A former carpet factory turned workspace off Brick Lane describes itself as “the world’s most iconic space for entrepreneurs and creative businesses”. A heady claim, but this is Shoreditch. Inside, it’s like being in an episode of The Jetsons, with several airy floors of rolling curves, potted plants, and Perspex ‘meeting pods’. When following directions to the toilets, I promptly walk into a broom cupboard. The building is home to Jago, a recently-opened restaurant that seats diners in a long bright orange tube; a ‘conservatory’ overlooking the graffiti of Hanbury Street. From our warm table we watch the February rain fall all around us, ensconced in cosy orange light.
Jago bills itself as serving “southern European, Middle Eastern and Ashkenazi cuisine”. This rather perplexing mix translates to an assortment of small plates with the occasional nod to Jewish cuisine, or at least traditional Jewish ingredients. Two such dishes were saltfish with smoked aubergine, and pulled brisket with beetroot slaw. Both dishes were a delight, carefully balancing contrasting flavours. The roast cauliflower that followed, however, was a disappointment: the cauliflower was undercooked and the velvety sauce it was served with hit the tone texturally but was far too salty, with a strange taste of curry powder. The scallops were served two a plate on an onion purée and topped with thick shavings of black truffle – another success.
The larger plates followed. The pressed pork belly was a luscious, melting pile of fat served with braised heads of cabbage, but the real standout was the veal cheek goulash, a spicy stew topped with crème fraiche and a salsa verde.
Our shared pudding was unfortunately a disappointing coda to an otherwise excellent meal: frozen cheesecake with pistachio shortbread that was too frozen to eat. As for the drinks, there were some surprising selections, including an orange wine and artisanal vermouth. The server guided us through our choices in a knowledgeable but approachable way.
Starting at £6 per small plate, with expensive wine, dinner here isn’t a budget meal, and unfortunately feels directed at a corporate clientele. Given the history of the area, I wish such creative cuisine were less costly and featured more Jewish food. That said, the food at Jago is inventive and painstakingly prepared, and I’ve not seen chervil on a plate anywhere else in East London, so a restaurant of this calibre is a welcome and innovative addition to the Brick Lane area.
66–80 Hanbury Street, E1 5JL