Jackson + Rye is a fairly spacious place modelled along the lines of a upscale American diner. From the team that brought us Grillshack, it advertises hearty fare inspired by Southern US cooking as well as a range of cocktails and other boozes to get your day started. The décor is mostly small tables and booths and it feels more 1940s than anything else. Think Prohibition style without the ban on alcohol.
Staff are friendly, albeit a bit slow (or perhaps the place was understaffed on Saturday morning), and were quick to greet and exchange a bit of banter. It has the right stuff to be a great place but falls short on execution and value for money. They are also running an offer at the moment which gets you a glass of bubbly if you check in on facebook (and show them) but be warned that the bubbles may be quite warm.
No time limits on the table means that you could just congregate at the restaurants and the cocktails (around £6 each) are pretty decent if you want a pre-dinner drink. Alternatively, you do have all of Soho on your doorstep so head up Wardour Street to Carom or around the corner to any number of pubs (such as the French House).
How about the food?
J+R is a bit of a hit and miss on the menu here. Given our group of 10, we managed to try out a hefty portion of the brunch menu and in general I think we were a little let down. The menu looks delicious from the shrimp’n’grits to the buttermilk fried chicken and let’s not forget the truffled mac’n’cheese.
The shrimp’n’grits actually were pretty damn good and reasonably sized and priced for an appetiser. The shrimp were a tad overcooked but the grits textured yet soft. I think a heavier hand with the cheese would have given the dish more oomph but not a bad start. The other half of my meal was the fried squid which looked more like under-cooked onion rings (I like a golden brown look to my batter not a pale tan). Still, they were tasty and the spicy sauce was excellent with a good balance of heat and tanginess.
The GF went for the buttermilk fried chicken as we’d just come off a chicken high a few days ago with the Devonshire Arms’s offering. Sadly, this must have been one of the scrawnier runts of the brood as the £11 price tag only earned you two small breast fillets coated in similarly lustreless batter. This could be forgiven except for the utter absence of taste in the meat – I’d have been happy with a bit of salt and pepper but this lacked even that most basic of seasoning. If you do insist on trying the chicken, get the fried chicken sandwich as that has about 2/3rds the amount of meat but only costs half as much. You’d be better off getting two sandwiches and having more meat as well as a fairly tasty bun and some sauce for flavour.
And the drinks?
Here J+R redeems itself slightly. Although our waitress wasn’t quite sure about the difference between a flat white and a cappuccino (and indeed looking at the two, I’m not sure the barista did either), the cocktails were excellent. I tried out the Black + Rye which was essentially an espresso martini made with Rittenhouse 100 rye and it was a perfect boozy brunch cocktail. At £6, it’s quite reasonably priced, particularly for Soho and a decent size – about the same size as Ape & Bird but for £2 less.
The other brunch cocktails were light and refreshing so I’ll optimistically say the bartenders are worth their salt and I’ll have to visit in the evening for a fuller look.
Worth the dosh?
For light eats and drinks, yes. For a full on meal, nope. I wanted this to be a hearty brunch but the portion sizes are too small for the price and there are a wealth of other options in the area that give you better value for money. Still the cocktails are tasty and affordably priced so perhaps a good spot to keep in mind for pre-theatre bites.
Find Jackson + Rye here
56 Wardour Street, London, W1D 4JG
+44 78 8193 4599