Jackson & Rye, Soho
Standing on the corner where Wardour meets Old Compton Street, accompanied by a row of Barclays bikes and neon signs, Jackson & Rye’s half-veiled exterior is not overwhelming. However, going through the timber and frosted glass door, your eyes are immediately drawn to the marbled bar and tantalising mass of bottles winking from above. An amiable hostess engages your attention before leading you further into the lively restaurant pumping out swinging beats and a steady buzz.
Tiled floors, octagonal mirrors, twirling fans and moody lighting say “welcome to the hot spot,” with a subtle nod to the New York diner. A few city slickers can be found at the bar, but
it’s ties off here gents, with this causal, devil-may-care drinking and dining. For a Tuesday night, the first floor of the restaurant is impressively filled, vibrant with the warmth of mid-week indulgence.
It’s unpretentious food with sophisticated flavours, so embrace the American scene. Kick things off with shrimp and grits and the crab and avocado tower, which sits in the middle of a zingy spiced tomato sauce. Expertly judged chilli is a hit with the shrimp, and things begin to warm up nicely.
Time for the wine. A bottle of Spanish Rioja is the perfect accompaniment for the inevitable grill to come. Have the NY striploin, a generous cut served with smoky garlic butter, fries and a little greenery for appearance’s sake only. Complete the main with some extra shoestring fries and truffled creamy mac and cheese.
Come together for the dessert and share peanut butter cookies with ice cream and chocolate dipping sauce. Although lacking the desired nuttiness, it’s worth going for on playful potential alone. The fruit jelly in the centre of the cookies appears like two giant jammy dodgers on a plate. Share childhood reminiscences over the sweet and while you’re at it, get mischievous with the chocolate dipping sauce and dab some on your date’s nose – you cheeky devil!
Partly resume decorum over the digestif, with a tumbler of golden High West rye.
Meet at The French House on Dean Street to avoid hanging around the sleazier side of Soho. After sharing a rustic bottle of Bretagne cidre, pop off across the pond to the East Coast where rye whiskey is making a welcomed comeback.
Settle down at a table and without further ado ask for two house cocktails: “Dark and Stormy”? Offer a playful wink to your date, comment on the cocktail’s dumpy glass tankard – “very darling” – and allow the American smooth to take over. Exchange pleasantries whilst nibbling your way through earthy truffled popcorn and plump olives crowned with zesty orange peel before going for another round. It’s in the name so opt for a rye based cocktail such as the smooth and sleek “Goldrush” (Rittenhouse Rye, lemon, honey), then get ordering. Attentive yet unimposing service allows you to scoot over and focus all your attention on the date in hand.
Leave tipsily arm in arm and begin the search for a nightcap – it is Soho after all. Greek Street offers the element of surprise with the New Evaristo Club; an underground bar that lives up to the title of speakeasy. No nonsense spirits on offer, it’s a simple choice of more whiskey or rum before stealing kisses in the azure lit courtyard.
Banquette seating is a touch cramped – aim to book the solitary booth at the end of the bar and get down to business.
Confident 4. Fun and easygoing – the perfect canvas for a first date.