If you spent any time on the Kings Road between 2010 and 2012, and had a penchant for drunk Sloanes and cheesy tunes, then Public nightclub was your raison d’être. If not, bravo you. Closed down because of complaints from Chelsea neighbours, the old fun box has now been taken over by hearty health food brand Jaks, a West London franchise synonymous with Mediterranean light bites, grilled salmon and rich aubergine bakes. But unlike its prudish South Ken sister, this branch has a reasonable amount of party vibes and hip credentials – think bare brick walls, a lofty industrial dining room, sofas, beeches and a pinch of Middle Eastern luxe. Yes, you may get the odd straggler wandering in in full club garb for vodka mixers and some Katy Perry, but on the whole its cheery dining in a setting a little too cool for this end of the KR. Perfect for double dates or a bite before you bar crawl.
Unless you want pizza or pasta (not really date fare) you go up and order at the extensive food counter. Pick a sumptuous main (sea bass, salmon, schnitzel, lamb) plus two sides – anything from roast potatoes to an Ottolenghi-like spread of salads. The food is great, under £20 and built for (posh) purpose – a good feeding before the night ensues. Skip dessert, this is a square meal.
You have the element of surprise on your side, as no date would expect such a kook-hole in Chelsea. It’s not easy to find and it’s very far from Sloane Square so meet them at the tube and bus down together. This is a casual weekend day date or mid week feeding so don’t book in advance. Bowl up, avoid the sofas – cosy but impractical for eating – and order a green tea. Accompany them to the counter and bump shoulders conspiratorially as you make your choices. Make jokes about panic ordering and tell them they’ve made a dreadful choice. Then chomp away and chat like pals. Order a glass of wine once you’ve started eating- an accompaniment, not a crutch. And just when it seems platonic, suggest a trip to Zefi next door and get drunk.
Standing in line can be awkward if this is a first date. If you don’t like Sloaney sorts, get out.
2. It was 5 when it was a nightclub but really you’d have to double/triple date on a Friday night at 9pm to get things back to those heady days.