Review: Jay Rayner at French and Grace

By Miss South

There was a bit of an Easter treat yesterday when French and Grace in Granville Arcade (aka Brixton Village) teamed with local famous foodie Jay Rayner to offer a lunch special of pork belly and white beans. Those who read Jay’s restaurant reviews will know he’s a huge fan of all forms of pork, but particularly belly, so the pressure was on to see if he could walk the walk and cook this cut well.

We weren’t the only ones keen to find out. We arrived just after they opened up at 11.30am and all the tables were already taken. We queued for about 20 minutes, but this gave us a chance to eyeball the pork dish on other customers’ plates. It looked soft and yielding so the fat melted gently, but still stickily crispy and caramelised round the edges. We were glad we’d waited.

Sitting down, we ordered one plate of pork belly and one uber-mezze (we added both the lamb and halloumi for extra cost) and a couple of mint teas and then watched our chef for the day cooking. We were close enough to feel the oil spitting slightly as the meat hit the hot pan and the sounds and smells of it cooking whetted our appetite nicely.

Our mezze arrived swiftly. It was a hefty portion of butterbean hummus, labneh, beetroot salad, garlicky butternut squash and chickpea salad topped with ground lamb and chargrilled halloumi with flatbread on the side. Tasty with a great selection of textures, we tucked with gusto and enjoyed it hugely. But we’d come for the pork belly and we couldn’t wait to get stuck in when it arrived…

And it was good. Really good. Just the right amount of wobbly pork fat to soft sticky meat and crispy edges, dribbling tasty meaty juices into melting creamy cannellini beans. We ate it all with a spoon as the meat was soft enough to flake apart and we didn’t want to miss a drop of it all, wiping up the leftovers with some flatbread. This was a simple dish, cooked well and using great meat. I didn’t get a chance to ask what butcher it came from, but if it was from the Brixton area then I can’t wait to shop there.

Both plates of food were great. I’d go back for either if Jay hasn’t put himself off cooking for the crowds. At £8.50 for both generous plates, I struggled to get my well-filled belly out from behind the bench with any semblence of dignity afterwards. That’s my kind of celebrity cooking!

Miss South blogs at North South Food