The New Espresso

Joe & The Juice was started ten years ago by Kasper Basse in Denmark. It’s a modern bright funky place, which by attracting droves of young Danes, has now successfully grown to over twenty stores just in Denmark, with three opening in Hamburg shortly, one due in Stockholm, and now four open in London. Nellie Nichols paid a call.

Joe & the Juice

Joe & the Juice in Kings Road

I only believe in having one New Year’s resolution for the simple reason that you’re more likely to try and achieve it.

This year mine was to try and give up sugar. It goes without saying that there is a considerable amount of medical evidence from studies undertaken in Italy, Sweden, Korea and America, to name but a few, to suggest there is a direct link between sugar and many different cancers.

It’s a fact that cancer loves sugar. But sugar feeds all of the cells in our bodies therefore it can’t be all bad, so the relevance is the amount and type of sugar that we consume. Refined sugar as we well know is worse for you than natural sugar found in fruit and vegetables.

I’ve never had a particularly sweet tooth to be honest. I can happily live without chocolate, sweets, biscuits and cakes. I’ve always struggled with giving up the two teaspoons of sugar in my first coffee of the day though, but having recently discovered Stevia, which is naturally extracted from plants and doesn’t taste disgusting, I’ve managed to overcome that completely now.

So that now leaves fruit juice as my sugar pleasure, which I have always loved. Juices on the market have become more and more innovative over the past few years and it’s part of my Saturday shop to pop into M&S and get what I consider to be the best manufactured juice money can buy.

Their Clementine and Satsuma juices are totally delicious and far superior to the ones made from concentrate or with added sugar.

Growing up I considered anything made from fresh fruit was good for me including juice. While fruit is indeed very good for you – full of fibre and micro nutrients – when the sugar in fruit is concentrated in juice, the sugar levels can become surprisingly high and potentially unhealthy.

Many of us tend to ascribe a certain sanctity to fruit juice. I was very surprised when my son (uber healthy and one of the Oxford weightlifting team) suggested I should be more aware of the amount of sugar I was consuming in juice.

But I consider there are enough problems with what we eat without having to worry about drinking fresh juice surely. Some juices are high in sugar and the fact that it comes from fruit doesn’t necessarily make it better for you. Fresh fruit contains the fibre that slows down the absorption of sugar and juicing removes that. But when all is said and done let’s remember – everything in moderation is unlikely to give any of us much of an issue.

Long ago I have to confess I chucked out my juicing machine. All the good intentions in the world of choosing my daily combination from a delicious fruit bowl brimming over with ripening mangoes, pineapples, passion fruit and god knows what else had taken my fancy in Waitrose the previous weekend, couldn’t make up for the subsequent painful disassembly and washing up of all the different parts of the juicer and the consequential appalling rush of a weekday morning involving getting ready, walking the dogs and running to the tube.

So it’s M & S’s in the fridge and the occasional off piste product that takes my fancy. At the moment I’m quite liking the Waitrose Orange, Carrot and Ginger as I believe if I choose one with less than 100% fruit it’s better for me. Of course I do pop into the odd juice bar around London if I like the look of it and such a casual passing took me recently into Joe & The Juice in Regents Street.

Joe & The Juice was started ten years ago by a Kasper Basse in Denmark. A modern bright funky place which by attracting droves of young Danes has now successfully grown to over twenty stores just in Denmark, with three opening in Hamburg shortly, one due in Stockholm, and now four in London.

Very attractive juice makers wearing ripped jeans flip and toss fruit in the air in a captivating and theatrical display to put together recipes in juice extracting machines that never cease to endlessly whizz and buzz on the bar.

Many of these lovely chaps also have Joe & The Juice tattoos down their arms showing remarkable allegiance to the brand.

Loud techno music beats repeatedly in the background and there is an undoubtedly fast-paced energy in the place. When I visit their Regents Street store in London, I am reminded of Tom Cruise flipping and catching glasses and cocktail shakers in the not very mentally taxing film Cocktail, but the overall feel and look of the place is one of a university common room – with low black sofas and cushions on the floor.

When I visit the newest store in the Kings Road it has a very different far more grown up feel. This is the new slightly more muted UK template. As I walk in I feel I am entering a rather exclusive Danish boutique hotel in Copenhagen.

