Cotton Eye Joe / Hg2 RESTAURANT REVIEW

Joe’s, just round the corner from South Kensington Tube on Draycott Avenue, is under the effortlessly masterful hands of chef Maria Elia. We were shown her vegetarian recipe book (buy it here) at the end of the meal as we savoured our sweet wine. And it has to be said; we would go veggie for this book. It’s incredible, from the oh-so-simple (rosemary popcorn) to the decadent and elaborate (the textures of peas is actually served in the restaurant), this is not what you might imagine vegetarian food to be like. There are no earnest, dry, uninspiring recipes here. It is gorgeous cuisine, which neither involves nor needs, meat.

Yet, despite the elevating vegetarian fare, this is not a vegetarian restaurant and there was chargrilled rib-eye on the menu. We were powerless to resist. And thank goodness we didn’t. It was perfect. Smoked and juicy. And served with hand-cut oregano chips.

To start, however, we ordered the apricot and chicken terrine. Partly out of curiosity. Our experience of apricot has been rather relegated to the realms of yoghurt, with occasional forays into the land of jam. With chicken? As a terrine? Well, that just tempted our tastebuds. The flavours of the terrine, and the chargrilled bread that accompanied it, mingled together and developed with every mouthful, gaining complexity whilst still being light. We’re now definitely apricot-converts.

The service was friendly, attentive and wonderfully knowledgeable. The suggestions, especially nudging us towards the pulse of the day to accompany our main course, were spot-on and the explanations of the dishes themselves added depth to our enjoyment of them. And we really enjoyed them. And, quite frankly, the dessert was insanely good. Chocolate and cherry rice pudding, served in not quite the way you would expect. We won’t ruin the surprise by explaining, though. Sufficed to say, it was literally the chocolate-coated cherry on top of our evening.

From the food to the chic surrounds, Joe’s satisfies. The décor is simple and stylish, with wine bottles and fashion magazines mixed together on the wooden bookshelves – and sitting there, amongst the understated but undeniably fashion types, we felt that we just knew what our A/W 2011 wardrobe choices were going to be. And despite being weighed down by the three delicious courses – all the happier for it, we must add – we floated out of the open-fronted restaurant (a fantastic feature on balmy summer nights) high on a dining experience that is fated to be repeated.
SITE: joseph.co.uk
Buy Hg2 London here

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