Every ‘urban family’ occasionally gets together and fantasises about going into business, usually over a
crate bottle of wine between discussions of dead-end jobs. Through our booze-tinted glasses we imagine opening our own pubs and pizzerias, cupcake bakeries and quirky event franchises. (In the case of my friend Maxine and I, we’ve been talking about becoming lady undertakers since our GCSEs. Some things require a woman’s delicate touch after all. …Like corpses.) We all know, of course, that we’ll never actually open a gastropub called The Grumpy Gosling, but it’s heartening to see that, actually, there are restaurants like the Jones Family Project where the proprietors have done just that. And they’re bossing it.
(Although, I must say, I was a bit disappointed to find that nobody’s name was actually Jones. They do have three surnames between four though, so I suppose I’ll let it slide.)
JPF is deceptively large. Sprawled over two levels, it contains a number of different dining areas, including booths for small groups and other areas designed for larger get-togethers. There’s a big table upstairs with a live tree growing up through it, and an ‘office for one’ – which I am totally going to go in and get dibs on – in the window. My favourite part is the ‘stage set’, a private-ish dining room that transforms every six weeks or so, Faraway Tree style. It doesn’t cost any extra to reserve the stage set, which I think is amazing. In fact, you get 10% off your bill if you dress up to fit the room! I asked for a few pictures of its recent looks…I think Granny’s Parlour – the top one – is my favourite!
But on to the food! This time, we sat downstairs, which is warmly lit room with a gentle buzz. The lighting at JFP is that lovely soft kind that is terribly flattering to people who don’t get enough sleep (like me), but totally rubbish for taking photos in, so apologies in advance for the sloppy camera work – I did my best!
We began what would transpire to be a LOT of food with a couple of starters: the Cornish crab with guacamole and crustini, wafer-thin little toasts over which to spread the creamy crab meat.
We also ordered the quinoa fritters, also with avocado and a zingy lime and tomato salsa, fresh with a bit of punch.
JFP is a steakhouse, so it seemed absurd to not order something from the grill. Steak is already so tricky to photograph because, well, lots of steaks look very similar. But just LOOK at the colour of this one. That’s the colour of love, that is. And it tasted as good as it looks; all JFP’s steaks come from posh Marylebone butchers the Ginger Pig, who are also famous for doing Hawksmoor’s steaks.
There’s also a ‘Potato Menu’ of side dishes (!) to choose from. We opted for the Big Chips (£3.50 – good, but pretty standard) and the Truffled Potato Dauphinoise (£3.50), which I immediately regretted ordering as I’m supposed to be on a pre-Christmas diet, and anything that involves cream, butter and truffles as well as the forbidden root of the gods (spud) is going to be brutal in calories. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. I mean, it was still the naughtiest thing on the menu, but it wasn’t as rich and heavy as it could have been.
In between courses we chatted to Alex, who introduced himself to us as ‘the wine guy’ and is responsible for the 90 odd bottles on the list, which starts from a very reasonable £19 a bottle. (Despite its extensive wine list, JFP does do a BYOB night on Mondays with just £5 corkage.) As with their food producers, sustainable and independent wine-makers are at the heart of the restaurant.
As I’ve said a million times before, I’m not really a dessert person. However, when dessert is thrust upon me (!) I do always go for the naughtiest, most decadent option, which in this case was Anna’s Triple Chocolate Brownie. This time, though, I was pipped to the post, and in the interest of Not Ordering Two of the Same Thing (i.e. the most heinous restaurant crime), I chose the Jones Vanilla Bean Cheese “Cake”, which turned out to be this magnificent beast:
It was very unusual – a base of sweet, crunchy granola topped with creamy vanilla ice cream and passion fruit. It was a big portion – and filling – but not as rich as the brownie I would have chosen otherwise. Which was fine, a perfectly acceptable brownie, but I’ve been spoiled by Konditor and Cook’s ‘Fudgepacker’ brownies, so it wasn’t that special for me.
One of the very best things about JFP is its dedication to small, local suppliers. I do make a conscious effort to eat ethically at home, buying meat from Smithfield’s butchers instead of the supermarket and so on, but it can be difficult sometimes, especially when eating out. For JFP, though, sustainability and ethical sourcing is a core part of the business. Local suppliers include Butler’s Gin, Joe’s Teas, Brixton Brewery and, of course, the Ginger Pig. Even the uniforms are made just down the road on Brick Lane, designed and sewn in-house by East London fashion house Hartnett and Pope. (Would it be wrong to apply for a job just for the outfit..?)
Overall, it’s a great place to eat, and one of the few steakhouses to have some solid vegetarian options (rather than the sad token nut roast). The food is good, and although not especially cheap, isn’t unreasonable considering its location and supplier credentials. Give it ago…especially if you can get yourself a reservation in the stage-set.
I visited Jones Family Project at the invitation of the restaurant, but, as always, all opinions are my own. The menu is seasonal and always changing, but you can peruse its latest incarnation on the website. You can find JFP at 78 Great Eastern St, London EC2A 3JL.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.