Soho is a bustling microcosm of London, full of crooked pubs, stylish bars, dens of iniquity, cheap eats and thriving hangouts.
Hemmed in on all sides, it’s one of those areas that’s easy to get to and hard to get out of, once you’re there and sauntering through backstreets in search of the next place to slake your thirst or sate your appetite. Next time you’re wandering, I suggest you head straight to American-style bourbon bar, Jackson & Rye.
Sat on the corner of Wardour and Old Compton Street, Jackson & Rye is kind of like a time machine. A beautiful, curved wooden bar stacked high with dozens of bourbons and whiskeys greets you as you walk in, with besuited bartenders astutely preparing interesting cocktails from a refreshingly distinct menu. 'The Goldrush' (Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey, Lemon and Honey) is sweet, warming and way too easy to get through.
The place sells itself as a kind of New York style speakeasy, but the vibe is more mannered than that, almost like you’ve been transported to Louisiana in the 1920s, all smiles and politeness and the customer is always right. It’s welcoming, warm, the kind of place you want to sit in all day with a good book, refreshing your glass more than you probably should.
Though lunchtime or post-work drinking would be totally genial and - hell - encouraged at this bar, the food will keep you coming back. Their brunches are spectacular — Avocado Benedict, sweet and salty with perfectly poached eggs, is like nothing I’ve seen before.
If you really want that American feel, get Steak & Eggs, some corn grits on the side, a glass of Pomegranate, Orange & Pink Grapefruit juice, a coffee and a Bloody Mary - or if vodka ain’t your bag, a 'Red Snapper' (Tomato, Gin, Lime and J&R spices). Deadly.
Their evening menu is classy too — a good selection of steaks and lobster if you’re feeling indulgent, or if you want something more down-home, get the buttermilk fried chicken and slaw, and get some fries, and get some bone marrow and some slab bacon.
Get a beer too, unfiltered lager on tap, served in old-fashioned flagons that make you feel like a baron. Also, you’d be wise to get your phone out and have Shazam at the ready — the music selection is incredible, blasting out old country, alt-country, 60s rock and roll and swampy blues.
I think you should always feel looked after when you go out for a meal, that’s always been the joy of it. You want a menu that doesn’t intimidate you and staff who know what’s best. Jackson & Rye has this, and more, in abundance - and I sincerely hope it’ll be a fixture of Soho for years to come.
Go on, what are you doing for dinner tonight?
Jackson & Rye, 56 Wardour Street, London, W1D 4JG. 0207 437 8338