Before we even get started, I have to properly disclaim myself. In my humble opinion, anything British is generally cool. Other cultures have a handful of elements that are cool, but Britain delivers cool on all levels. Just to ring off a few examples, there’s the Mini Cooper, Dr. Who, Top Gear, Beatles, Top Shop, and of course the Royal Family.
Luckily I’m writing about food, one area of British culture that sadly doesn’t reflect upon its national coolness. While the island empire has had a rich history in many art forms, its culinary arts pale in comparison to the French, Spanish and Italian. When’s the last time you heard someone going for some “British”?
More disclosure. Although I spent 3 years of my childhood in London, my memories of food is limited to fish and chips. Greasy, deep fried goodness served in newsprint, doused with vinegar. Apparently they lost to the French here as well. Try to explain what “Fish and Chips” are, and you’ll likely resort to “It’s like French fries”.
So hitherto we’ve concluded that British food lacks excitement. Review over. Except that’d be wrong, because Jones Wood Foundry was spectacular.
Combining the greatest hits of British cuisine, a full bar with great beer choices, and an overload of decor Britannia, Jones Wood Foundry is a bit of London in the Upper East Side. From the street level it looks like just another poorly located pub, but it’s actually much more than that. Past the full bar, you descend into a garden, followed by a full dining room.
We started the meal the only way possible, with a proper pint of British ale. There’s a great selection of beers, including classic cask fermented beers drawn out with a old fashioned hand crank.
For appetizers we went with chilled soups, great for a summer’s day. There’re a handful of soups that rotate on the menu, including, gasp…. a French onion soup. Such heresy.
For mains, I was especially fond of the Scottish Salmon burger. Along with the calamari burger at Dressler, this is the best non-beef sandwich I’ve tasted. The use of peppers and cilantro really adds a South East Asian kick into a unique preparation of the Scottish cured salmon.
For a solidly British dish, we had to get the Fish and Chips. The plate was served neat and tidy, no messy newsprint here. Instead you get a chopping block. If you strip away the breading, the cod is masterfully cooked to a moist, flaky consistency. Fish and Chips don’t get much finer than this.
Then of course, a properly British meal must include a savory pie. While there’s a kidney pie on the menu, we went for the more traditional cottage pie, which is similar to a Shepard’s pie, but with strips of steak instead of minced meat. I loved the creamy texture of the mashed potatoes, but found the meat slightly under seasoned. Luckily like most pub food, there’s salt and pepper on the table to adjust for my heavier tastes.
I normally wouldn’t order a hamburger at a non-American restaurant, but when I saw that the Jones Wood Foundry burger featured DeBragga’s dry aged beef, it became a must. If you’ve never had a dry-aged burger, this is a complete revelation. Delicious.
For dessert, another classically British selection. Strawberries and cream. Simple and refreshing.
Jones Wood Foundry surprised me quite a lot. Past its unassuming exterior was a meticulously decorated British gastro-pub. The food, expertly prepared, redefined British food compared to how I remember it as a child. It’s not a French tasting menu, but it’s unique and endearing. Apparently British food’s pretty cool too.
What does this rating mean?
From the notebook: I tried to write the review in the style of Jeremy Clarkson and James May, two British writers and TV presenters I respect immensely. The restaurant was decorated by the chef/owner couple with British antique pieces throughout, including the infamous “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster. The first trip was compliments of the restaurant, though it did not impact my opinion nor was I required to write. I subsequently came for a second meal, on my own dime.
Jones Wood Foundry
401 E 76th St
New York, NY 10021