Update September 14, 2015:
One of the most under the radar openings to date is Jackdaw in Hackney. Only days old, I’m not even sure when I first heard rumblings and what got me interested. Situated in a part of London I have yet to venture into, with a no-name chef at the helm in addition to having no one that I knew of backing the venture (but that’s not saying much) – sometimes you have to venture into foreign territory to find out what you’re missing.
As with many places like this there’s a bloody interesting story about how it all came about. Head chef Joshua Dalloway (there’s a english name if ever I’ve heard one) started out his chef career in a restaurant in Buckingham where he grew up. He was most recently on Alex Polizzi’s TV show CHEFS ON TRIAL where he didn’t get the job but halfway through the filming he realised that the role he was auditioning for wasn’t the right fit – so a lucky save for all involved. Off the back of that, the soon to be new owners of Jackdaw wanted to open a restaurant with a jazz element and got hold of Joshua on Twitter and offered him the role. Of Head Chef. At 22 years of age.
He admits it was all a bit surreal and quite a whirlwind hospo romance – but he found the current owners to have the same ethos he has – wanting to serve good for in an atmospheric venue that provide something that is a little out of the ordinary. Josh has four other guys in the kitchen that he pulled together very quickly. Funny enough they all studied and trained in London together so when he said he wanted to get the band back together they each dropped everything – everyone in the brigade is 22 other than the eldest who is 24 – so quite an admiral effort for these young upstarts.
Joshua has many of the signs of an up and coming chef – very similar to Jake Kellie in Melbourne who I called very early to be the next big name after taking a head chef role at The Commoner at a similar age and pulling it off with aplomb. It was good to hear last week that Jake Kellie won Australia’s Appetite For Excellence Young Chef of the Year 2015 – so let’s just say I’m calling it first.
The space brings back memories of Merricote in Northcote, Melbourne. It’s a vintage room pulling its weight with a shabby chic design. I love the mismatched chandeliers and looking around the room you can find something represented from the last 70 odd years. The tiled floor is like a flashback to your Spanish villa holiday – in a good way.
Kicking things off is an amuse bouche of 45 day Dexter beer with creme friache with green chilli and sourdough toast. Sometimes carpaccio can feel a bit flat and unpunchy – but this mouthful came together nicely.
Heritage heirloom carrots with fennel yoghurt, fennel pollen and hazelnuts was the official first course. Fresh flavours without an overwhelming fennel flavour as the description might have you believe.
Mackerel came cured in gin and gooseberries with cucumber and nettles (at least that’s that they looked like so don’t hold me to it). Again the freshness of this dish let it speak for itself. I’m a huge lover of British Mackerel and this didn’t let me down.
I never order the safe bet when it comes to main dishes so I wasn’t too inspired that there was a chicken dish in the degustation menu – but I like to be proven wrong. The sixteen hour hay-brined chicken was presented with rainbow chard and buckwheat porridge. This was probably the most juicy bird I have ever had in my life. Minds out of the gutter please. The skin was crispy and bark-like where it had been seared. I would have liked a little more buckwheat porridge but that’s my only feedback on the dish. It was beautifully presented while still being a little bit rustic. Chicken. Suddenly not boring.
To cleanse the palate we had frozen fresh pressed apple Brockday apple juice and goat’s curd – it was like the most amazing apple granita you have every had. I would argue that this is a cheese plate for people who love sweet and savoury – the sweetness of the granita, the tartness of the apple and the pure cattle savouriness of salty cheese. I see this less of a dessert and more of an interesting cheese board. This was one of the most clever palate cleansers I have seen attempted.
Finishing it all off was a chocolate ganache with caramel, wild mushroom shortbread, yoghurt from the starter condensed to whey and sourdough crisps. I keep saying it – very smart and accomplished cooking.
Jackdaw’s meat is supplied by the Rare Breed Meat Company so the team need to do very little to it as it comes in pristine condition. They’re looking to offer something different with the wine list – small producers offering relatable but interesting blends. The live music will be a hit for them with jazz, Latin, Spanish and classic vinyl being touted as upcoming acts.
This menu was a kitchen test with the official menu being more grazing small plates with the addition of live music. The aim is to play the dining game two different ways – you can take an early table for dinner, head downstairs afterwards for jazz and then stay for cocktails. The other option they suggest is come for drinks, head down for jazz then have late dinner. They are offering food 12pm – 12am because they realise they’re open in an area where people (especially other hospo people) are doing weird hours and there’s not too many options up this way.