New London restaurants: JOE’S (Elle)

I didn’t try chef Maria Elia’s food at the revamped Whitechapel Gallery when she cooked there. This was largely because the gallery’s opening exhibition – a retrospective of sculptor Isa Genzken – was so bloody dreadful that it put me off ever going back. But anyway, here she is, taking over what used to be Joe’s Café and, for a period in the in the late 80s and early 90s, a space so highly charged with monochrome flash, fashion and cool that my best friend called her first born son Joe in tribute. Actually, it wasn’t just the Café she loved. Her christening decision was made in homage to owner Joseph Ettedgui’s whole empire: his boutiques (the flagship opposite the restaurant was a place of pilgrimage for first-wave Alaïa fans), his “it” fragrance, Joseph Parfum de Jour, and his swish way with typography. I never named a child after the restaurant, but it was always a favourite – and largely successful – third-date location.

Joseph himself sadly passed away in 2010 and JOE’S (as it’s now been reinvented and capitalised as), looks very different these days. The bold, silver and black Eva Jiricna interior that was immortalised in Patsy and Edina’s “Champagne for Lulu!” lunch in Absolutely Fabulous has been torn out, with only a stair rail and portholes in the doors downstairs left to remind us how beautiful it was once. It’s a less intimidating space now, with breezy, chatty service, warm leather and wood and weirdly chilly mushroom walls, but promise of more framed David Bailey photography to fix the latter. I miss the old look, but I don’t miss the old menu. What Elia has brought to Brompton Cross is largely fantastic, and should attract an infinitely more discerning, foodie crowd.

The menu is arrestingly modern with buzzwords and buzzier ingredients: Carpaccio; pearl barley; marinated beetroot… it just doesn’t get more au courant than beetroot these days. Amongst the starters there’s slow-braised octopus, mackarel with gooseberry chutney and a haddock (carpaccio, natch) with crème fraiche, lemon and chilli that’s the bees knees. It’s light but sharp, with a lot of spark.

Elia goes out of her way to create splendid plates for veggies. Her book, the Modern Vegetarian, is Quorn-free food porn for the meatless and her most interesting dishes at JOE’S are alternating “Textures of…” platters of one veg done several different ways. I shared the Textures of Peas, which included a soup, a mousse, pods and an orrechiette; each emerald green, each delicious and when grouped together, pretty enough to warrant reaching for the Hipstamatic. Monkfish with preserved lemon cous cous was similarly wonderful, although I found her strawberry risotto with bitter radicchio (something I make at home from a very different Guy Grossi recipe) overly complicated with too many ingredients in the mix. Many will love it though. Puddings are appealingly small, and big on fresh fruit. Elia’s cooking gives an overall impression of being offbeat but gently so, and full of lightness and freshness. It’s bringing culinary chic back to JOE’s, and one of London’s most enticing fashion districts, in a big way.

 

Food 9

 

Ambience 6

 

Service 9

 

Value 9

 

JOE’S, 126 Draycott Avenue, London SW3 3AH, 020-7225 2217

www.joseph.co.uk/joes-cafe/locations/

 

9am-11pm Tue-Sat; 9am-6pm Sun-Mon

 

STYLE OF FOOD: Contemporary British/European

 

PRICES

 

AVERAGE PRICE PER PERSON FOR TWO COURSE MEAL WITHOUT WINE: £23

SET MENU: Lunch Mon-Fri, £15 (two courses) or £17 (three courses).

 

PRICE OF BOTTLE HOUSE WINE: £21, Rodero Arneis, Vigne Sparse (white); £19 Cabernet/Malbec, Finca Los Prados (red).

PRICE OF GLASS HOUSE WINE: £5 (as above).

PRICE GLASS HOUSE CHAMPAGNE: £11, Olivier Collin.

PRICE BOTTLE HOUSE CHAMPAGNE: £50 (as above).

No private dining.

No garden/al fresco dining.

Bar for cocktails.

BEST TABLES: The tables in the back area have less noise from the street, but can feel cut off on a quiet evening.

WHO GOES: A very international Chelsea crowd, and of course Brompton Cross “ladies who lunch”.

NEAREST TUBE: South Kensington

 

GOOD FOR:

 

Quick bite after work

Pre theatre

Special occasion

First date

Group dinner

Work lunch/dinner

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