I find Jamie Oliver a bit more endearing and more fun than any other celeb chefs. There’s an ease about his persona and a charming approach to his attack – even whilst taking his anti-obesity campaign
across the Atlantic. Watching him in his kitchen is like watching a kid in a science lab with a mission; there’s a structured way to go about his food yet you’re left on the edge because he seems a bit reckless. But let’s be Machiavellian about it because everything he presents actually looks stunning. And when he eats them all with mucho gusto, one can’t help but say ‘Mate, that plate’s the bees knees, innit bruv?
A and I went to visit Jamie’s latest venture Union Jacks
, a collaboration with the pizza guy from Phoenix, Chris Bianco
. Brit produce advocate + pizza man = the simple concept of great British flavour and ingredients, pizzafied. It seems interesting enough, as everything can be made into a pizza
these days, right? Anyway, everything is sourced in the UK and most of the pizza toppings are apparently local. As the restaurant is strategically located at Central St. Giles, Piazza I actually wondered how local is local.
A’s company designed the place and it’s getting as much critique on its interiors as it is on food. The place has that diner feel to it: big neon sign, ’80s cinema listing style menu, distressed wooden table tops etc. A bit of rock music from the ’90s blast from the speakers. It almost feels like a blokey teenage punk’s room, almost a nonchalant statement of ‘pick-and-mix isn’t dead’
.The scent of freshly made crackling wafted when we walked in and true enough, baskets of gorgeous pork skin sat on pass-like counters. The cheeky tease, they weren’t complimentary and I died a little bit cos I wanted chicharon
! Our server sent us to our table and told us everything we’ve read online, verbatim. Everything’s British! We pride ourselves in sourcing locally! Jamie Oliver this, Chris Bianco that! Our flatbread
– not pizza – are really good! He was so enthusiastic he must have learned it from the big boss.
We checked the menu over Welsh farmhouse cider, Gwynt Y Ddraig. Mine was pretty good, dry and apple based. A’s opted for the fruity one made with blackberries, a bit too sweet for my liking but quite refreshing too.
We originally thought of getting a bunch of starters and share a pizza flatbread, but as we read the menu we decided to go otherwise. We shared a plate of fish fingers with tartare sauce (£5) to start – after all, we were in the land of fish and chips.
I’m not usually a fan of deep fried and breaded seafood, but this one was good. The fish was firm and flaky and there was a lot of it in five little fingers. The tartare sauce didn’t overpower the fish flavour and it wasn’t greasy at all. I would come back and have this again, happily.
And then our mains came – they were massive! We ordered two of their bestselling flats, the Old Spot and the Red Ox (£12 each). Yes, it was a celebration of pork and beef. We were so excited to dig in.
The Old Spot is a play on your typical Sunday pork roast; it’s topped with pulled pork shoulder, crackling, apple sauce, stilton and watercress (which quite frankly didn’t have any business there). It was okay, you know. I never liked stilton much but this one jelled nicely with the quince and apple sauce – which I thought would throw the whole thing off but didn’t. The pork was tender and the crackling was yum. There wasn’t a lot of it and I suppose that was fine by us because the pizza flatbread itself was already oily.
At first glance, my Red Ox looked so rich. If brisket and oxtail bathed in Worcestershire sauce weren’t enough to bloat your belly, the glorious red leicester cheese screamed ‘Eat me, you effin’ glutton‘. The brisket was tender and nice and horseradish and watercress gave the whole dish a peppery kick that was pleasant. But it really felt indulgent from first bite; I felt my cholesterol and sodium levels on a race to the moon. Perhaps they could have used a milder and softer cheese? *burp*
In this battle of pork and beef, I have to admit I actually preferred A’s Old Spot more but if I’m being brutally honest, I probably wouldn’t go back to order any of these bestsellers again and just stick with the fishy starters. Unless of course the waft of pork by the door tempts me to do so.
We were stuffed by two too-rich pizzas flatbread so we decided to go light on the pud and just went with their homemade ice cream (£1.50 a scoop). We were a bit disappointed that it came in a really tiny bowl. I mean, fine we were sharing only three scoops but couldn’t they have presented it on a bigger bowl where we can actually distinguish each flavour? We had the Snickers bar (nutty but light and delicious), eton mess (berry creamy!) and bramble ripple (tasted almost like the eton mess but slightly had more berries). The gingersnap biccie that came along with it? Meh.
Overall it was an alright experience. The loyalty to fresh Brit produce is outstanding, the place looks modern cool but the food perhaps needs a bit more fine tuning. I suppose the lesson here is that not everything can be made into a pizza. Oh wait. Of course. They weren’t pizzas – they were flatbread. *rolls eyes* Next time I visit with a friend I’m going to recommend getting heaps of starters and perhaps share a pizza flatbread instead.
4 Central St. Giles Piazza, London WC2H 8AB | +44(0)20 359 7788
Average spend £25pp for starters, a pizza flatbread and drinks