6 November 2015

Pre-theatre Dinner at Jar Kitchen, Covent Garden, London

The Jar Kitchen's little restaurant off the seven dials has been in my line of sight for a long time. In fact it was the first place we tried to take my mum and her boyfriend to dinner to when they came to London a while ago. Unfortunately at the time there was something wrong with the Jar Kitchen's kitchen so we ended up at Pachamama instead (sorry not sorry) and we had one of the best meals we've had this year (you can read about it here). Dan, my main man, often gets invited to gigs/theatre productions/fancy dinners/anything under the sun through work and on this occasion I got to come along to see The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time at the West End. Long story short, the play is not for epileptics or even people who aren't epileptic (I felt seriously ill afterwards), the acting is good but it can be a bit confusing at times as you have actors playing multiple characters sometimes even in the same scene, and there's a real live puppy in it at the end. The dog may or may not have been have been my favourite part of this show. Anyway go, make up your own mind or don't if you have epilepsy/migraines/photosensitivity/a hatred for clubbing.
Anyway, a trip to the theatre means one thing to me; pre-theatre dinner. Given the choice obviously I'd rather eat like the Romans, stay in a restaurant for hours gorging myself till I'm sick then eating some more but unfortunately pre-theatre dinner translates into quick eating. Especially if you're me and can't get to Covent Garden till 6.30pm and the show starts at 7.30pm, and you're freaking out because you don't want to be late for the play but you need to eat and you're not sure you can eat anything in less than an hour that isn't a McDonalds, and you haven't had a McDonalds for at least 5 years and you don't want to break that roll because it makes you depressed and why would you eat something that depresses you! Obviously you can see how this stresses me out, probably for no real reason apart from I'm a really horrible hungry person to be around and the thought of eating McDonalds again fills me with dread (am I the only one who feels depressed after eating it?). You can probably also see why my doctor is concerned I have high blood pressure but that's a story for another time. 

Anyway it was about this time that my gloom was setting in thinking about how we'd never find a decent restaurant that could feed us in time, when my thoughts strayed back to the Jar Kitchen. Based in Covent Garden it's location is perfect if you need to dash out quickly to head to your show plus their pre-theatre menu is a thing of actual beauty. I mean two courses for £16? It's a bargain, it's a steal, it's seriously great food off their normal menu. Because I was running late, Dan got their early and ordered without me, we both eat and love the same food so it's not an issue. Like the sensible man that he is, he decided to forgo ordering dessert for fear we'd miss the start of the play, this turned out to be the best decision because we were so full after the starter and main I wouldn't have been able to manage dessert although naturally I would have tried to.

Finally I arrived to find an aperol based cocktail in my place, which was not my cup of tea; a bit too strong and bitter for me, I thought Dan knew me? Turns out he doesn't know himself very well either as he ordered two. The decor at Jar Kitchen is minimal with a twist of Kitsch. Pewter coloured walls, wooden features, lots of jars (hence the name) and plenty of whimsy in the form of nick nacks and wild flowers. There can't be more than ten tables in the restaurant so if you're going there for dinner and secrets, you might want to pick a more secluded spot, but in my experience small restaurants means good service, atmosphere and food cooked to precision.

Dan had ordered two starters for us to share, the Sea Bass Ceviche with Fennel, Avocado, Herby Salad and Toasted Seeds, and the Ox Cheek and Cheddar Croquettes with Aioli. As expected Dan had chosen well. The sea bass was fresh and tasty with a very clean salad accompaniment, it wasn't as good as some of the ceviche I've had elsewhere (second Pachamama reference) but I liked it, Dan loved it, it was an all round good dish. When I saw the ox cheek croquettes, I was very surprised it did not look at all pretty, but the taste was amazing. Honestly when cheese is involved in a dish it takes it to a new level and served in a crispy on the outside, fall away beef on the inside croquettes it made these croquettes spectacular. So moreish I would have happily eaten the whole plate to myself, in fact I pretty much did, opting to devour two out of the three beefy balls while offering Dan more ceviche. I'm tricksy like that.

Starters quickly devoured, we were making good time for our play, but would the mains be as quick. Join us after the interval to find out.

Welcome back. I hope you have stocked up on ice cream, have used the facilities and have your honorary interval glass of wine in hand. I miss when films had intervals in cinemas, Spectre could have used an interval. Me and my friend Louie decided to get pints and he bought doughnuts for the occasion, and not any doughnuts, Crosstown Doughnuts (read about my love affair with them here). But a stomach of dough, a beer and a long film call for an interval. Anyway welcome back, let's move on to the mains.

Right one main course was spectacular, comforting but exciting and delicious with lots of different textures, the other main was nice. You know it wasn't good, it wasn't bad, it was just nice (obscure Into the Woods reference, also another long film that could have used an interval). There was nothing wrong with it, we ate it all, but perhaps in comparison to the other dish we had it didn't have a lot going for it. Our favourite dish was the Mixed Grain Salad with sweet Roasted Heirloom Carrots, refreshing Coconut Yoghurt and braised Lamb Shoulder with speckles of pomegranate and slivers of almonds. Looking at the dish you know it's going to eat well, it was just delicious. Dan and I fought over this dish, in fact at one point Dan refused to eat any more of the other main (he's so spoilt), did I roll over and let him eat all the salad? Did I hell, our forks clashed with fury as we fought over the chunks of braised lamb and pomegranate seeds. It wasn't too dissimilar to salads we make at home, but with the roasted carrots and the braised lamb shoulder it was a comforting homely dish elevated to restaurant standards. I love it when you have a dish where every mouthful is different and this one was exceptional.

Our second main of Pork Neck with Fennel, Carrots and Mustard Jus was, as I said, nice. Compared to the salad it was very heavy, and maybe this was our problem with it. As it lacked much in the way of green vegetables and the sauce was slightly overpowering with the mustard, it was a bit one dimensional and a disappointment. That being said we ate it all. If I was to go there again I would 100% get the salad again but would not recommend sharing it because the truth is you won't want to. I mean you could share it, we did, but let me warn you if you do share be prepared for serious talks about where your relationship is going on the way home after fork fights. 

Mains finished we settled up and practically ran from the restaurant, not from the pork neck but running to our show, which we just made on time. So a word to the wise, if you want a three course dinner before your theatre trip make sure you get there early. We're talking half 5 at the latest, unless you like eating your dessert from tupperware, then go ahead. I'll be back to visit Jar Kitchen for a salad all to myself and maybe a plate or two of ox cheek croquettes real soon. Plus it'd be wrong not to go back and try their desserts.

So film intervals, where did they go? Now I'm thinking about it, maybe it was only the local cinemas I used to go to that had intervals, did VUE take the interval away? I used to love going and getting poppets (mint obviously) and popcorn at half time with my brother. What was the last film you saw with an interval? I literally cannot remember, the first Lord of the Rings maybe? Me and some friends are going to see the ballet tonight. I'm so excited. I've always loved ballet although I was never particularly good at it...too much cake and additional loves for swimming and gymnastics. But watching the ballet on the television at Christmas is a tradition, and my favourites are perhaps stereotypically Swan Lake and the Nutcracker. Which is why I am super excited to be seeing the Nutcracker! Say whatttt? I know, I'm beside myself. I'm going to see the Nutcracker and Cursed Child (p.s I got tickets with Sophie), it's crazy! Do you like the ballet? Have you ever been? What can I expect?! Everyone says the sound of the dancers is tremendous. I guess I'll find out tonight!

Thanks for the ramble.

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