Jackson Boxer has had a busy decade. The chef and restaurateur (part of a food dynasty including beloved cookbook author, his grandmother, Arabella Boxer), opened his first restaurant at Brunswick House in Vauxhall aged only 23. A few years later, he had a further three restaurants under his belt: Mayfair members’ joint Chess Club, American comfort food pop-up, Rita’s, and St Leonard’s, which opened last year to great acclaim. Still, he wasn’t satisfied.
Now 34, in March he launched his latest project, Orasay. ‘The thing I love most of all is having a kitchen in which to cook,’ explains Boxer. ‘I love having all these different places, and I enjoy flitting around London and dropping in on my various kitchens. But I prefer the routine of coming in every day. The purpose of Orasay is to give me that structure again.’
The restaurant’s preamble is straight forward: ‘Simple food I like cooking and I like eating,’ says Boxer. It’s named after a tiny island in the Outer Hebrides the chef has visited every summer since childhood. ‘The produce there is absolutely incredible,’ he explains. ‘Every meal you eat is an absolute feast. Orasay is my tribute to the amazing quality of produce available to us in the UK. As a nation we undervalue our natural resources, and we still don’t understand the diversity of our marine life.’
Orasay’s menu, which changes on a daily basis depending on what the seas offer up, is set to challenge that. There’ll be plump scallops and sea lettuce from the Hebrides or, if the weather makes the islands inaccessible, as it sometimes does, fresh Cornish crab and bountiful seafood from the South Coast. Other produce, like the elderflower used in the champagne vinegar that douses the oysters, comes from Boxer’s own Sussex farm. It’s a celebration of British produce, as well as the back-to-basics cooking style that Boxer and his fellow chef and Orasay co-founder, Andrew Clarke, have made their signature.
The fish and seafood comes up fresh from the coast every morning, making Orasay its best at lunch. ‘It’s my favourite meal of the day,’ says Boxer. ‘I love a long lunch, with as many little courses as possible, dragged out throughout the afternoon.’
Boxer wants us to leave feeling life is better than when we arrived. ‘I express my affection for the people I love by cooking for them,’ he says. ‘If I bring them pleasure, a sense of warmth and excitement, and a delight in being alive, that’s a wonderful thing. That’s the highest aspiration for a restaurant.’
31 Kensington Park Road, W11 2EU, orasay.london
If you can’t make it down, bring a taste of Orasay to your desk with this one-box lunch recipe…
Smoked mackerel with a soft boiled egg, broad beans and fennel
1 egg at fridge temperature,
1 whole fillet of smoked mackerel
a handful of shelled broad beans
2 to 3 tbsp sour cream or crème fraîche
juice of half a lemon
zest of one lemon
Boil an egg for six-and-a-half minutes, then plunge it in iced water and peel. Take the skin off the mackerel, then break into rough chunks. Blanche the broad beans, put in iced water, and remove from their skins. Quarter, core, and shave the fennel. Slice the egg in half. Gently mix the fennel, broad beans and mackerel, so the mackerel doesn’t fall apart. Squeeze in the lemon juice and zest, pour in a glug of olive oil, and add flaked sea salt. Pile on top of a dollop of sour cream, balance the egg on top, and enjoy.