Jones & Sons, restaurant review: You'll be more impressed by the charm than the cooking at this theatrical venue

 

Pitched at the cusp of Kingsland Road and Stoke Newington High Street, bounded to the south by Dalston Junction and to the west by Hackney Downs, Jones & Sons is a new eating house in a groovy part of norf-east London.

It started life as a Victorian textile factory. Later, it became the Arcola Theatre, and when that moved in 2011, it was taken over by the Cell Project Space, who set up artists' studios in east London. One of the partners, Andy Jones, used to run the noisy and bustling Cat & Mutton pub, a Hackney institution (currently undergoing a makeover); so it was a natural progression for Mr Jones to turn the empty theatre space into a restaurant.

It's still a theatrical kind of place, if you like your theatre stark and Brechtian. A wall of plain glass lets passers-by see everything inside, as if inspecting a show. The ceiling's a mile high, the floor's concrete, the walls are whitewashed, the plain tables could be props from a Stratford East production of Les Miserables. The brightly-lit kitchen area is, basically, a little house with a pitched roof where three young chefs sweat under copper lamps, like something out of Beckett's Play. Even the clientele seems to be acting. Our neighbours were a northern dandy in braces, waistcoat, beard, long hair and the air of a scoundrel, romancing a lovely blonde avatar of Lady Galadriel from Lord of the Rings.

There's a pleasant vibe about the place, for all its strenuous minimalism. Their margaritas and dirty vodkatinis are excellent, the serving staff are young and friendly, and the menu offers you a hug of familiarity: scallops, steak pie, sticky ribs, pan-fried cod, half-lobster, you know the line-up. Some interesting vegetarian dishes are on offer, including upside-down chicory and Stilton tart, and a mushroom and truffle gratin with vegetable crisps. There's a quartet of grill possibilities, including a one-kilo rib-eye steak, to be shared by two or three – or by one, if you fancy ingesting 2.2lbs of meat at a sitting.

Angie ordered scallops with red wine salsify and white butter sauce: four miniature scallops were artfully arranged on the empurpled root, but tasted nothing more than bland. Salsify, that weedy white object somewhere between a carrot and a parsnip but without the flavour of either, needs a whack of sea salt to register on the taste buds; so does a scallop. The combination didn't amount to much.

I was surprised by my 'slow-cooked sticky pork ribs'. They were ribs, with pork on them. They'd been cooked for ages, to an unappetising grey consistency. But they weren't sticky. I'd expected to see those lovely, caramelised-to-black ribs familiar from Chinatown or American rib shacks, that you nibble in an ecstasy of heat, molasses and burnt meat. These ribs had been introduced to honey at some stage, but the point of their existence had leaked away. Like the scallops, they were underseasoned and insipid.

After this uninspiring start, things improved. A dead-butch haunch of venison was served with a savoury forest of bacon, chestnuts and Savoy cabbage. Louis, the charming Dublin-born manager, asked how I'd like the venison cooked. I pondered – medium rare? You don't want to take any chances with game, do you? "You'd be all right with rare venison," he said, "because it's the haunch, it's far enough away from any organs." With that, he turned and slapped the approximate area of his own haunch. It's not every day you get the maître d' demonstrating cuts of meat with his own body.

The actual dish was a challenge: huge, juicy chunks of pink and tender deer, served on a roundel of liver, along with the blanched cabbage and fried lardons. Foolishly, I ordered a side helping of the intriguingly named Jansson's Temptation, which turns out (I looked it up) to be a traditional Swedish casserole of potatoes, onions, breadcrumbs, pickled sprats and cream. English chefs tend to substitute anchovies for the sprats, giving an interesting wallop of salty fishiness to what's basically dauphinoise potatoes. Angie's celeriac and sweet potato pie was served up as a little gift of comfort food, the vegetables soft and yielding under their light and flaky crust. "This," pronounced Angie, "is a hearty option for any passing vegetarian on a cold night."

A ramekin of Cambridge burnt cream (aka crème brûlée) was fine, though no more than competent. Like much of the dinner, it was perfectly oh-kay without being outstanding. I was intrigued to hear, however, that on certain evenings, the owner of Jones & Sons regales his guests at the end of dinner by opening his father's pre-war cocktail cabinet beside the bar and dishing out slugs of malt whisky. It seems typical of a place where, for the moment anyway, you'll be more impressed by the charm than the cooking.

Food ***
Ambience ***
Service ****

Jones & Sons, 23-27 Arcola Street London E8 (020-7241 1211). Around £90 for two, including wine

Life and Style
LifeReddit asked a simple question with infinite answers this week
Life and Style
Pepper, the 3ft 11in shiny box of circuits who can tell jokes and respond to human emotions
techDavid McNeill tests the mettle of one of the new generation of androids being developed in Tokyo
Life and Style
beauty
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice