4 Central St Giles Piazza
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Mon Jan 23 2012
When you eat at a Jamie Oliver restaurant, you’re also fed the lifestyle. In the case of this pizzeria, it’s younger, cheaper, and even livelier (ie noisier, be warned) than his previous restaurants – the special-occasion Fifteen, the mid-priced Jamie’s Italian, the City barbecue Barbecoa.
Union Jacks is more on-the-hoof, more spontaneous. The colour palette uses co-ordinated pastels like a Disney cartoon, indie guitar bands play over the sound system, knitted tea cosies cover the teapots.
The detailing is impressive, from the cutesy stickers on the (brand new) school-type furniture to the ironic use of kitsch leatherette menu jackets.
Union Jacks is a ‘concept’, and a very slick one, with other branches blossoming. If it wasn’t all done so very well – cheeky chappie service with a smile, good food, fun atmosphere – you’d have to hate it.
But the fact is, Oliver’s team has created a good pizzeria, as well as a guilty pleasure.
Despite claiming that its main dishes are ‘flatbreads’, these are pizzas, albeit with some interesting toppings.
Jamie’s Italian seems aimed at the suburban, middle-income, mortgaged diner who doesn’t mind chain restaurants; Union Jacks is lower spend, but also for people who don’t mind a pizza chain in the making; too cool for Oxford Street, but not cool enough for Dalston.
Oliver’s army of helpers has collaborated with US chef Chris Bianco, lauded as one of the top pizza makers in the States. Bianco was there on our visits in the opening weeks, working at the searing-hot wood-fired ovens and checking that the sourdough bases were coming out crisp and even. But on our several visits in the opening month the bases were very slightly too burnt for our tastes, but if you don't like the way they're done, you can always send 'em back.
Oliver’s influence is clear in the choice of ingredients – many of them British, with their provenance clearly spelled out. The fish used in the own-made fish fingers starter was not only fresh and good quality, it was also ‘by-catch’ – nice one Jamie.
The combinations are creative, without straying into 'sashimi with hoi sin sauce' territory. The Gloucester Old Spot pizza included morsels of crackling, quince purée, slivers of raw apple, stinky Stilton and watercress; it worked.
The ‘Chilli Freak’ was indeed as hot as our waiter warned us, and the accompanying little tumbler of goat’s curd with lemon zest was a welcome palliative. (Opinion was divided on having fresh mint as well on the same base.)
Sardines are used to substitute anchovies in one classic combo; we missed the latter's salty relish, but the fennel and onions were good complements.
In the mood for pud? There’s ice-cream and lots of it, including a sublime Earl Grey and shortbread version, only £1.50 a scoop; do try it. Arctic roll has been revived from the permafrost of the 1970s TV dinner; leave this one to the nostalgic, as the straightforward ice-cream scoops were better.
Jamie fans looking for tie-ins to his recent TV series, ‘Jamie’s Great Britain’, might be disappointed that the flag-flying name of this new restaurant bears little relationship to the show or the book of the same name.
There is no Vietnamese street food, no Yemeni recipes from Wales, or Iranian lamb shanks. There is, however, smoked trout – the Jewish recipe from Leeds as seen on TV, served up with mini Yorkshire puddings, an unusual but appetising starter.
The TV tie-in recipe book is now available in all good bookstores – ah yes, Oliver’s army doesn’t miss the opportunity for a bit of cross-promotion. We just wish they’d call this place what it is: a pizzeria. And, schools reformer that Jamie Oliver is, maybe learn what an apostrophe is for.
Union Jacks 4 Central St Giles Piazza
- Cross Street:
1 St Giles High Street
020 3597 7888
- Opening hours:
Open noon-11pm Mon-Sat; noon-10pm Sun
Tube: Tottenham Court Road tube
Main courses £7-£12.50. Meal for two with wine and service: around £45
- 4 Central St Giles Piazza
- 020 3597 7888
- 4 Central St Giles Piazza
- Union Jacks
Food and drink
Restaurant and bar facilities. Take away. Accessible facilities. General facilities. Available for hire. Outdoor facilities. Tables outdoors
- Type of event: