Jan

Restaurants, Middle Eastern Nappy Valley
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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A restaurant with flavours from around the Caspian Sea.

The large sign reads ‘Jan’. Underneath, there’s a smaller one, labelled ‘Caspian flavours’. But WTF is a ‘Caspian flavour’ when it’s at home? Well, if you want to get all Geography GCSE about it, it’s from the borderlands of the Caspian Sea. So: Persian barberries, Uzbeki bread or Georgian spiced dip. But – just to mess with us – Jan has also gone further afield, gathering ingredients from Turkey and the wider Middle East. There’s lamb, aubergine and cauliflower. Tahini. Sumac. Pomegranate. It’ll be broadly familiar to anyone that’s ever bought an Ottolenghi cookbook, which believe me, everyone in this room has. Jan is on the Northcote Road, stomping ground of south-west London’s yummiest mummies.

At first glance, it’s just another nice neighbourhood bistro. There’s an excellent pinot noir (Moonriver) at a bargainous £21. The two rooms are small and a tad bright. But patches of mosaic tiling are a clue to its exotic intent, as are the deep-hued walls, each hung with the gilt-edged portrait of an Ottoman chief. As for food, much of it was very good. Lamb kofta ‘pops’ – dinky meatballs on sticks – were juicy and moreish. Aubergine ‘cigars’ turned out to be slices of the chargrilled vegetable, rolled around in a paste of pickled walnuts, tahini, parlsey and mint; made all the more intriguing by its faintly bitter notes. The thick, golden obi-nan (Kenobi! I hear you all shout. Alas, no relation to the Jedi master) was a tandoor-baked flatbread with a nicely salted crust. Alongside it, a light courgette houmous. Chunks of claret-centred beef arrived beautifully cooked.

There were mistakes. Cauliflower ‘couscous’ was too wet; cardamom doughnuts (for dessert) too dry. But other puds showed Jan at its finest: a place brimming with ambition and, occasionally, excellence. Harissa-laced ice cream was lovably weird: at first sweet and tame, it delivered a pow-pow chilli punch just when you were least expecting it. Like walking on hot coals, it was not necessarily an experience to enjoy, but certainly one to remember. But oh, the lemon cake! Moist, with a deliciously savoury edge – they use vanilla salt – it was getting cosy with some perfectly poached rosemary pears and a blob of crème fraiche. If this is what Caspian heaven looks like, go ahead and give me two slices.

By: Tania Ballantine

Posted:

Venue name: Jan
Contact:
Address: 78 Northcote Rd
London
SW11 6QL
Transport: Clapham Junction Overground
Price: Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £95.
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Tastemaker

My husband and I went here Friday night. The service was very good from the beginning, with the young waitress friendly and attentive. We passed on drinks but got a bunch of tapas and one main. For tapas my husband got the obi-nan with lamb and I got the cauliflower couscous, the pickled walnut and aubergine cigars and the blackened sweet potatoes. The food arrived relatively quickly. The obi-nan as a starter is actually quite large and the white bread (like Turkish pitta bread) is covered with a good amount of meat and yogurt. The couscous is a healthy tapas size as well; there are four aubergine cigars and one large sweet potato. My husband said his dish was very good although it was a bit too much white bread for him. My favorite out of all the three was surprisingly the cauli couscous. It was light and lemony and the almond slivers only enhanced the flavour. But the "cigars" and the sweet potato were disappointingly bland and underwhelming. I asked for more yogurt sauce (with dill) for the sweet potato bc it was just so blah. That said with those three dishes I was full. My husband also ordered The Caspian Catch and even though I don't like fish much this was very good. The lemon and orange? dressing on the fish was perfect and the fish was not too "fishy." But surprisingly the stellar part of the dish (to me at least) was the preserved lemon with pistachio, barberry and pomegranate jeweled rice as a side. OMGGGGG this was delicious. The rice was infused with pistachio-flavoured butter and was dangerously delicious. We also ordered the cardamom dusted twisted doughnuts for dessert. I was particularly impressed with this as I don't even like donuts!! But they were filled with a creme that made them soft and perfect to dunk into the mace-infused chocolate sauce. The rose jam is also an interesting twist and somehow works well with the chocolate sauce.

The decor is just fantastic with blue tiles, large paintings and a glass ceiling as well as an open-kitchen plan.

So overall better for surf and turf but I wouldn't return for a veg meal.