Wednesday, 7 August 2013

REVIEW: The Jam Tree, Old Town, Clapham

I've always been a regular of the Jam Tree in Chelsea, with its great beer garden, delicious cocktails and excellent sunday roasts. After hearing about the launch of its Clapham site i'd been meaning to give it a try - but only just got round to it now. And what a time to visit on the day of its JamaicaJamaica menu inspired by, you've guessed it, Jamaica. The menu is also available at the Chelsea branch with the menu running from Tuesday 6th August (Independence  Day) - Tuesday 20th August.

The Clapham branch is perfect for the summer months as all the front windows recline, great for people watching or a nice breeze. When we dined at the restaurant there was a table behind us, who seemed pretty devastated (and very rude) that someone from the Caribbean wasn't cooking - according to them it was bound to be a failure. Well, so they thought. The Jam Tree’s executive chef James Browne is from Brixton and decided after travelling through Jamaica it was time to share it amongst us foodies. For all the food popping up around London at the moment, Jamaican food has been left behind to locals and people in the know. It’s about time we're seeing more of it.

For starters there was a lot of choice. First we decided to go with the salt cod fritters with hot sauce mayonnaise. The dish arrived with three crispy patties, a little salad and the mayo. The patties themselves were OK. Maybe a little overcooked and not fishy enough for me. The salad leaves were simple and the hot sauce mayonnaise was only a little more adventurous. It felt very simple and not very exciting. I've had these once before at a Jamaican take-out where they were much bigger, lighter and fluffier.

Calypso pepper prawns with bammie and mango salsa, couldn't help but ordering this dish - who can resist the offering of big juicy prawns. The dish itself was rather odd, but no doubt authentic. Bammie, if you haven't heard of it before is a type of thick flat bread made from cassava. Its fried off and is like nothing you would have had before - you'll either love it, or hate. The sauce was full of flavour but had that sort of texture you get from pasta water. I wasn't sure at first but I did grow to like it. The prawns were huge, succulent and full of flavour, some of the best i have had in a good while. Perfectly cooked is the key and the Jam Tree got it spot on.

After a mixed view on the starters the mains that came out next were a real shock to the palate - but in a good way. After being very indecisive of what to choose the very friendly waiter said we should go with the curried goat, rice and peas. He couldn't of suggested a better dish. A dry curry with chunks of goat falling apart at the touch of my fork. The sauce was bursting with flavour, very rich, a hit of garlic, ginger, chillies, thyme and curry powder (I think) there was so much to this dish and I highly recommend it. The table behind soon kept quiet after their first mouthful! The rice and peas were a nice addition, but expected of course.

Jerked chicken with fried plantain (my favourite), rice peas and gravy. All the main dishes come with a plain side salad (I don't think it’s needed) and some creamy coleslaw flavoured with what I think was jerk seasoning. The chicken was very well seasoned, the skin had turned itself into a sort of hard layer giving it a nice structure and deep flavour while the meat underneath was still nice and juicy. The plantain was good as always and the gravy was well favoured and hot! There was a small bit of sauce on the side of the plate, what it was i'm not sure - but it was absolutely delicious, I mopped it up in seconds.

I was rather full at this point but the idea of the Jamaican ginger cake with banana ice cream and coconut custard sounded too good not to try. I was a little worried the ginger cake would be overdone on the ginger but to my surprise it was delicately flavoured and the sponge was moist and very light. The banana ice cream tasted very good but could have perhaps been a little more fluffy and the custard although excellent custard, didn't have much of a coconut flavour - still a very satisfying dessert.

The Jam Tree in Clapham is a great spot for food and drinks near the common. I always found service at the Chelsea branch a little on the clumsy side, but here at Clapham it’s very polished and staff are very helpful. The jerked pineapple and goats cheese starter did look delicious - think I missed out there. Book your table quick, as this may be the best goat curry you ever try!


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