Jackson + Rye

As if Soho wasn’t already over-saturated with all-day American diners, now Jackson + Rye has come along; and as so many of the reviews say, it offers a real slice of New York. Whatever the hell that means. Just what slice of New York that is, I do not know. I can’t remember decor being this drab and food this bland last time I was in New York. It was nowhere near hip enough and the staff were just far too dull, somebody really should remind them that they can smile and chat to the customers.

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As soon as we were led downstairs to a wood-paneled, dimly lit basement, that already looked like it was in desperate need of a refurb, I knew I was in for a bad night. We were shown to a cramped corner seat, so that we  had to sit on top of our tank-topped neighbours and hear every word of their conversation. Why not put us on any of the other empty tables in there? The atmosphere was beyond flat, certainly one of the worst I’ve experienced in London. Not even the music that was trying to give it that trendy New York vibe could lift this graveyard.

I recently went to Grill Shack, which is the slightly more casual sister restaurant, and the food there was average at best. Here it is a similarly unimaginative menu and so it should be fairly simple for a chef to execute everything well. Sadly this wasn’t the case. Each dish was not only stingy with its ingredients and size, but was unbearably bland. The Reuben (£6.50) from the bar menu was a poor excuse for a sandwich. It should have been a thick, greasy, cheesy feast. This was all bread, and apart from some dry salt beef it was hard to tell if there was anything else in there.

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Just as disappointing was the Truffled Mac & Cheese with Rocket and Parmesan (£6.95). Christ this was bad. How can Mac & Cheese ever disappoint, especially with the added pleasure of truffle. There was basically no cheese here to stick it all together, and instead it had a thin, watery sauce. There also wasn’t any crunchy topping or any hit from the truffle. And why were three withered rocket leaves sprinkled on top? The chef needs to take a look at himself because university students make a more indulgent Mac & Cheese than this.

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Then there was the Squid and chipotle mayonnaise (£6.95); an overpriced starter for six deep fried tasteless rings of squid. Even the bland chipotle mayo didn’t take away the flavour of the deep fat fryer.

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There was nothing particularly appetising to choose for main, so I went for the Rosemary and Lemon Chicken (£12.95). The chipotle hollandaise it came with was undoubtedly the star of the show, with plenty of flavour that really helped the rest of the dish. But the chicken had no hint of rosemary or lemon. It made Nando’s look like a Michelin star. And to top it off the shoestring fries were soggy. I didn’t even know this was possible.

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The Steak & Eggs (£11.95) is the same that flat piece of meat that they serve in Grill Shack. It has literally had any life battered out of it, and the smoked butter needed much more smokiness. Again the shoestring fries were chewy and tasteless. At least they got the fried eggs right.

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My partner had the Buttermilk fried chicken with spicy coleslaw (£11.95), which was basically two chicken goujons in a flavourless, greasy batter, with a dollop of a spiceless coleslaw. Food this simple should never let you down. It’s comfort food, easy eating, something you don’t need to think about. At least be generous with the portions, maybe double up the size of the coleslaw, add a chicken leg in there, or even include some fries. Paying close to £15 for this dish with a side of fries is criminal.

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We passed on dessert and couldn’t wait to leave, which of course meant waiting another five minutes for the card machine. It really was a disappointing meal, and at £30 a head, sharing the house wine and passing on a dessert doesn’t make it good value. There are so many other restaurants in Soho that are much better than this in everything they do. Don’t even waste your time trying it for yourself. It is without a doubt the least enjoyable meal I’ve had in a long time. As my partner said, she would have enjoyed herself more at KFC.

Food: 3/10

Service: 5/10

Atmosphere: 3/10

Value: 5/10

Overall: 3.5/10

56 Wardour St, Soho, W1D 4JF

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