12 York Road, Battersea, London, SW11 3QA
020 7228 8519
Open Tuesday – Sunday 6-11pm
Nostalgia is a funny thing. Warm, beautiful but heavy with sadness too. Whether it’s an unexpected whiff of a childhood smell, the rediscovery of an old photograph – yellow with age, corners curling, the image grainy like your memories – or a song on the radio that recalls a summer holiday with an ex-lover, nostalgia is a tender, yet heartbreaking embrace.
Jack’s Place heaves with nostalgia. It’s walls drip with amber-golden photos of Jack himself, American politicians and Great British icons like Churchill and the Queen Mum, all sorts of memorabilia and the ties that Jack allegedly cut off previous diners.
Established in 1968 and run by Jack – an ex-boxer – and his family, ever since, this English-French restaurant is uncommonly good. My boyfriend Josh selected a prawn cocktail from the starters menu (which offered melon boats and egg mayonnaise – an old school culinary paradise!) and was amazed by the size of his plate – huge! – whilst I was struck that it tasted just like every prawn cocktail I have eaten on Christmas Day throughout my 80s childhood and that even the flowery cutlery was exactly the same as at home!
From the homely placemats and crockery, honest cooking and simple menu to the generous and graceful service, eating at Jack’s in so many ways felt like going to your favourite relatives house for Sunday lunch.
For mains, Josh opted for a filet mignon and I ordered a entrecote au poivre. They arrived on giant platters with proper chips and tender fried mushrooms, smothered in creamy sauce. Jeans loosened we tucked in. My steak was melt in the mouth and rose red, the side plate of vegetables was stacked high with piles of cauliflower cheese, carrot batons and petis pois – cooked exactly as my mum used to.
Though I was struggling to breath and it looked as if Josh was getting a dangerous meat-sweat on, resistance to pudding proved futile. A creme caramel for him and an utterly stonking, light and juicy slice of banoffee pie for me. Somehow, somehow we managed to polish off another plate of food. By now I was having difficulty seeing straight.
For such a decent meal – including a bottle of good house wine – we were charged less than £60 but left a very generous tip. I could tell Josh loved it. I knew that the man loves his steak and he likes his portions hefty. But he also really loved the lack of pretension, and I think it would be reasonable to say, that in the same way he’s support the sporting underdog, he felt a fondness for a place that was down but not-out.
Like the boxer who may be tired but has more fight in him, Jack’s place has a faded glamour but it’s old fashioned in a really good way. The menu is simple, shamelessly traditional and the cooking wholesome and tasty. I urge you to go. To take your friends. And wear loose-fitting clothing.