A cosy, comforting island nestled between Covent Garden and Holborn, Jar Kitchen is a refreshingly down-to-earth restaurant that opened earlier this year in May. True to its name, jars are a prominent element of the décor, whether used for storage or re-purposed as lampshades and tealight holders. Stripped wooden floors and minimalist styling contributes to a restaurant aesthetic more typical of Hackney than the West End, but the end result is warm, welcoming and never a distraction from the excellent food.
The seasonal menu is mostly modern British, with an emphasis on subtle tweaks to tried and tested classics, and some occasional outright re-invention. Sea bass ceviche is light and refreshing, impeccably smooth avocado purée complemented by the crunch of scattered seeds, and crucially free of the pool of excess citrus juice so often found lingering at the end substandard takes on the dish. Ox cheek and cheddar croquettes offered a warming contrast, rich and dense, but absent an entirely satisfying crunch to their exterior.
Main dishes mostly offer inventive takes on the meat and veg formula. Seared monkfish with grilled baby artichoke was satisfyingly meaty, while its bed of toasted spelt in a white wine sauce elevated the humble wheat grain to something deliriously moreish. Lamb rump described as ‘pink’ came out closer to red, and didn’t quite justify its £17 billing, though the inconsistent meat was almost made up for by exquisite onion purée and a glossy, sticky jus.
Crisp, fluffy mini doughnuts with an oozing salted caramel dipping sauce rounded off the meal, though dessert also offered the menu’s first real stumble: carrot cake reinvented as a sort of flat carrot crumble, a satisfying, sugary crunch not enough to make up for a dish that seemed to fall apart on the plate just from looking at it. Though even here there was a silver lining: an accompanying carrot sorbet more delicious than it had any right to be.
The food is backed up with a small cocktail collection and a wine list dotted with a few interesting curiosities and a range of prices to suit most occasions. The front-of-house staff, including young owners and first-time restaurateurs Lucy Brown and Jenny Quintero, is welcoming, lively and friendly, cementing the almost homely atmosphere so rare in central London restaurants. They even dealt admirably with a seemingly ever-growing birthday celebration dominating the venue’s lower floor.
Jar Kitchen takes bookings for breakfast, lunch and a pre-theatre service, but you’ll have to try your luck on the door for the main dinner run, and the compact dining room doesn’t leave much space to wait around in. If you can find your way to a table though, you’ll be glad to call this charming restaurant home, if only for an hour or two.
Words by Dom Preston