126 Draycott Avenue
Previously named Joe’s Café, the fashion label Joseph-owned restaurant on Chelsea’s Draycott Avenue is now known simply as ‘JOE’S’. With Executive Chef Maria Elia at the helm since May of this year, the new-look JOE’S is a smart but relaxed affair, with comfortable leather chairs, mocha and brown hues, and smart black and white portrait photography adorning the walls.
Given the chic neighbourhood and the fashion connection, one might expect this to be a slightly uptight establishment full of head-to-toe-in-black fashionistas consuming little more than lettuce and black coffee. The reality however, couldn’t be further from it. While the clientele does indeed comprise of a stylish and well-heeled bunch, there’s little waif-like nibbling going on.
The menu is as interesting as it is appealing. There’s no argument that it’s healthy – this is for the Chelsea Set after all – but don’t expect to find lifeless skinny salads and watery soups. Artichoke hummus is served prettily in a little terracotta plant pot, with various crudities of celery, fresh crisp fennel and baby carrots jauntily arranged atop in manner of a plant. Thankfully this isn’t a case of style over substance – the hummus is divine: delicate, earthy flavours of fresh artichoke come through beautifully. Chicken liver bruschetta with cherry compote and caper berries is considerably richer but no less delicious. Deeply savoury and luxurious in texture, this starter is generous in size, so good to share lest you dent your appetite before your main course arrives.
The intriguing list of mains includes strawberry and radicchio risotto; porchetta with peach and rosemary jelly and rosemary potatoes, and the curiously-named ‘texture of tomatoes’. As it happens, I favour hunger above curiosity. The pan-fried monkfish with smoked aubergine puree, chorizo and chickpeas sounds like a marriage made in heaven on paper and happily, lives up to its promise. This pleasingly meaty, almost sweet fish, is often paired with cured pork for excellent reason – if ever two flavours were meant to be on the same fork it is these two. The delicate oils from the paprika-laden chorizo infuse the fish, and when smoky aubergine puree is added to the proceedings you find a perfect balance of smoky, sweet and savoury.
Across the table, the char-grilled fish of the day (sea bream) arrives served simply with a baby leaf salad. While this is very pleasant, it benefits from the addition of a side dish, and the pulse of the day (Puy lentils with beetroot and capers) adds substance (despite arriving without the promised beetroot and capers, but with dill in their place).
Where the starters and mains impress, the desserts are something of a let-down. For a restaurant with such a creative menu, it’s surprising to learn that the ice-cream is not homemade. It would do well to be: the banana flavour tastes synthetic and the salted caramel is underwhelming. Conversely, whilst lavender marshmallow, chocolate sponge and mascarpone ice cream sounds quietly alluring, sadly only the ice cream really hits the mark - the pairing of delicate floral lavender with the texture of marshmallow just doesn’t seem to work.
While it should be pointed out that although the food is generally very good and the ambience relaxed, the service can be prone to being a little too relaxed – on an evening when the restaurant is relatively quiet, the food arrives slowly and one wonders at points if your order has been forgotten. On the whole though, this is a good restaurant with the potential to become even better. Certainly, it’s worth the trip to Chelsea for the artichoke hummus alone.
JOE’S: 126 Draycott Avenue, London, SW3. Tel: 020 7225 2217. http://www.joseph.co.uk
Reviewed by: Carine Seitz