English-inspired casual concept restaurant with the moniker of cheeky chappie Jamie Oliver attached: what could go wrong, right? You might argue that it's unfair to review a place on the strength of having experienced one dish, however it's not really the food that's the problem here.
My prime issue with this place was the over-prompt service, bordering on pushy: I had to ask the girl to give me a couple more minutes to consider the menu twice, so keen was she to take my order. And she was back with my bill within seconds of having whisked away my empty plate. That'd be fine if I was demonstrably in a hurry, but it's worth remembering that not everybody in London is always trying to break the land speed record getting home or to the pub.
The decor of the place was confusing like someone had let a design student loose in there. Contemporary & upbeat, it felt like it had put the temporary back into contemporary as if they'd been advised not to worry too much what it looked like as it'd probably be closed within the month. Of course, it isn't the case Union Jacks has been open for several months. Neighbouring Zizzi's and Byron have made their near-identical spaces feel relaxed, and probably have more customer awareness than to belt out trashy tunes over the speakers as well.
The food itself was fine: I ordered an Old Spot Flatbread. The main conceit here is serving British food, and a flatbread is the British way of referring to what you'd normally call pizza - in this case, with apple & quince paste, pork shoulder, stilton, watercress and little puffs of pork scratching. Certainly tasty enough, and enough of a novelty after the near-saturation of pizza options available elsewhere. The dough was particularly good, and the toppings interesting enough to push past the brain's but, pizzas don't taste like this?! reaction. So go with it I selected the Chapel Down IPA served chilled & on keg, more like an American beer.
Other than that, price is the only remaining issue factor in a tip, and for a pizza and a pint you won't come out with much change from £20. Not empirically expensive, but a little stiff for what it is.
I really thought a Jamie Oliver place would be safe bet for a quick evening snack & drink with a friend after work, but I was really disappointed with everything from food to atmosphere.
Firstly, while I don't expect all cafes & restaurants to be veggie friendly the menu options here were almost non-existent. One vegetarian starter/snack (garlic mushrooms) and only or two non-meaty flatbread things, even the salads were fleshed out with meat & fish. In the end I selected some cheese and crackers from the pudding menu to snack on.
The flatbread things aren't a concept or particularly British, they are basically over-priced pizza breads.
While the interior is cute and quirky, I can't imagine how local people will patronise a place like this. The food feels too fussy for lunch, it's not right for a client lunch, and the ambience isn't right for an evening venue.
Central St Giles is now a cluster of new restaurants and I think old favourites like Zizzi and new loved chains like Byron just a few steps from the front door will make it tough for Union Jacks.
And if that isn't enough enough to tempt people away the annoyingly locked main glass doors (they want you to use another side door which is less obvious) frustrate 99% of people trying to get in, perhaps they'll just go elsewhere. It was certainly distracting to be sat next to.
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