Comedian and food fiend Jessica Fostekew puts her mouth where others fear to tread. A celebration of eating: from posh nosh to kebab shops to stuff that’s been on the floor. This week, Jess sees past the window graffiti to the great grub.
Farringdon is where a lot of London’s most fashion-conscious people work in advertising and PR, the shallowest, most monied wing of hipsters. Their staff are often, conversely, the minimum-wage wing of Kent and Essex’s young salespeople. It’s also the home of Smithfields, the largest wholesale meat market in the UK and the Barbican, one of the biggest, most incredible and culturally significant art centres in the UK. And a big hospital. And lots of radio stations. In other words, many worlds collide there. Eating-wise it’s full of hidden gems but company-wise, one ought to be cautious.
From this outside, Ask For Janice seems solely aimed at tools. It has a giant window graffitied with ‘this is a bar’. It might as well say ‘WE THINK WE’RE WITTY.’ Actually, if it had said that I’d have loved it. And, by the time I left, I did anyway.
On first sight I considered the window horrific but once I got to know it, it became a quirky imperfection which only made me love it more. Like how my boyfriend feels about me now when I pick my nose compared to the first time he caught me. I assume.
It’s like a tasteful canteen inside, bright and delightfully spacious. The staff are super-casual and chatty. I was served by a lady who was funny and warm. Though at one point she said, “I was just hugging the chef,” for which I did have to hold back a small kick. That comment aside, she was clearly really passionate about the menu and the place.
I wasn’t the only badly-dressed person there. It seemed the other people in there had come from all quarters of Farringdon. There were bespectacled suits, tracksuits, all sorts. I liked how much room there was and how little judgement. There was fast WiFi and plug sockets aplenty.
And the menu. Oh, the menu. There was hardly anything on it that I wasn’t keen to try. A page-long selection of smallish plates which you pick and choose a selection of. They ranged from £3–£14. Stout salt squid had me hearing angels sing. Chorizo, sherry and sourdough also had my lip bitten. Even their takes on Kievs and burgers sounded sexy.
“I’d never imagined that pairing and then you find it and realise ‘of course’, it was meant to be. Just like when I first learned that David Mitchell and Victoria Coren were a thing.”
I ordered a lemonade to see me through the faff and dribble of the speedy-hearted choosing. It came with a huge hulk of lemon in it for me to squeeze. Dreamy on a balmy spring evening. Finally, I whittled it down to three things which came, as I requested, together.
I had ‘pork crackling with rhubarb sauce’. Cripes. It was everything good. Chilled, the pieces crunched and crackled then dissolved. It was the sauce that made them: the rhubarb puree was ice cold, sweet, sour and so tart and fruity. An incredible flavour-concentrate that cut through that shards of delicious actual fat. It tasted so intense it almost fizzed.
I also had ‘deep fried green onions and yogurt curry.’ These were stunning. What a fun idea. Tempura spring onions hold their own much better than you’d expect. Then the yogurt. A glowing yellow dollop of sheer Indian-spice-force tempered by its cooling base. I’d never had these flavours and textures together before and it was fireworks. The heat with the cool but also the big onion really dancing well with the garam masala curry flavours. These were my bestest I think; I struggled not to wolf them all one after another. I’d never imagined that pairing and then you find it and realise ‘of course’, it was meant to be. Just like when I first learned that David Mitchell and Victoria Coren were a thing.
Last up, I tried the ‘braised beef croquets with mustard.’ Is there anything more seductive than a croquet? Mash that’s met meat and rolled around in crumbs and got a French name? Yes please. Always.
These were packed to the brim with just meat. Juicy, lean shredded beef. Chewy, rich protein capsules next to two big pools of potent mustard. It was all very Germanic. Strong, sating and elating.
This all came in at £15, which isn’t ridiculous for the area. It was like tapas for fans of very extreme flavour. So, for me then.
It was all so rich and intense, I wouldn’t have wanted any more of any of it. It would be an excellent place to go sharing with someone. For sole hooverers they might be better offering a few more smaller, cheaper options. I loved the clout and originality of each plate, though.
Ask For Janice, 50–52 Long Lane, London, EC1A 9EJ
Tel: 0207 600 2255
Opening Hours: Mon – Fri 7am – 12.30am, Sat 9am – 5pm, Sun closed
Accessible: Yes to the main space (bar and restaurant all on one level) but no accessible toilet, they’re all down a flight of stairs.
Jessica Fostekew is a writer, comedian, actor, law degree-waster, sister, daughter and beard-fan with an unabashed food infatuation.