I’ve been pretty excited about the opening of Jamie Oliver’s new restaurant Union Jacks for a while, and as an avid local tweeter for Chiswick / accidental restaurant advisor / general photo and food blogger (usually on other sites), I took my camera along to the soft opening today.
Some background: I don’t have a TV and I’m only familiar with Jamie through his books, website, and other restaurants which I love (Jamie’s Italian in Cambridge and London W12, where I’ve dined more times that I can remember).
Sadly I just missed chatting to Jamie, but caught Jamie’s partner in the Union Jacks venture, Chris Bianco, who is a passionate foodie and restaurant entrepreneur from the US:
Back home his restaurant Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Arizona is reputedly a great success with food critics, not to mention the fact he’s opened up other restaurants from Italian to Mexican, he grows and packages a range of varietals of tomatoes in California (sadly he won’t be exporting them for use in this restaurant) and he obviously cares dearly about his ingredients. I’m hoping the Union Jacks venture will attract similar critical praise. Certainly his amazing positivity comes across within just a few minutes of meeting him. I love how he has done-out the restaurant with little bits of local life – some framed prints from a much-loved nearby bookshop Fosters of Chiswick, to mention just one.
The interior itself is a nod to 50s/60s café dining with formica-style tabletops or roughly-painted wooden tables, funky lighting, traditional unfussy menus, and lovely tiling work on the walls – the same tiles as you are likely to see on the London Underground.
As with all of Jamie’s restaurants, staff are superb; their enthusiasm is palpable and even though Chiswick Union Jacks was not fully open, they were really on the ball, chatty, excited…
Whilst Union Jacks probably won’t compete with the excellent Gelato Mio across the road for serious ice, are not putting out cocktails like Sam’s or Charlotte’s, and probably don’t put pizza to the core of the menu as much as the nearby Franco Manca – which will always hold a special place in my heart – nevertheless the restaurant’s main strength is that it serves up an impressive range of food styles.
The Woodman Pizza (they call it a “Flat”): a topping with mixed field mushroom base and an aftertaste of aniseed:
Although in many ways Italian – at least the style of the interior – Union Jacks isn’t a traditional pizzeria by any means. It’s more like an “Italian-inspired English tapas restaurant”; the palate catered-for is very much the English one.
How so? Think mini Yorkshire puddings, Indian spiced chicken with Bombay potatoes, Bubble and Squeak, Treacle Tart, selection of great cheeses.
Below, Indian spiced chicken. What an amazing gravy it came with. Typical of Jamie: bursting with surprising flavours. And a delightful marinade.
The other thing I love: you can stop-by for a quick Builder’s Tea on the seats outside, or bring a group of friends for a whole evening out.
Below, the “Damson Gin Fizz”:
Below, “Roobarb & Custard” and “Union Mule”:
What they do, they do very well. “Earl Grey and biscuit” and “bitter chocolate” ice cream scoops:
The dough is made right in front of diners, so you can see the action! Smells amazing.
The restaurant is apparently not taking bookings until May, however I believe it will be possible to walk-in and dine at any time.
Can’t wait to spend some more time there!