“If it’s gone in your glass, you might as well put some in the pot, too,” says chef Jess Shadbolt, smiling but deadly serious.” We are talking about the house rosé at King, the restaurant she co-runs with Annie Shi in New York City’s SoHo district. Now on its third vintage, the rosé, a grenache gris from the Languedoc available only in magnum, has been a hit with customers, but it is also put to work in the kitchen, where Jess stays true to what she was taught at The River Cafe: cook with your favourite wines to drink. “Because it doesn’t have a lot of residual sugar, it cooks out delicately and never gets too jammy – we put it in everything.” At the moment, Jess and Annie agree, the rosé shines in a dish of pork chops and cherries, finished with a little prosciutto.

The pair opened King in 2016 with a third partner in chef, Clare de Boer on the corner of 6th Avenue and the eponymous King St, in a site “with good bones: windows on both sides, a square dining room with a very small open kitchen. It’s a really charming spot with lots of daylight,” says Annie. The three women had met in London at The River Cafe, where Jess and Clare worked, and where Annie – herself a New Yorker, but who at the time was working in the [London] City – loved to eat. Says Jess, “Annie came in for lunch to visit Clare one day and impressively ate the whole menu on her own. I was immediately drawn to this wonderful woman who had the capacity and greed that I did.” The three women started talking about their dream restaurant, “how it would look and feel and taste and sound,” says Annie, “and we were all really aligned on that – it felt like a natural thing to do together.” Two months later, they quit their jobs and moved to New York. “It’s not the advice we give kids these days,” remarks Annie.

The vision for that restaurant was simple – deceptively so, perhaps, because the kind of restaurant the women wanted was a place that was “pared back and quiet”, and which became whatever it was that each individual diner or group wanted from eating there, “be that a delicious martini or a beautiful bottle of wine or a seasonal dish or a first date or somewhere to take your grandparents for a special lunch,” says Jess. In other words, it needed to be lots of things to lots of different people; to be gorgeous enough to win hearts but without so much character that it alienated anyone; to be familiar enough that it felt comfortable, “an extension of [Jess or Annie’s] dining tables”, but also really, really special; and where great ingredients were allowed to sing with light touches from the kitchen. With this kind of a restaurant, there is nowhere to hide. For all its simplicity, this kind of a restaurant is serious and needs slick operators. It has them.

King serves four starters, three mains and one dessert each day, plus a selection of contorni, or side dishes. The food feels in tune with The River Cafe’s exactingly seasonal, Italian cuisine but with North American flourishes – one menu in late June features “sirloin grilled over sage branches”, “blistered asparagus”, “scallops en brochette [skewered] with summer squash and melted anchovy”. “The pasta is also something that people know King for,” says Annie, “we do one a day and can only make 30-40 portions – once it’s gone, it’s gone. In New York, we have a lot of the Roman pastas – the cacio e pepe, the carbonara – but ours is comparatively light and bright, like ravioli with asparagus, or saffron and speck in the winter, and people come back for it.”

Given the restaurant’s downtown location of SoHo, where it competes with so many other good eateries, do they feel a sense of neighbourhood, I wonder? “Oh yes. Annie knows the name of every dog which comes past,” laughs Jess, before telling me about the time the restaurant’s oven broke for a week. “We managed to make most dishes, but couldn’t bake our cakes, so we went to our 87 year old neighbour Helen Jean’s house to do so.” Helen Jean’s floor was a bit slanted so the cakes didn’t bake evenly, but clearly goodwill from the community kept dessert on King’s menu that week. People also come back for Sunday lunch, which has become something of an institution at King. “Maybe it’s my Britishness coming through," Jess adds, "but Sunday lunch feels like the ultimate moment to gather. In the US, it’s done with eggs over brunch, but we wanted to extend that idea to a time of day at which you could drink a magnum of rosé!”. At the time of writing, Sunday lunch includes “Golden chicken roasted in King Rosé 2022 with vignole of carciofi, pea and potato” and – as always – panisse (southern French chickpea fritters) and a chocolate cake “which actually started its life as a chocolate tart, until one day we messed up the tart case, so we decided just to bake the batter as a cake.”

This is nimble cooking. “Daily changing menus are how I was taught to cook,” says Jess, “they’re not particularly common in New York, but it was essential for us to do because we have so little space. We kept it small because we had to: it’s a small kitchen [the pass is little more than 15 feet] with very little storage, and so we buy daily and cook seasonally. It allows us to cook creatively, but we’re also scrappy with it, putting as much of each ingredient to good use.” Given the shortness of King’s menu, and the restaurant’s Italian and French influences, it “made sense”, says Annie, to have those same influences on her wine list, and for it to be “highly curated and edited”.

A wine list that is curated and edited can still be abundant, however. Take the rosé, which is very sensibly only available in magnum. You’ll need plenty for you and for the pot when you make King’s pork chops, which Jess describes as “an expression of early summer as the cherries arrive – they’re not jammy sweet at this point but echo the natural sweetness of the meat”. She gets the chops “ruddy” on each side in a pan, deglazes it with rosé, adds the cherries and cooks, but not for so long that they lose their form, then adds thyme for fragrance and prosciutto for extra saltiness. La vie en rosé by way of New York City, but in your kitchen.

Pan-seared pork chops with rosé, cherries, thyme and prosciutto

Serves 2.


2 x 350g bone-in pork chops (each about 3.5cm thick)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp picked thyme leaves

200g cherries, halved and pitted

120ml rosé wine (Bandol or similar)

4 thin slices of prosciutto (or lardo or speck)


Remove the chops from the fridge at least half an hour before cooking to bring them to room temperature. Season all over with salt and pepper.

Place a cast iron frying pan (skillet) over medium heat and add one tablespoon of olive oil. Once hot, use tongs to hold the pork chops in the pan so that their fatty rind faces down: render the fat, rocking the chops in place so the rind browns evenly, about two minutes. Lower the heat if it begins to look scorched.

Once the porky fat is released, lay the chops flat into the pan and allow them to sizzle in the oil for about five minutes on each side. Keep the temperature steady while searing each side until they are nut brown.

Turn off the heat. Pour out all but a thin layer of fat from the pan and add the thyme leaves so they crackle in the remaining hot oil. Add the cherries, season with salt and swirl the pan so they mix with the thyme. Return the hot pan to a medium heat and pour in the rose and a tablespoon of olive oil. Let the alcohol cook for a couple of minutes, shaking the pan so that the juices flow before turning off the heat.

Next, rest the chops, so the tip of the bone sits in the pan, and the wide ‘bottom’ faces up - we find these acrobatics keep things succulent. Drape the prosciutto over the chops so that the fat melts. Rest for five to seven minutes – poke the center with your finger – it should feel fleshy but not soft.

Serve the chops whole, with the cherries, pan juices and the prosciutto draped on top. We love to serve these with braised white beans such as cannellini or coco.

The King team wears the TOAST Clamp Dyed Poplin Dress, Hedgerow Print Crepe Shirt Dress and Cotton Linen Poplin Apron Dress.

Words by Mia Holland.

Photography by Kelsey Cherry.

Add a comment

All comments are moderated. Published comments will show your name but not your email. We may use your email to contact you regarding your comment.