Jago Restaurant East London
Jago Restaurant East London
Ashkenazi heritage meets Middle Eastern flair at Louis Solley's new restaurant at the Second Home tech incubator
by Ananda Pellerin
Anyone who attended a progressive primary school in the 1970s will feel nostalgic walking into Second Home’s optimistic interior. The multipurpose workspace, housed in a former carpet factory off of London’s Brick Lane, is a low-ceilinged affair full of orange and spring green walls, rooms with peek-around windows and no straight lines. Over a thousand houseplants are dotted around the two floors. It’s also a Pantheon of design classics, with individually chosen mid-century chairs as far as the eye can see.
The first UK project from lauded Madrid-based architects SelgasCano, Second Home is the brainchild of Rohan Silva, once a senior policy advisor to the Prime Minister, and Sam Aldenton, who is behind outdoor events space Dalston Roof Park. It's been open just over a month, and agencies and freelancers are already working and mingling here; events and screenings are held in the evenings, and the walls and fixtures can be shifted to fit all occasions. If someone did a live-action remake of The Jetsons today, it might look something like this.
Jutting out from the front of the original 1960s façade is the conservatory that houses Jago, Second Home’s in-house restaurant. Launched a couple of weeks ago, with an all-day menu, it is as open to the rest of us as to the tech and creative companies that frequent the space daily. Jago gets its name from the 1896 book "A Child of the Jago," which details a youngster’s life in the nearby former slums. Also drawing on the area’s history, the menu reflects the East End’s past as the first port of call for Jewish immigrants to London, while still looking toward its much-debated gentrified future. “It’s always been a growing area,” head chef and local resident Louis Solley tells us. “When I was a kid there were plenty of young families who couldn’t afford to live elsewhere; East London is where they bought houses.”
As head chef at Ottolenghi in Notting Hill, Solley is no stranger to Jewish cooking, but here the focus is on Ashkenazi, rather than Sephardic staples. His great-grandparents fled during the pogroms to England, and met in the immigration line. His Jewish father was obsessed with French cooking, and Solley attended the highly respected Westminster School of Culinary Arts. The result: he brings both warmth and an assured touch to his technique in the kitchen. Delicate, delicious self-made salt beef (Solley: “You have to use the saltpetre, it’s really explosive but it’s what makes the beef pink”) is served with pleasantly sharp chrain, while the world’s best anchovies from the Bay of Biscay need no supporting act. Rejuvenating veal cheek goulash with orzo and green harissa says it all about the direction they’re taking in the kitchen.
Solley is joined by front-of-house force Hugo Thurston, who for years held down the fort at the much-loved tapas bar Morito. Together they share a fascination with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern herbs, which brighten up Jago’s dishes. With plenty of Eastern European influences in place, too, there is a lot of dill to go round. For a brief visit try the gripping Gibson cocktail and the bar snacks—fennel salami, house nduja and pickled chillies—though we’re sure they can find better kabanos. And while Solley and Thurston walked into an already-decided décor, their ambitions for Jago are clear. “We want it to be welcoming, democratic and friendly, it’s as simple as that,” says Thurston. “To fight against the cool factor and be fun. Of course we want the food to be great but we don’t want to be po-faced about it.”
For some classic Ashkenazi edibles, Louis Solley recommends: “Harry Morgan in St. Johns Wood for their chicken soup, and Rinkoff Bakery in Whitechapel for their braided challahs and bagels—still made from the same secret recipe used when they first opened in 1911.”
Jago is open to the public at Second Home, 68 Hanbury St, London E1 5JL.
Images by Neil Wissink