British food has traditionally been a point of ridicule from the rest of the world. Along with our inevitably terrible teeth, we Brits sadly lack the necessary flair required to make pastry light and flaky; the innovation to do anything other than boil our meat; the wit to pair ingredients other than potato with ‘beige’.
Mercifully, thanks to chefs (and orthodontists) times and perceptions are changing – and nobody can fail to be converted to the joys of British fare by Jackson Boxer of Brunswick House. Jackson comes from a famed line of foodies. His grandmother is culinary legend Arabella Boxer, his father Charlie owns popular deli Italo, while his brother is the Frank, owner of Peckham’s favourite rooftop bar – but Brunswick House more than matches the reputations that precede it.
I arrive at Club Monaco’s quietly elegant store on Henrietta Street, ready to listen to Boxer discuss his inspirations and Brunswick House with Elle UK’s food editor Laura Jackson. Upon arrival, I make a beeline for the back of the store, where they are serving gloriously scarlet Negronis. It feels incongruous to be sipping on cocktails in a clothing store, eyeing the pub over the road, but it’s a great recipe for loosening tongues and starting conversations with the other attendees. Mindful of the racks of spotless clothing, I keep my negroni close to my chest (well, maybe it’s not just for the sake of the clothing). The negroni, Jackson tells us later, was his first ever cocktail – although he won’t tell us the circumstances under which he tried it, nor his age at the time – and it remains a firm favourite of the Boxer clan.
Once the first round of drinks is finished, it’s time to descend to the lower level of the store for the interview. Jackson and Laura are a fantastic duo. She is witty and warm, and makes sure the conversation stays on track, which is important because Jackson is expressive, loquacious, giving every answer with openness and enthusiasm.
Laura starts by asking Jackson about his beginnings as a chef, and what drew him to open a restaurant in Vauxhall – while it’s far from remote, it’s not the most central location. “I grew up around the corner from it,” Jackson reveals, and it was a sort of “Havisham house” that made a firm impression on his mind. After studying English at Cambridge, he came to work under Margot Henderson, of Rochelle Canteen – Margot already a friend by way of Jackson babysitting her children. There, he reminisced, he began to realise a dream he’d only dabbled with previously, and began his training as a chef. He finally full circle several years ago, making a return to his roots when the beautiful house from his childhood was opened as his restaurant.
“The most delicious part of every meal should be the person you’re eating with.” This might sound strange coming from a head chef, where the priority should presumably be the food, but Jackson is absolutely right. Your companions can make or break a meal, conversation is key, and Jackson knows the truth of this. This is one of the many reasons he delights in Brunswick House: “we’re not very cool”, he says happily, “we don’t really appear on blogs”. He attributes this to the lighting – interestingly, the restaurant only rents the floor space; the ceiling is the landlord’s domain and is at the mercy of their whim-, it’s unflattering, and doesn’t make for good Instagram photos. This means simply presented “un-photogenic” food, made from “quality produce”, complex flavours, and conversation unhindered by social media. This is the sort of dining that Jackson loves, “old fashioned” with diners “getting sloshed”, and enthusiastic conversations with gesticulating, “spilling wine all over the tablecloth”. His aim is not to have a “tick box” on a list of ‘must eat’ places, but a sanctuary that diners will keep on coming back to.
At the conclusion of the interview, beautifully presented platters are brought out for us. A trio of tasters, comprised of rare roast topside of beef with horseradish cream, served in a watercress bun; tartlets of cheddar fonduta and Pound Farm mustard greens (his mother’s farm); and Pound Farm honey, figs, and cured pigs, topped with spiced walnuts, all perfectly formed to give us a mouthwatering mouthful of Brunswick House’s offerings.
At the end of it all though, it’s clear that the delicious fare is a secondary concern for Jackson, as he scoops up his daughter, kisses his partner, and dives enthusiastically back into conversation.
29 Henrietta St, London WC2E 8NA
30 Wandsworth Road, Vauxhall
London, SW8 2LG
Words by Camille Davies