-fishy-foreign-weird in terms of food. In actual fact, there was a queue out the door, it was pissing down with rain and the specialty was soft shell Korean crabs! After trying to line up for about ten minutes, we threw in the towel and went on a random jaunt down High Holborn, in search of somewhere else. (Also, the weird Japanese couple in the queue next to us were singing to each other – it was creepy in a “The Grudge” kind of way) As is the norm for Little J and Big A, we literally fanny-ed about for ages, trying to pick somewhere to eat. The i-phone restaurant app was out, the curriculum for a “healthy noodle-type meal” was still prominent but in the end the tiny umbrella we shared gave up the ghost and we ended up in Jamie Oliver’s Union Jacks. This, therefore, has ended up the subject of my review. See below for said review. I would like to point out that I didn’t dislike the place, nor the food, but it overwhelmed me to a degree that I didn’t appreciate. And I remind you, reader, that I had 250 words to write this in and I needed to make a splash. I guess we’ll see what the outcome is in due course – perhaps I’m too outrageous for the Waitrose judging panel but then again, Jamie does Sainsbury’s so they might like it that I’m semi-slagging him off…
– – A
Last Wednesday, I was meant to have dinner at Kimchee, Holborn. It didn’t happen – the line was out the door, round the bend, and didn’t move. I therefore ended up at Union Jacks, down the road. My friend and I were starving so the menu, at a glance, seemed fine. And it’s a Jamie Oliver chain – must be good!
I like Jamie – his “30 Minute Meal” show got me through a bought of sofa-ridden-gastritis in 2010; and Union Jacks certainly garners kudos for creativity. But, to me, it was all a bit…much. The food-quality and the ingredients used were exquisite – all local, all British. But thrown together in the coalescing that one finds on the menu, these recipes are simply too rich. I had fish-fingers and crumbed-mushrooms to start – the former accompanied by a vehement tartar sauce, the latter sodden with garlic. I was then tempted by the “Red Ox” or “Old Spot” flatbreads but instead opted for the “Woodman”. It was rich – overwhelming fungi, strong cheddar, plentiful tarragon; it made me wonder, if the “veggie” option was that intense, what the ox & horseradish or the pork & stilton pizzas would do to me.
Sadly, there was little else to choose from; the saving grace was a refreshing arctic roll dessert – but even this was chocolate, not plain old vanilla, as is the tradition. I suppose all this should be expected from a restaurant with words like “chop” and “freak” in the menu. Perhaps, though, the Union should be Jacked?
– – Andrew Bullock