I’m such an elitist, stuck-up swine that I have to say I’m irked that Union Jacks, Jamie Oliver’s Winchester restaurant, is actually pretty good. I’ve always thought of Jamie Oliver as a bit of a comic Mockney for yummy mummies to drool over, but Union Jacks shows the man knows how to design a good menu and dining experience. Damn!
The restaurant serves ‘flat bread’ pizzas and, whilst they are not crowning glories of the pizza world, they are properly good. The rest of the food is very good, and the environment is quite fun. It is easily good enough to make me want to return on multiple occasions. Damn and blast!
We thought it seemed a pretty jolly dining environment when we arrived, with a huge wood-fired oven for the pizzas and a massive store of cheese in the corner of the room. As we would discover, they need a large amount of cheese on hand.
Out of about seven starters on the menu five tickled my fancy – a good hit rate. The pizzas seemed pretty attractive too, all taking their cheese allocation extremely seriously with lots of good varieties being used. I was half asleep when I walked into Union Jacks, but reading the menu really excited me.
My first course was pretty damned good. A wood-grilled sausage and bacon larded up with loads of really tasty wholegrain mustard. The sausage was good, really good in fact if not perhaps up to the throbbing pleasure delivery-levels of the best Hampshire sausage. I loved the bacon and it all went really well with the mustard. Scrummy!
Now Editor Dani’s starter was the cat’s freaking arse – undoubtedly the best prawn cocktail we have ever tried. It came in a little jar allowing one to shake it up, which was quite fun. The prawns were totally brilliant, not soggy, not briny but really fresh and tasty with a great texture. Hardly anybody uses prawns this good in a prawn cocktail in the real world. The dressing had a hint of chilli heat to it and Dani said he even liked the green bits, but I wouldn’t know about them. The prawns and dressing were epic elephant; this was a great starter.
Then came the pizzas. The cheese allotment on Dani’s was truly epic, a stunning amount of lovely Lincolnshire Poacher. He’d pimped it with shoulder of pork along with oxtail and brisket making the whole thing a decadent delight. OK, there was so much cheese on it that the base was slightly soggy, but I don’t give two hoots about that as I love Lincolnshire Poacher and it was especially yummy where it had got a bit caramelised.
My pizza was a Red Ox, with more of the oxtail and brisket braised in Worcestershire sauce, plenty of Sparkenhoe Red Leicester, watercress and fresh horseradish grated over it. When it was served the smell of beef and fresh horseradish was a real treat. Every time I bit into one of the large agglomerations of beef on it I felt really happy. The pizzas were pre-cut into slices so you could pick them up and cram them in your mouth.
Drinks were fun too. I enjoyed my spicy, home-made pink cola, and Dani had some reasonably drinkable pear cider. Beer, cocktails and unmentionable wine were also on offer. The drinks list was just fine.
The pizzas may not have been up to the coruscating standard of Santa Maria, but they were more than good enough. Yet another good place to eat in Winchester; how fortunate we were to move here six months (and one day) ago!
There are branches in London so harassed, damaged people can enjoy these frolicsome bites without having to go somewhere nice (like Winchester).