First of all – the name. It’s got nothing to do with your favourite whiny Friends character (Jaaaaniiice) and it’s not a speakeasy. It’s actually a Beastie Boys album track, which pretty much sums up Ask for Janice. Cooler than you or I will ever be.
They mean serious business with their gin selection. I easily counted 35 varieties on the menu – a dangerous prospect on a Monday night but one I plan on taking full advantage of another time. I compromised with a potent double measure of Bathtub whilst A. quaffed Opihr and Fevertree with the unwavering stare of a semi-functioning alcoholic.
I’m here for the food, cos that’s what I do, and although they make the right noises on paper the reality is slightly more of a mixed bag. A round of crispy wild garlic flowers, tempura-light batter and hand foraged, went down very nicely. Stout salt squid on the other hand was halfway towards being scattered on a favourite park by a loved one, such was the cremation. A rogue slice of orange on the side was much needed moist-inducer.
Other dishes divided opinion. I thought the duck egg with chickweed and ‘sardine butter’ looked and tasted pretty good, but A felt ambushed by what were fairly large but unadvertised chunks of fish.
We also pondered over the dahl dish, or to be precise ‘Yorkshire black badger bean dahl’ (nothing in London can just be normal, can it?) There was an unusual flavour combination buried in the gravy that we couldn’t quite come to terms with, something citrusy that tasted a bit out of place. Not that it stopped us mopping it up with tasty flatbreads.
The chorizo, sherry and sourdough was one we definitely could agree on. Fat juicy slabs of chorizo were cooked in a sharp tomatoey sauce and had absorbed a cheeky punch from the sherry. Elaborate tactics to distract the other and shovel as much sausage into our mouths as possible were quickly adopted.
Desserts are written on the side of a paper bag like something out of Nathan Barley. I was excited by the idea of an avocado and chocolate mousse but it just didn’t work. I do sympathise with the temptation to think that avocado goes well with literally everything. It doesn’t.
Ask for Janice is a belter of a boozer, and if you happen to take on a few snacks whilst you’re there it should fill the spot. I do feel they’re pushing a bit too hard on the rustic / artisan / heritage / organic / treehugger vibes. Perhaps we hadn’t downed the optimum level of gin. The best thing for it is to grab some garlic flowers, order five chorizos each, and get out of your crazy Intergalactic mind on the finest botanicals in Clerkenwell.
50-52 Long Lane, Clerkenwell, EC1A 9EJ