Jamie Oliver: Lovely ‘Grub’ at Union Jacks in Chiswick

Grub new 674 x 280

Sunday lunch at Jamie Oliver’s Union Jacks restaurant in Chiswick is lovely… except for what appears to be a cooked grub in one of the roast potatoes. We just hope the poor thing enjoyed a fulfilling free-range lifestyle before Ray ate him.

With wide sweeping windows overlooking the Chiswick High Road and a great flaming wood fired pizza oven, Union Jacks offers a modern retro setting and menu boasting a range of traditional local fare. The mission statement promises to bring “back nostalgic British classics using the best artisanal ingredients” and the whole emphasis is on high quality from reputable suppliers.

In this vein the drinks available are especially exciting; the spirit of long gone 1950s Summers neatly captured by “dandelion and burdock”, “damson gin fizz” and “cloudy lemonade”.  Even the draft lager is from Chapel Down a small award winning vineyard and brewery in Kent.

The Sunday after Christmas is quiet. The post-holiday atmosphere is tangible in the streets and save the ubiquitous pram pushing Chiswick parents and dog walkers there aren’t many people about, even on the High Road. It’s 5pm and Union Jacks has barely a smattering of customers making the roaring pizza oven on the ground floor almost seem an unnecessary waste.  But it is a nice place to sit, even if Ray is determined to complain about the “children’s chairs”, fixed red pillar behind his head and how the on/off switch on the table lamps had been disabled.

Union Jacks Chiswick 674 x 280

Burgers and fish and chips are duly contemplated, pizzas are discussed, but in the end there is no contest, it has to be the Sunday roast. Beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, carrots, cabbage… and loads of gravy. It comes quickly and makes an impressive entrance. The meat is medium rare, the Yorkshires homemade, the vegetables nicely done – there is disagreement on whether there is too much salt in the gravy – but it’s only a minor thing.

Then a potato is cut open, half consumed… and examined in a bit more detail. There is a dark discoloured patch, but this doesn’t appear to be just potato there is something else in there: “That’s a grub!” says Ray with finality. “Some Americans would freak out over that. It would ruin their lives. They would sue for millions.”

The waitress comes over to clear away our plates: “How was your meal?” Ray points to the grub and the girl scuttles away apologetically: “I’ll get the manager.”

Not long later the manager arrives. “Sorry, it was a bit of discolouration inside the potato,” he says “there isn’t much our chefs can do; they might be preparing 60 or 70 roasts in a day.”

This is a fair point, but so is Ray’s: “I ate half of it… do you have it there?”

The offending potato has been decanted onto a small white saucer. Removed from the big gravy soaked plate it now resembles a specimen.

Ray, jabs it with a finger: “That’s a grub. See it’s hard. That’s not discolouration.”

The manager is a fantastic PR man. His expression remains resolutely non-committal as the potato is forcefully prodded before his face.

Ray: “What are you going to do about it?”

The manager who up until this point has made no hint at reparations quickly asserts it will be taken off the bill. This is brought rapidly with the offending line item removed.

Ray: “I heard a rumour that Union Jacks was shutting down?”  The PR-man manager is quick to squash any rumours.  Apparently this arose from a mis-transcribed chat with a nefarious journalist. In low-news December, misinformation spread like wildfire through the press.

As he warms to his theme, the manager becomes keen to share his point of view and explains some of the difficulties of running Union Jacks. Everything is on display (plate collection for example), this means these areas have to be far cleaner than usual, providing a surprise benefit to customers.

The bespoke environment, of course, has its detractions: “why the children’s chairs?” asks Ray “or the fireman’s pole?” adds the manager, referring to the odd fixed pillar before Ray even gets a chance. As the pair of them finished their debate on the quirkiness of the place it’s clear that, for all its faults, the décor is actually rather fun.

In fact, Union Jacks, Chiswick is a pretty nice place for Sunday lunch. The menu is well thought out, the drinks are superb and whilst the potatoes may not always be suitable for vegetarians… it certainly brings a new meaning to the phrase “lovely grub”.



  1. Hiya Kathryn & Nick
    I love the narrative & song! Hope that 2014 is an extremely successful year for both of you & the song-bird Stella!

Speak Your Mind