Fantastic modern cream lampshades hang from the ceiling and muted raspberry pink tiles cover the walls at the back of the store in the juicing area, inlaid with the Joe & The Juice logo.

Juice Bar

Juice Bar

Comfortable modern seating fills the front of the store encouraging passers by to come in but, to be honest, it’s very unclear what one is entering for. There is a lack of messaging and branding to inform me of the product and it would only be when one has walked all the way to the back of the store and is opposite the juice bar itself that the menu becomes visible to explain this is a juice, coffee and sandwich bar and what is on offer.

I meet the very hospitable Morten Basse, Kasper’s cousin who is looking after the UK operation, along with his dynamic Danish right-hand man Rasmus (wearing the infamous ripped jeans).

I ask Morten if he doesn’t think opening juice bars in London in our miserable and totally unreliable climate with only a couple of decent months weather in the summer if we’re lucky, and in a recession, isn’t a bit of a risk. He doesn’t think so.

He and Kasper have built a very successful brand in Denmark which has achieved a cult following based on a healthy diet and fresh juices packed with vitamins and minerals.

They believe the life of a fresh juice is only twenty minutes after which the nutrients within the fresh ingredients are lost. They have shied away from any juice name that depict beach holidays in sunny locations and instead plumped for names which conjure up health and well being: The Iron Man, Stress Down and Strong Bones. Obviously it would be fairly difficult to gauge if any of these achieve the expected results.

Morten feels he can continue brand-building in London, opening only in prime locations and eventually moving on to the States: Miami, New York and LA. I don’t think it’s impossible with good coffee and a very good food offering to support the high rents he is choosing to pay in locations such as the West End and prime Chelsea. but the food in my estimation is a vital part of this projected success equation and needs to be spot on.

One thing is for certain: Joe & The Juice are following one of my top rules in keeping the food side simple. Only seven sandwiches in the range, all toasted in a wholemeal sort of Panini.

Perhaps Panini is the wrong way of describing this bread. I certainly haven’t come across anything like it before and it’s pretty delicious. It’s crisp as a thin sheet of ice on the outside, yet doughy soft inside; no teeth pulling needed here, this bread is just plain yummy. Each sandwich comes simply wrapped in a sheet of parchment paper, effortlessly and lovely to look at, this is well, a sandwich to be seen with.

But I have to be honest and say I’m a bit disappointed with the choice of the seven. With that few they need to cover all bases and, if you’re no fan of avocado (in 3), tomato (in 5) or mozzarella (in 3 again) you’ll be disappointed. Two have tuna, but weirdly, only one contains chicken – one of the most popular UK sandwich ingredients we have.

These sandwiches, in my opinion are very safe, and as we know, not all sandwiches should be safe; safe is the mother of menu fatigue.

I think sandwich menus have to be indigenous to be truly successful; I’ve worked for lots of operators who only found this out the hard way. Morten doesn’t agree. All development he explains is done in Denmark and the menu is the same for all countries. I think this is severely short sighted.

Interestingly, all the sandwiches are priced at £4.25 which is high in itself but steep if you’re adding a 12oz juice at £3.85 or a 16oz at £4.95 – all risky stuff for a new brand on the London streets.

I think the range needs to be anglicised a little more, with the addition of some cold ones and a small range of salads to go with the health image. Then I would break the one price suits all rule, which let’s face it, is far from popular. It’s always a struggle to charge the same for a vegetarian option as a protein one, as value – as we know – is what it seems to be all about in our current financial climate.

Morten is asking me if I would like to try the new Espresso before I go. It’s called a Ginger Shot. It’s made with a massive chunk of fresh ginger, juiced with half an apple and presented with a slither of apple on the side. It looks like water, but don’t be fooled; you have to knock it back in one.

Just as well, as it burns like what I can only imagine bleach would do if you drank it. It does this all the way down to your liver and apparently is very detoxing. The slither of apple is small solace afterwards compared to the potency of the ginger. It’s truly fabulous and I could become addicted to them every morning. Without doubt, it would have me whizzing round the park with the dogs, and at the tube, off to work in – as my mother used to say – two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

Joe & the Juice: * *

*          Poor, not my cup of tea
* *        A lot of potential but a lot of work to do
* * *      Outstanding food and service
* * * *    Remarkable
* * * * *  I don’t believe it can get any better than this