Andy Jones (owner) & Kieran Hope (head chef), Jones & Sons

Andy, the name of the restaurant, Jones & Sons, refers to you and your son, Jesse. How did you land on this name?

Andy: We couldn't think of anything else to call it! 

What ideas did you go through?

A: Arcola Street Kitchen, Mr Jones (one of more narcissistic ones)...so many names. Eventually I said: "I want to incorporate my little boy into it." But he's only three, so he's not likely to be serving tables anytime soon. However, when I was three, I was serving tables.

Really? Who was a fan of child labour?

A: My parents. They are hoteliers and I worked in their hotel in Wales, called The Four Oaks [Llandudno], from when I was little.

And did you stay in the hospitality business since you were a toddler?

A: No, my first job out of school was a professional footballer, I stopped that aged 22, then went to drama school and I was a working actor until about three months ago.

Have you been in anything we might recognise you in?

A: I did a lot of films - I was in Eastenders for a bit, I played Christians's ex-boyfriend. Then I took the general manager's job at the Cat And Mutton in 2007. Then, after a while, it became a natural step to want to do something different.

Your restaurant used to be the old Arcola Theatre - how did you stumble upon it?

A: It was me who found the building but it was pretty much derelict, there was no gas, water, electric, no floor really. There was five of us who built it in six weeks. 15 hour days every day. The guy who built it for us was an artist called Byron Pritchard, who is a crazy, amazing, talented guy. He had dreadlocks when he started the build and he got so stressed by the end, he had to shave his head.

Wow. How did you hook up with Kieran? 

A: Someone said to me "there's this guy, he's worked in a few places like Hix and Bistrotheque, he's 28 and is looking for a head chef's job". I got his details...

Kieran: And the rest is history.

Kieran - how did Andy pitch it to you?

K: He phoned me and said: "I've just opened a restaurant and fired my head chef. Why don't you come and cook for me?" Weirdly, our paths had never crossed before, despite working just down the road from each other for a few years.

What's your background in the kitchen?

K: I started off at Le Pont de la Tour with the head chef there Lee Bennett, who taught me a lot, I owe him a lot, he set me on the right track.

What was the most important thing you learned in Lee's kitchen?

K: Lee has been through all the best kitchens in London and Paris - he worked with Alain Ducasse and Gordon Ramsay for a few years being their sous chefs before becoming a head chef. He taught me grounding and work ethics, organising yourself and your section and being part of a team. I was early 20s at this point. Before that I'd only dabbled in the kitchen, working in my uncle's pub in Birmingham.

Where did your other London restaurant travels take you?

K: I got a job as a chef de partie in Bistrotheque, worked my way up, then I moved to the The Quality Chop House in Farringdon, then Hix but I didn't stay there that long as it felt I'd been a sous chef for too long and none of the kitchens there were a place I wanted to be head chef. I also missed working in East London - I missed the vibe which Bistrotheque had - it was a factory converted into a restaurant and they made a business out of it. I missed that so when I walked into this place, I thought "we could do something here." 

How do you create your menus together?

A: I have a structure that other people also have input in, but I always want to pitch it a few notches above a good gastro pub and a few notches down from fine dining. We've changed somewhat since we started, we were both quite green as I was a first time owner and he was a first time head chef. There was quite a lot of give and take between us. We write the menus seasonally and we change them every six or seven weeks and we come up with what we want to create that season then whittle it down. Like, I would ask: "Why are you going to put wild nettles with the pigeon?" and Kieran would say: "It's like an English hedgerow; nettles, pigeon, blackberries." We trial things, we order food in, cook it up and see what works. The duck we serve at the moment comes two ways, the confit leg with a medium rare half-sliced breast on top with an amazing rich cherry reduction on there too. 

K: We can't confit enough legs at the moment - it's really selling well.

What influences do you bring to the menu, Kieran?

K: It's only in the developmental stage at the moment, so I'm drawing on my experiences in Bistrotheque and Hix and also drawing on my own things, I always had a inkling of how to do things my way.

Sunday lunches seem to be a big part of your week, was that always your intention?

A: The Sunday lunch things is quite funny as when we opened, there was a guy that I won't name who runs a few places round here and he said: "Are you just doing brunches on Sunday?" and I said: "No, we're doing Sunday lunches" and he said: "It'll never work." I said: "Well, I used to do 250 lunches every Sunday in the Cat and Mutton, Kieran used to do about 300 in Bistrotheque, so at any given Sunday between us, we were doing about 500 or 600 lunches. I have an inkling that some people will follow us." We started doing Sunday lunches in September of last year. The Huffington Post came in and reviewed us pretty much by mistake, a girl from there was just walking past and came in to try it, then put us in their Top 10 Sunday roasts in London. 20 minutes after that went live, the phones started ringing. Every Sunday lunch has been busy since then. 

