Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Joe's cafe: not for builders

Joe’s Cafe rather under sells itself. It sounds like a builders’ cafe where the dress code is high vis jackets and paint stained trackies.

I can assure you that you would not make it through the door dressed like that – despite it being 12 foot wide. Joe’s is actually a subtle and beautiful restaurant. A book case runs through the centre, punctuated with the occasional 50-year-old bottle of wine or Vogue collection from the 80s.

The tables are spread out and the service relaxed. Money here is made slowly, in stark contrast to its Kensington clientele. We ummed and erred over the wine list, starters and mains. Even deciding between sparkling and still water took five minutes, during which our tireless waiter looked busy at the table behind us.

I started with fois gras on a mushroom wafer topped with sour cherries. This was rather hard to eat, being unstab-able and too wide to balance on the fork. So by the time it reached my mouth it was more like sour cherries, topped with fois gras and mushroom pastry shards. Still, the dish was appreciated for its sweet and sourness, even if the texture was all together too watery.

For the main I had water trout (what other kind is there?) with a French tartare sauce and a cold salmon, almost sushi-esque roll with an horseradish base. To be honest it was felt foreign on the plate, distracting me from the wonderful trout and if I hadn’t been famished would have been left well alone. However, the course was served with the first truly tolerable form of fried cauliflower I have ever tasted, and all it took was the addition of lemongrass.

As is the case in all good restaurants, my memory of the pudding is a little hazy. We had finished a bottle of wine before even choosing our food. Nonetheless my pudding choice was inspired. My raspberry baseless cheese cake was sweet and decadent, and looked a lot like a maoam, a hallucination helped by the fact that it was surrounded by cubes of raspberry jelly. The rubber texture juxtaposed the maoam nicely, and bizarrely added a drier flavour to the very sweet dish.

And so we enjoyed a final bottle of wine after the meal, staring through the missing wall that Joe’s calls a door, at the torrential rain we had to head into. The food is nothing special here, but there is an honesty to it; a kind of aspiring decadence that it never quite lives up to. But in the quiet and welcoming room and with a hearty wine from the Alsace inside you, you’ll never want to leave.

126 Draycott AvenueSouth Kensington, London, SW3 3AH
020 7225 2217

Joe's on Urbanspoon   Square Meal