THE SCENE Jamie Oliver’s shiny-new glass-walled, diner-style restaurant just off the top end of Shaftesbury Avenue. Staff know their stuff and stay attentive all evening, and the interior is eclectic – menus are up on American cinema-style boards and there are tea cosies on the premises.
THE GRUB The TV chef strips things back to British with comforting classics like fish pie, roast pork with quince and apple sauce, and slow-braised oxtail and brisket. Well, almost. He’s put all these English greats on wood-fired flatbreads, called them “flats” and, essentially, created a British pizza. My Woodman – with tender roast shoulder of pig, quince and bramley sauce, tangy stilton, watercress and a healthy helping of crackling – has a perfectly crispy base, making it homely without being stodgy. If my friend’s Chilli Freak flat – topped with six varieties of the red hot pepper – is any spicier, its punch would earn it a conviction for GBH. But, thankfully the side of curds takes the edge off. A sweet and creamy scoop of earl grey tea and biscuits ice cream for dessert, served in a silver school canteen ice cream bowl, is a childhood great, but it’s grown up.
BEHIND THE BAR It’s a best of Blighty line-up, with a mix of English wines from Chapel Down winery in Kent, plus British draught beers and Welsh cider and perry. Cocktails include Damson Gin Fizz with cloudy lemonade; British Storm, with rum, dandelion and burdock; and Roobarb & Custard, with rhubarb liqueur, apple and cinnamon.
BILL PLEASE Starters from £5; flats from £7; desserts from £1.50; wine from £4 a glass; beer from £2 and cocktails from £5.50.
verdict All the main courses are on flatbreads, so the menu is a little restrictive. But Union Jacks is all about the concept – and that’s spot on in that it gives traditional British food a twist for hungry 21st-century diners. It’s got the makings to be, like Oliver, a fun, fresh, British institution.
ADDRESS 4 Central St Giles Piazza, WC2H 8AB TUBE Tottenham Court Road