You mentioned that the Hawksmoor is a place that you look to for inspiration - do you see Jones & Sons popping up in other places?

A: The easiest way to lose a war is to start another battle. We've been open just a year, we're doing well. But my little brother takes care of another division. By fluke, we've started doing outside catering about 10 months ago.

What sort of events are you catering for?

A: Big summer parties, daily outside catering for fashion shoots and stills, music videos. You name it. 

Any crazy requests?

A: I had to personally cook scrambled eggs for someone, I can't say who for...

You have to!

A: OK, the initials are N and S. A singer. The eggs went OK actually, I think they liked them. But the outside catering was never in the business plan, I never pushed it, it's always been word of mouth. And it's now almost every day.

What would you say is the signature dish on the menu?

K: The sharing rib. It's one of those things that came about by accident. We put it on Valentine's Day and it went down so well. You get 600g of ribeye and it's chargrilled on the outside and pink of the middle, served with bearnaise and oxtail jus and you can choose the sides around it - chips, mac and cheese, runner beans, a herb salad.

A: When we put it down on the table, people always say "wow." It's such a good looking piece of meat. It will always be on the menu.

Where do you source your meat from?

K: The butchers steak and the ribeye we get from Well Street butchers - they order it especially for us from Hertfordshire. On a good day we'll get thorough about three whole ribeyes and eight kilos of onglet.

A: As I'm from North Wales I got a chance to give a nod back to that with our organic pork and lamb from a farm there.

You've now been open for almost a year, have you made any big changes on the menu in that time?

K: Well we took burgers off the menu, didn't we? We haven't really missed them. Well, I haven't missed them.

A: I've always been concerned about change because if things aren't going well, I don't want to take them off, so we decided to take burgers off the menu?

Was that because we seem to have reached peak burger in East London?

A: No, it was because I was really having an issue with East London trends. I still have an issue because I've been in Hackney for a long time and I'm a bit hackneyed in the tooth because when you go through the change in Broadway Market like I did, I just didn't want to do anything that had a trend. I didn't want a "cool" restaurant, I didn't want a "trendy" restaurant. Cool becomes uncool, trendy becomes so last season. All I wanted to do was have a restaurant that served good food that wasn't too expensive, that served really good wine and did cocktails. And I think we do that. 

What's your favourite dish on the menu at the moment?

A: Well, I've put on about a stone recently because I eat duck with lobster mac and cheese.

Decadent.

A: Yeah, it's mac and cheese cooked with a lobster bisque and with bits of lobster in it too.

Kieran - what's the one ingredient that you couldn't live without?

K: Maldon sea salt. I'm a big fan of it.

A: Yeah and I have to pay for it!

K: I just hate table salt. I hate the artificialness of it. I feel like my taste buds can taste the difference.

What, like a salt sommelier? 

K: Probably. I use so much of it when I'm cooking steaks as it almost adds a different texture. If you put it on before you start chargrilling it, it just creates this layer of charred, salty, smoky flavour that is amazing.

When you're not working do you like to go out and eat?

K: The last three restaurants I've been to are Hix in Lyme Regis, for my mum's birthday. The Typing Room for my girlfriend's birthday. I met the chef and we got a really good table - we were sat next to Bjork, actually - and it was really amazing seven-course wine pairing and tasting menu. It was almost faultless - I think the dessert wasn't very good, but everything else was amazing, it's one of the best meals I've had recently. I also went to Heston Blumenthal's Dinner, which was a bit overrated.

A: I don't go out that much, I'm a creature of habit. I live in Walthamstow so there are a couple of places that I like to go to, one is an Italian restaurant called called Mondragone and also there's Eat 17. 

You guys seem to have a real connection - what's the silliest row you've had?

A: Oh, the avocado on toast. Kieran decided he was just going to serve avocado on toast and not lift it. We had a fall out over that...

K: But I'd just come from Bistrotheque and that's how they did it there!

How did you lift it in the end?

A: With salt and pepper and rocket and love and sliced nicely, not mashed. 

Finally, what would you you choose for your meal on earth?

A: Beef Wellington.

K: Oysters and champagne.

 

www.jonesandsonsdalston.com