Words and Photography by Felicity Spector
The coffee is superlative, the brunch is excellent and the cakes are legendary. But Salvation Jane, a cool, urban space just moments from Old Street, is now offering a more extensive dinner menu in the evenings.
It is the second venture from Shelagh Ryan, one of the first Australian coffee shop pioneers to set up business in London, with her successful Lantana café in Fitzrovia. Salvation Jane, named after a flowering plant which flourishes in the harshest of desert conditions, is a much bigger concern, with 65 covers inside an airy, serene dining room, a world away from the concrete monstrosity that is the Old Street roundabout. Service is warm and friendly, and the place is casual enough for you to come on your own, welcoming enough to bring a group of friends.
|Photo: Salvation Jane|
There’s an open kitchen and a bar area, which you go past to get into the dining room: this is Hoxton, and alongside the banquettes there are some Ercol chairs, and wooden tables made by local craftsmen. The back wall features a black and white mural by a Melbourne artist: another bit of Australia in central London.
But onto dinner - and the cocktail menu offered a wide range of innovative drinks, including their own version of a Negroni with Aperol: my friend went for a Mango Mimosa, which was light and fragrant, and just the thing to cheer up a wet December evening.
Salvation Jane, which has served food in the evenings since it opened earlier this year, started out by offering a simpler mix of sharing plates, but found that customers were asking for main course dishes as well, so the new menu was born. There are still a few of those smaller dishes, which you can order as a starter or for sharing: we could have chosen from the likes of grilled haloumi with a citrus relish, or spicy, sticky pork ribs. However, in the interests of saving room for pudding, we went straight for the main courses.
My risotto with marinated cherry tomatoes and baked ricotta crumbled on top was excellent: the rice achieved just the right creamy texture without being at all soupy, and the chef had managed to pack an astonishing amount of flavour into the tomatoes and the ricotta, with its slightly toasted herb mixture sprinkled on top. It’s not easy to find a decent risotto, and I’d definitely order that one again.
My friend, who had dithered over the possibility of spiced, baked lamb in filo pastry with a cauliflower Kisir - a kind of couscous - eventually chose the confit duck leg on puy lentils with some caramelised ginger pumpkin. It was delicious: expertly cooked, the flavours perfectly balanced.
I had high hopes for the desserts, and we certainly weren’t disappointed. My friend decided on the banana cake, which arrived warm and slightly toasted: two generous slices, topped with a large scoop of marscapone, heady with cinnamon and nutmeg. A drizzle of passion fruit cut through the richness nicely. I had to stop myself from stealing most of it.
My brownie, however, was the triumph of the night: truly a thing of beauty. There was a pot of berry compote and some coconut foam on the side, but I only had eyes for the brownie: incredibly rich, dark, melting. I had asked for a middle piece, not an edge, to maximise the gooey potential: “Oh, no-one gets edges round here”, they told me cheerfully. This is clearly a place that knows its brownies.
I’ve heard great things about the lemon cheesecake too, but I’ll have to save that for another visit.
Prices are reasonable, the space is cool without being achingly Hoxton hip, and the cooking is right on the money. And unlike many restaurants in the area, you won’t be disappointed by the coffee at the end of your meal.
0207 253 5273
Unit 2, 1 Oliver’s Yard
55 City Rd