Ask for Janice in Farringdon
Ask for Janice is painfully, achingly cool. A poster child for shabby chic, its seemingly haphazard collection of whitewashed walls, untreated beams and tatty furniture have been meticulously put together, every inch of their design chosen to nurture a certain impression. They are so over the whole silver-service-white-linen thing, and don’t they want you to know it.
As far as concepts go, it’s a risky one. Walk between Ask for Janice and Shoreditch and you’ll find a graveyard of restaurants that have tried to pull it off, and have failed miserably. There’s something of the angsty teenager about them; a mindless iconoclasm that inevitably ends in disappointment. The ones that work are places like Mission, where simplicity isn’t some rebellious shout against the establishment but a quality to be savoured.
A quick look at the menu gives no indication of which category Ask for Janice will fall into. A distinct lack of food served in Kilner jars is always a good start though. Dishes here are a sort of modern English tapas, ranging from small little bites to some more substantial offerings. Five plates between two works well; however, the further down the menu you go, the bigger they get.
We start with Pork Crackling, which is good if not mindblowing. It’s simple without being especially bold, as are Samphire Fritters with Tahini Yoghurt. Both could have done with a little more flavour, or at least some better interplay between the ones that were present. The same can’t be said about Braised Beef Croquettes with Mustards. Tangles of meaty, meltingly soft beef are fried in breadcrumbs and served with a punchy slick of mustard.
It’s simple, potent and absolutely gorgeous, so we have high hopes for a similarly powerful dish: Chargrilled Onglet Steak with Malted Spelt and Hackney Horseradish. It doesn’t disappoint. Slices of steak have a good smoky char on the outside and are cooked to juicy, medium-rare perfection within. They don’t hold back on the horseradish either, which is both pleasingly pungent and served in eye-watering quantities. The spelt’s bouncy texture provides an interesting contrast, although the taste is somewhat lost in the lake of horseradish. Gin Cured Salmon with Toasted Rye and Wild Fennel Cream is a little different, focussing more on subtlety. The slight tang of juniper from the gin turns the salmon into the perfect foil for the rich, almost luxuriant, cream that accompanies it. Rye toast should work exceedingly well with the two, providing a stiff crunch to contrast all that tenderness, but it’s a little underdone.
As an ever trendy, restaurant-bar hybrid, Ask for Janice also offers an impressive range of drinks. The gin section is particularly bountiful, with a massive selection. With that in mind, we finish our meal with a pair of G&Ts. Hayman’s London Dry, lemons, strawberries and Fever-Tree Elderflower make for a fruity, but rather classic, take on the G&T. Gin Mare with Fever-Tree Mediterranean, however, is something quite different – herbal and heavy with notes of rosemary and citrus.
It’s emblematic of the restaurant it’s served in: unfussy, uncomplicated and unafraid to serve up serious flavours. Ask for Janice is proof that sometimes less can most certainly be more.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Adrian Dusman
To book a table at Ask for Janice, 50-52 Long Lane London EC1A 9EJ, call 0207 600 2255 or visit here.