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126 Draycott Avenue
It may be part of the Joseph fashion store, but this über-casual and deliberately cool all-day eatery never seems to do a roaring trade – despite its many attributes. The dining room’s pared-back monochrome decor is punctuated by blood-red chairs, groaning bookshelves and vintage Beatles photos, while the keenly priced menu hops around in a bid to woo South Ken’s fashionistas. Pop in for a coffee and club sandwich or stick around for the full works – perhaps grilled quail breast with truffle and white bean ragoût followed by linguine with clams or grilled rack of Cornish lamb with aubergine caviar and courgette fritta. Healthy salads are a perfect fit for those little black dresses, although calorific desserts come with a very different agenda. Joe’s lacks the bustle you’d want for this kind of easy-going food, but it’s “good for brunch on a rainy day”.
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126 Draycott Avenue
South Kensington Tube Station 372m
Sloane Square Tube Station 846m
Michelin House 78m
Victoria and Albert Museum 388m
Mon-Sun 9am-11pm (Sun-Mon – 6pm)
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
Long time neighbourhood favourite, Joe's on Draycott Avenue, has long housed the chicest locals and ‘ladies that lunch’ who break up an otherwise strenuous day of shopping with a spot of lunch in this monied part of town. Packed to the rafters on weekends with glamorous types and yummy-mummies, it has recently seen Greek Cypriot TV Chef Maria Elia take the helm and I popped along to see what interesting new things Maria has done with the menu.
I didn't really know what to expect to be honest; a lot of the food in the area is overpriced, over-hyped and generally somewhat lacklustre for serious food devotees like myself. I was actually incredibly surprised to discover how innovative, well balanced and beautifully conceived the dishes were. I couldn't wait to try them! Chef Maria Elia was a gracious hostess and popped up to say a brief hello before sending out little ‘tasters’ – dish after beautiful dish of seductive plates just waiting to be savaged by a ravenous Persian girl like myself.
The first course, served on an elegant slate platter, was a beetroot and Beluga lentil salad with a sharp Greek yoghurt adorned with both golden beetroot as well as the classic deep purple beetroot also. This is just the kind of food I love to eat. Not heavy, not greasy, light and healthy but without sacrificing flavour or enjoyment. I could have eaten this 10 times over and been eternally happy.
The next course is possibly one of my favourite delights of the sea; the humble octopus. Scary looking for some but absolutely delicious and a staple of Greek culinary culture. If you haven't tried Octopus before, you are absolutely missing out! A delicate curled tentacle gently resting on a mix of braised barley and onions with a scattering of fennel seeds and elegant strands of fresh dill. What a treat; a fantastic combination and a great dish that I simply wouldn't have expected on a menu in this part of town.
Now admittedly pigeon is not one of my favourite things but every once in a while, I enjoy it, provided it is cooked properly and paired with the right accompaniments. Delicate but meaty chunks of pigeon breast with a vibrant green sauce (the name of which escapes me) akin to pesto but not pungent with excess basil of coarse in texture. The pigeon itself rests on a green gage tatin that provide the perfect sweet yet sharp fruit flavour that so often works well with pigeon. I must say, I was surprised at how much I liked this dish. I still day dream about it everytime I see pigeon on a menu anywhere.
More food? Absolutely. Maria Elia is Greek after all… And you know from my Greek adventures that they love to feed people… A LOT. This is not a problem whatsoever for me. In fact, I absolutely welcome it as long as it comes at a slow and sensible pace. Asian fish stew proved an almost virtuous 4th course, with a clear ocre-tinged seafood consomme infused with eastern aromatics like ginger and lemongrass with generous chunks of seabass, mussels and a scattering of puy lentils, coriander and bean sprouts to finish. It's the kind of food that feels healthy as its going down… do you know what I mean? Cleansing… rather zen, if you will. Enough said really as lets be honest, this is my 4th course with no end in sight so it's pretty safe to say I was now WAY past Zen/Virtous eating!
