Union Jacks, as many of you may know, is the latest Jamie Oliver opening. It is a pizza restaurant. All the food here is presented through’ rosy Brit’ tinted spectacles: the pizzas are called flats, a margherita is a Margaret, mozzarella is replaced with cheddar, there are sardines instead of anchovies and…you get the picture. The whole experience is how I imagine it would be if you were starring in one of his TV specials, the music is a hopeful, middle class lifestyle soundtrack and the waiting staff perky, youthful and helpful. The restaurant itself is in an ugly glass hall, part of Central St. Giles, and looks as if it was designed to be an office, however, they have installed 2 large fiery ovens which warm the place up and manage, miraculously, to make it cosy.
The menu is simple and reasonably proved, starters are around the £4-£5 mark and include fish fingers and the now ubiquitous beets. There are six varieties of pizza but you can choose a Margaret for £6.50 and add your own toppings, so really the menu is unlimited. This was our second visit, Joff had the Woodman, £11, both times, which is covered in meaty looking mushrooms on top of a ground mushroom base, he loved it, or I presume he did as he had it twice. The first time I had the Chilli Freak, which was fantastically hot, the second time I had a Margaret with added chillis, onions and rocket (less chilli tastic than the Chilli Freak). The Pizzas are, to my mind, perfect. They have the right amount of slightly burnt crust, with bubbles and cracks on the chewy and crispy crust and the cheddar works well, adding a salty tang which I love. The proportion of topping to crust is also just right and so is the size as I didn’t have much trouble finishing my pizza either time. The salads again play on the British theme, salad cream instead of french dressing, baby gem lettuce in the salad and red russets in the coleslaw. I love baby gem lettuce. And salad cream.
The wine list serves British wine and the drinks list includes perry and British vodka. I had Bacchus from the whites and Joff had Union from the reds, both were good. There is not a huge choice of wines but it is not that sort of place. The pudding list is short and includes Arctic Roll. I had marathon (snickers) ice cream which was definitely home made and not as good as the pizzas, it was a little too crumbly and not quite smooth enough, but not disastrous.
It would be all too easy to knock this place, it is relentlessly cheery and harks back to a type of Britishness which undoubtedly didn’t exist. However, the food is great and reasonably priced, it is not subtle but it does make you feel good and the atmosphere is infectious; if everyone around you is perky and jolly, serving you good food and treating you well, it is hard to remain cynical and picky. I liked it unashamedly.