AnOther Dish: London Chef Jackson Boxer Talks Food

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Jackson Boxer
Jackson BoxerPhotography by Louis A. W. Sheridan

As he opens the doors to Henri, a Parisian-inspired bistro in Covent Garden, Jackson Boxer talks about his favourite restaurants, the best meal he’s ever had, and what people get wrong about chefs

Introducing AnOther Dish, a new series of recipes and interviews with chefs in London.

Jackson Boxer is a chef and prolific London-based restauranteur. As the mastermind behind beloved restaurants like Vauxhaull’s opulent Brunswick House and Notting Hill’s soothing seafood joint Orasay, Boxer has captivated audiences with his eclectic, reliably delicious dishes. He also cooks at Selfridges’ in-house restaurant The Corner and the Cotswolds hotel Cowley Manor, and, in 2021, opened Below Stone Nest, a candlelit dive bar in Soho, with his brother Frank. Boxer’s latest venture is Henri, a Parisian-inspired bistro on the ground floor of Covent Garden’s Henrietta Hotel. An homage to the city where he “learned to eat”, Henri serves garlicky grilled snails, canelés topped with trout roe, hearty roast duck, steak with cognac sauce, and much more. 

Below, Jackson Boxer talks about his favourite restaurants, the best meal he’s ever had, and what people get wrong about chefs. 

What’s the first meal you remember making? The first recipe I ever scrawled down – I was three or four, my mum still has it – was a strawberry, cut in half, with a lemon balm leaf sandwiched in the middle. I find it curious to think back to this small child, picking things and tasting them, coming up with something which I’d probably be pretty pleased with if I ate it today.

What’s the concept behind your new restaurant? Henri is an homage to Paris, through the prism of London, which is my city. Though I learned to cook in London, Paris was the city in which I learned to eat – a perfect combination of exceptional produce, small restaurants helmed by talented and imaginative young cooks, and a fundamental understanding of the centrality of good eating to the art of living well.

What’s your favourite thing about French food? French food is far too diverse and regional to consider as a monolith, however, my favourite thing about Parisian food, as I learned to appreciate it via [the writer] AJ Liebling, is the absolute imperative to find room for an additional meal in between your second lunch and first dinner. 

Top three favourite restaurants in London? Planque, Lyle’s and Quality Wines. 

Best and worst things about the London food scene? Best thing is that London is one of the most diverse cities on earth and has an incredibly broad array of things to eat in reflection of that. The worst thing is that it costs so much to live here. 

What’s a common misconception people have about chefs? Cooks are just like everyone else. The mistake is to imagine that any generalised conception about them would be accurate at all.

What do you do to feel inspired? I take a nap. I’m yet to encounter a problem or creative blockage which can’t be overcome by curling up somewhere comfortable and resting on it.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had? I’ve had many great meals, but the best I can remember was at age nine or ten, having spent a day hiking through the Scottish Highlands with my dad through bitter rain, eating buttered macaroni from an enamel mug.

What are your fridge staples? French butter, Hook & Son raw milk, greek yoghurt, my mum’s jam, marmalade.

What’s one thing you couldn’t do without? My family – everything else is negotiable.

Best book you’ve read recently? In no particular order: In the Suavity of the Rock by Greg Gerke, A Heart So White by Javier Marías, Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich von Kleist, Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig, and Trieste by Daša Drndić.

What are your favourite shops? My dad’s shop, Italo [a delicatessen in Vauxhall].

What qualities make for a good chef? Scrupulous organisation separates the talented cook from the successful chef.

What’s the greatest compliment you’ve ever received? I find compliments excruciating.

What would be your death row meal? I can’t imagine many things more likely to put me off my lunch than imminent death.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing? I don’t know. I feel very grateful to have this job. I spend my days hanging out with people I like and admire, playing with beautiful produce, and send out delicious things to be eaten with the sole intention of giving pleasure and spreading joy. There’s not much I can think of that I’d like to do more.

Henri is available to book now.