The 5th course (yes, there was yet ANOTHER course) was beyond intriguing for me… a savoury baklava! “Madness!” I hear you say… Layers of filo pastry with green beans, feta cheese, tomatoes and honey. Two word; ABSOLUTELY DIVINE. Even I wasn't initially sure of this little creation but it was the perfect balance of sweet versus savoury combined with the wonderful sharpness of brilliant white feta cheese. Totally moreish and yet another nod to Maria Elia's heritage. If I could have, I would have ordered another portion as takeaway. I'm pretty sure I cold try and attempt it at home although less confident about it turning out even half as decent as Maria's dish.
Last but not least came dessert, which at this point was a lost cause simply wasted on me. I ordered it but to be perfectly honest, I was so stuffed that they could have put George Clooney on a plate and I'd have little interest in tackling him. A simple slice of treacle tart with vanilla ice cream and an apricot puree was nice but I'd have to say Maria's talent shines in the savoury portion of the menu. Maybe I'm just not a dessert person as much as I am a savoury lover or maybe I'd just eaten my BODY WEIGHT in food!
Either way, Joe's exceeded my expectations on every scale. The menu was beyond reasonably priced which led me to wonder why on earth I never come here? Perhaps the illusion that the crowd of diners would be annoying Yummy-Mummies? UNFOUNDED. Perhaps the food wouldn't be anything of interest to me? UNFOUNDED and more importantly, perhaps the prices are ludicrously high because of the plush South Kensington location and the fact that it's owned by Joseph boutique across the road… UNFOUNDED. Very glad to have discovered this great little spot not so far from home and I can safely say, I will genuinely be coming back and look forward to sampling more from the regularly changing, seasonal menus created by Maria Elia.
Food + drink: 3
Joe’s Cafe rather under sells itself. It sounds like a builders’ cafe where the dress code is high vis jackets and paint stained trackies.
I can assure you that you would not make it through the door dressed like that – despite it being 12 foot wide. Joe’s is actually a subtle and beautiful restaurant. A book case runs through the centre, punctuated with the occasional 50-year-old bottle of wine or Vogue collection from the 80s.
The tables are spread out and the service relaxed. Money here is made slowly, in stark contrast to its Kensington clientele. We ummed and erred over the wine list, starters and mains. Even deciding between sparkling and still water took five minutes, during which our tireless waiter looked busy at the table behind us.
I started with fois gras on a mushroom wafer topped with sour cherries. This was rather hard to eat, being unstab-able and too wide to balance on the fork. So by the time it reached my mouth it was more like sour cherries, topped with fois gras and mushroom pastry shards. Still, the dish was appreciated for its sweet and sourness, even if the texture was all together too watery.
For the main I had water trout (what other kind is there?) with a French tartare sauce and a cold salmon, almost sushi-esque roll with an horseradish base. To be honest it was felt foreign on the plate, distracting me from the wonderful trout and if I hadn’t been famished would have been left well alone. However, the course was served with the first truly tolerable form of fried cauliflower I have ever tasted, and all it took was the addition of lemongrass.
As is the case in all good restaurants, my memory of the pudding is a little hazy. We had finished a bottle of wine before even choosing our food. Nonetheless my pudding choice was inspired. My raspberry baseless cheese cake was sweet and decadent, and looked a lot like a maoam, a hallucination helped by the fact that it was surrounded by cubes of raspberry jelly. The rubber texture juxtaposed the maoam nicely, and bizarrely added a drier flavour to the very sweet dish.
And so we enjoyed a final bottle of wine after the meal, staring through the missing wall that Joe’s calls a door, at the torrential rain we had to head into. The food is nothing special here, but there is an honesty to it; a kind of aspiring decadence that it never quite lives up to. But in the quiet and welcoming room and with a hearty wine from the Alsace inside you, you’ll never want to leave.
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