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.
78 Northcote Rd
|Transport:||Clapham Junction Overground|
|Price:||Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £95.|
|Do you own this business?|