Taking a two hour train ride to Sheffield to dine inside a shipping container next to a bypass may sound like a hard sell, but having done exactly that last week, allow me to try…
Jöro is a labour of love from husband and wife duo Luke French (chef director) and Stacey Sherwood-French (managing director). If you have your finger on the pulse of the London food scene you might recognise French from his stint at Carousel, and he also appeared on the latest season of the Great British Menu, representing the North East and Yorkshire.
His food is an interesting proposition, partly inspired by the now-ubiquitous Nordic style, which you can find evidence of everywhere from the earthy minimalism of the dining room – which is surprisingly airy considering it was designed to be filled with motorbikes or mops or mangoes and float across the ocean – to the earthenware crockery, to the name of the restaurant, which means “earth”. But the dishes themselves are fascinating – small plates, of course – little puzzle-boxes of flavours and textures drawing inspiration from Asian as well as modern British cuisine.
Still… Sheffield, that’s a long way to go, right? Even if you were to eat at 6pm you’re not going to get back to St Pancras before 11pm… Well, there’s a solution for that. I visited with a small band of professional eaters and, after having a quick nosy around the restaurant itself, we left, never to return. A few hundred feet away, on the ground floor of an unassuming modern residential development, you can find Jöro’s chef’s table, where you can hire the services of French and co for you and up to seven friends.
Designed around a central table, the bijou space squeezes in a kitchen, lounge area and four en suite rooms (two with free-standing baths). To put the size in perspective, were you to leave all of the bedroom doors open, you would be able to see all four beds from the dining table. While certainly compact, there’s something incredibly decadent about knowing you only have to stagger half a dozen steps after dinner to collapse in your bed.
It also explains why, for the time being, the space is only available for booking by single groups – as Sherwood-French put it: “People were joking about it being a keys in a bowl type of thing…”
Each step of the evening is meticulously planned out. The Jöro ethos reminds me a little of Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume in the way the pair strive to bring everything in-house: they work with a vineyard to source their own branded wine, which has labels designed to look like French’s tattooed hands (it’s called F*ck 2020, for reasons that probably don’t need to be explained). They work with a local distiller to make their own gin. You can even buy branded chef tool kits and bottle openers from their online store. That would make the House of Jöro chef’s table the equivalent of Aulis, Rogan’s lauded development kitchen, and it’s not an unfair comparison.
The “experience” comes in five or eight course options with matched wine, and it’s as surprising and accomplished a meal as you’ll find anywhere in the country.
Highlights included an incredible Japanese cauliflower chawanmushi (literally “tea cup steam”) full of rich, warming umami flavours; a simple little dish of aged hamachi (also known as Japanese amberjack), a soft, fatty fish, served here with yuzu ponzu. As well as being a rare delicacy on these shores (it’s more popular in the US and Japan) this dish is absurdly pretty, with the translucent fish punctuated by spears of vivid pink and green.
Elsewhere there was a spelt and mushroom porridge with Vacche Rosse cheese, yeast and black truffle – another dish that goes heavy on the umami flavours that French clearly can’t get enough of. There was an interesting spin on scallops involving thai red sauce and puffed rice; something delicious with cauliflower, cheese and a mountain of white truffle. But the most memorable dish of the evening was an almost-savoury kombu (a type of kelp) ice cream topped with kombu caviar; a salty, subtly sweet dessert that I’m still thinking about a week later.
This is genuinely brilliant food enjoyed in the kind of intimate, relaxed environment it’s hard to replicate without having your bed a few feet away. After waking up the next morning to fresh coffee and pastries to take the edge off the wine flight, you can make it back to London before 11am, content that you’ve just eaten food cooked by one of the most impressive young chefs working today.
• The Chef’s Table Experience costs from £207.50pp. For more information or to book go to jörorestaurant.co.uk or
call 0114 299 1539