26 March 2014
Over the past 3 months I have visited J&R 3 times, so I feel compelled to write a review based on more than a single visit.
During the week, I'm located on Berners Street, so it's just a leisurely stroll down Wardour St. Handily, the CEO is a bit of a foodie – and it seems, driven to find the best Burger in town (currently held by Berners St. Tavern in his opinion) so it was on his recommendation (their Cheeseburger is his No.2) that I rocked up there on a Saturday with my girlfriend. We arrived just after 1:30 to find it pretty busy. We were told that there was a 40 minute wait and to pop back; unless we would like the 2 remaining seats at the bar? – we accepted the invite.
Accidentally it would seem, we struck gold – what a great place J&R is, for a number of reasons.
Firstly in my experience, the staff are very friendly. I've read some reviews and heard anecdotally, that some people have experienced slow, or inattentive service. This has never been my experience. There is always a very warm and friendly welcome by whoever is on the door as you walk in and certainly from the manager. However, I have (following our fantastic first experience) always sat at the bar, on one further occasion with my girlfriend and for a midweek business lunch – which I am sure lends itself to more speedy service. The guys behind the bar are very attentive, funny and knowledgeable – they also order your food. So what could be better? Almost instantly with a drink in hand and then, when you're ready; tell them what you want to eat. Genius. They only chat when you want them to – just to be clear, it's not an in your face Manhattan, whoop, whoop type experience! They do this very well and very efficiently, whilst also serving the drinks orders (cocktails included, for the entire restaurant)
So to the food experience. Granted, it's never going to be up for any major culinary awards, simply because of the type of trendy New York style menu. But; so far, in my opinion, what they do, they do brilliantly. Now, it just might be that my critique is based on great service/fun and therefore being in a positive mindset, but so it should be. I want to look forward to the food, having had a couple of drinks and some fun with the staff. It might be noted at this point that I'm not averse to the Michelin Star experiences in London, if only some of those places could be a little less uptight.
Anyways – food wise, across the 3 visits; The Cheeseburger – simplicity, presented brilliantly and is absolutely delicious (one measure I use being the Grease Drip Factor – their burgers are hugely tasty, without the grease tap being turned on with every bite). The Steak ‘n’ Eggs – the flattened rump was cooked perfectly and melted in the mouth almost – this is a lot of food, but I found myself picking at the straw fries long after the steak had ‘disappeared’. On my last visit, I had the Reuben sandwich. Simply, if I had to pick one sandwich to eat for the rest of my life (which won't be much longer on this fayre!) it would definitely be the J&R Reuben. The Salt Beef and Swiss Cheese, with a smidgen of the spicy coleslaw combo is a massive winner.
Other plates taken have been the Shrimp & Grits, something I hadn't had before but really enjoyed the unusual texture combined with the chilli, garlic prawn hit – a great dish. The Crispy Squid – read simply perfect with the side dip and the Crab Mayonnaise with guacamole – I'd say this is the only thing I was a little disappointed with taste-wise. The crab was over-powered by the mayo and the guacamole, but not a disaster nevertheless. A special mention must also go to the Pretzel Shake. On our first visit we literally inhaled 2 of these – sounds a bit off the wall, is a taste sensation. Finally the Pecan Pie – which is to die for and accompanied by the Rye Ice Cream makes it doubly delicious.
In terms of value; I guess perception is hugely subjective but on my first visit, we stayed for a few hours and the bill was less than £80, having seemingly single handedly drained the rose & delicious unfiltered draught lager supplies. But for me it's about the whole experience, not one element. I'd happily take a small compromise on food, for great service and atmosphere.
Interestingly (to me) I am taking a table this week for a business lunch for 6 people, I hope not to have to review my own review following this visit!!! I am sure this dining experience will be different; it does seem so much noisier/busier on ‘the floor’ for starters; I hope this doesn't affect the overall experience.
One final thing of note; if you sit at the bar, be prepared to share part of that experience with fellow diners arriving and waiting to be seated/turned away, and the accompanying draught!! Not that I'm trying to put you off this little secret…of course!!!