Sometimes when you wander a little bit out of your comfort zone, you stumble across a hidden gem. For me, this tends to happen a lot because my comfort (read: lazy) zone is incredibly tiny, and anywhere that’s more than five tube stops away constitutes “the outside”.
And on this outside, there’s been some brilliant finds, my favourite thus far being Donna Margherita, seriously the best Italian food I’ve had in London and beyond. And now I can add Mediterranean to that list with Jak’s Cafe, exactly five tube stops away and tucked along distinguished little Walton Street in the heart of Chelsea.
Being invited to dinner is a brilliant thing for me, not so much because it’s usually comp’d but because it takes me places that I would never have gone before. I mean, Walton Street is smack bang between South Kensington and Knightbridge tube stations, and for those of you who catch that line, you know how fricking long that gap is. Never, by my own accord, would I have wandered down that way and sadly, would have lived a long and lonely existence without Jak’s.
Luckily, I was invited to Jak’s. So on Sunday night I packed my overnight camping gear and re-filled my water bottle (because don’t you know? It’s like the most important thing to have lots of water when you’re travelling long distances) and hopped on the tube. All five stops. To Jak’s Cafe.
Jak’s is absolutely bustling on a Sunday night. I mean, a Sunday night when most of us are home, nursing our various weekend war wounds and feeling utterly sorry that Monday’s coming around again, Jak’s Cafe is heaving to the brink, with the queue stretching out the door onto pristine Walton Street.
Alex, the manager for the night (not Jak, and not even Val, aka “Jak Junior”) finds some time to usher us to our seats (which by the way, for a casual restaurant man do they have comfy seats!) and explains a little about the process. Jak’s is all about home made. The food is home cooked Mediterranean, everyone’s family, a cousin or friends (even we were called friends ~ nice touch!) and just like being at home, you go up to the counter, have a sticky beak and pick what you want to eat.
And boy, didn’t no one ever tell him to not let me pick everything I want to eat? That there is a dangerous situation!
Panu piled his plate high, with various mains and salads including the chicken meatball filled with what I’m guessing is dill and a prune in the middle. I don’t think I’ve ever had a chicken meatball, and I thought it was slightly odd but that could be me and dill, we don’t normally get along.
I opted for the olive chicken pizzaiola which is a Jak’s special, simple penne with tomato sauce and basil (below) and a fantastic cabbage dolma, stuffed with mince lamb and organic brown rice (which um, I ate before taking the photos).
But the star of my plate (because yes, that there were already three mains but they said I could have what I wanted and well, when you say that to a hungry girl…..) anyway. The star of my plate was the stuffed aubergine with garlic, onion, parsley and tomato (top).
Holy mother of eggplants. The best stuffed aubergine I have ever had my whole life bar none. Could be that I love aubergine. Could be that I love garlic. Could be that I love onion! Could also well be that I think maybe, just maybe, I’m starting to appreciate parsley! Whatever it is, it rocked my socks and I savoured and I scraped, baby, I scraped every last bit of aubergine from that skin. YUM.
Back to Panu’s plate, that big hunk of brown you see is a tuna steak. Goddamn it was a tuna hulk. I’m always worried about ordering tuna out because more often than not (in fact I think every single time except right now), it comes out overdone and dry. Maybe this is why they serve it in hulk size because it’s hard to overcook hulk.
Whatever the motive, the hulk was a gigantic portion of perfectly cooked tuna ~ seared well on the outside and a wonderful juicy red on the inside. Panu’s got an appetite on him but you know what, the “chicken ball” and tuna hulk combined? He was stuffed. But not as stuffed as me because somewhere half way through my meal I had to undo my jeans button. I shit you not, it happened.
But never one to say no to dessert, and certainly not to Jak’s famous cheesecake which has been known to steal the show, we ploughed through the pain of stomachs bordering on explosion and ordered not just the cheesecake, but also a chocolate brownie. Cos you know, we’re taking that for the team.
The cheesecake really is something to write home about. Light, fluffy, flavoursome and topped with the most deliciously sweet strawberry sauce. I contemplated undoing my fly all together so that we could have another slice, but I thought I’d conserve what dignity I had left. Always good to have some spare dignity up your sleeve.
The brownie was a rich, thick, fudgy brownie and was also good but somehow paled in comparison to the cheesecake. And really, it’s no Optimus Prime.
After that meal I literally could not sit down. Physically could not because something would have split. We walked all the way back to Hyde Park Corner and seriously would have walked all the way home had it not started raining.
I honestly, genuinely, loved Jak’s Cafe. So much so that it’s made it onto our “list” ~ a super exclusive shortlist of places that we’d go back to again and again. Everything from the cosy interior to the homely service and delicious food, tick tick tick.
The only thing I have to say though, being in the heart of Chelsea, people were like really dressed up for a quick dinner and I mean, I was in my rain boots, daggy t-shirt and holy crap I even had my jeans undone! But oh well, they probably did too under all that designer gear
77 Walton Street
Chelsea, SW3 2H
0207 584 3441