From the folks behind Primeur and Westerns Laundry, Jolene is a supremely beautiful restaurant in a quiet spot opposite the park in Newington Green. Everything about it evokes romance: the candle-lit tables, the warehouse-style space with its long, classy bar, the dimly lit loos that smell of cinnamon. In the daytime, it’s a low-key brunch spot and bakery. Come evening, the blackboards are wiped and replaced with a small-plates menu: fresh pasta, rustic hunks of meats, cheese to finish.
Flour is milled and bread is baked in-house. You can see the chef’s baking skills in many of the dishes. Desserts, in particular, were outstanding. In a story of two tarts, we adored the flourless chocolate number, which was soft and beautifully gooey, but also loved its lighter pear and almond cousin. Other dishes throughout the evening were equally spectacular: a simple starter of milky, messy mozzarella with artichokes and black olives, then two plates of silky pasta (beef-cheek pappardelle, chard-and-ricotta ravioli). It wasn’t all perfect (a mackerel main course was a little tough and the bitter greens were just too bitter), but most of it was sublime, simple food; with prices that belied the quality.
There are lots of restaurants in London doing similar, brilliant things, but after I left, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. Jolene is one of those perfect, low-key options for almost every occasion, whether it’s a weeknight supper, business meeting, or even that dreaded first date. The atmosphere just might work its magic.