This Michelin Magician is on Fire – Variety Jones Restaurant Review
After following Keelan Higgs career for the past 4 years, from restaurant partner in Locks to helping push the boundaries in The Green House & Luna, this chef has now come of age. For the past year, Keelan has been following his own path and creating truly memories dishes in Variety Jones on Thomas Street.
This small unassuming restaurant is easily passed by with no dramatic signage, just a simple face etched onto the door which acts as the symbol of the eatery. It is a long, narrow dining room ending with an open kitchen which provides the live entertainment for the night. The atmosphere is funky and relaxed with the most calm kitchen I have ever witnessed in all of the years running TheTaste.
Variety Jones operates on a tight crew of two in the Kitchen and two on the floor. Aaron Higgs, Keelan’s brother, works front of house. Sporting a Tom Selleck Moustache and a Hawaiian Shirt, he has all the charm to make everyone at ease. Readily explaining all the dishes whilst taking time to ensure guests are having a great experience.
Now some people might find the fact that there is no menu a little off putting but honestly sometimes it is amazing to sit back and enjoy the adventure rather than heading home disappointed with one of your own choices. The evening is divided into Snacks, Cold, Warm, Pasta, Family Style (for sharing) and After (one dessert and one cheese).
On being awarded a Star, Michelin had this to say about the food “Highly original, refined yet unfussy dishes burst with freshness and flavour, and many are cooked over the open fire; Keelan loves this concept, as it means no two dishes will ever be exactly the same” I remember thinking, wow Michelin are moving with the times, as one of the missions of most restaurants in the past, striving for a Star, would be to make sure every dish is exactly the same and delivered in a precise way. It is great to see Chefs being given more creative freedom.
Salty Crisps made for scooping the moreish mound of rich Cod’s Roe kicked off the snack spectacular. Followed by light bites of Potato Cake with cured Salmon and Creme Fraiche. Higgs own version of the Rueben was up next, Smoked brisket, rye, pickles and aged cheddar. Good Lord that brisket was glourious. A helping of Oysters with Vietnamese dressing and Cucumber ensured all taste buds were fully awake and engaged for this dining experience.
Foie gras & chicken liver parfait, fermented muscat grapes, pear & quince served with warm potato waffles. A symphonic accumulation of flavours erupts from the chicken liver parfait topped with fermented muscat grapes. Cubes of pear and quince adding a tropical tang to a classic. Warm Potato Waffles for dunking were devoured feverishly.
Salt baked celeriac in all of its uniquely sweet tasting glory is elevated insanely well with the addition of grilled cabbage, stout, lardo and aged cheddar mousse. A wonderfully comforting dish.
Creamy Pearl barley risotto, topped with soft egg, grilled onions and crispy shallots filled with droplets of house made Marmite. This in house creation is a concoction of all the veg that are left over at the end of the week. By the magic of the kitchen magician they are transformed into this delicious jus.
A very generous Venison Loin accompanied by sprout tops, pied de mouton, venison & lardo faggots and brown sauce is a sight to behold. Pert, pink rounds of this delectable meat are enjoyed with gusto. Sprout tops/flowers add a welcome balance of texture. The depth and intensity of flavour from this dish really is phenomenal.
Blood orange cake, preserved lemon curd, vanilla creme fraiche. A divine creation and also a reminder that really good cake is hard to find! Tart Lemon Curd and Blood Orange cutting the warm, buttery sponge with equilibrium restored by the trustee Creme Fraiche.
We were very impressed by the bottle of red recommended by Vanda on the night, Langhe Nebbiolo 2016, was a perfect match with the Venison, the wine was extremely elegant with a floral finish, similar to a Barolo with a robust structure, red cherry and hint of vanilla.
Keelan Higgs has become the Michelin Magician on Thomas Street, we salute him and his team for creating something very unique and we applaud Michelin for moving with the times and realising it is less about location, white linen cloths and all about the taste!
Review By: Keith Mahon