The Remarkable Newcomer… Sunday Roasts at Jam Jar, Jesmond.

It’s funny, despite being a Jesmond resident myself, I never tend to frequent any of the restaurants on the doorstep. For a long time, Jesmond was the place to be when heading out for dinner, but thanks to a drastic slip in standard (Scalini’s, I’m looking at you!) most people are heading into town. In short, Jesmond’s Osborne Road has been crying out for a stylish venue serving impressive, home-cooked food, so it’s a good job that Jam Jar has arrived to save the day.

We were kindly invited to the launch party back in September, however it was so busy that we never got to try any of the food. After taking a month to settle into their new premises, they invited us back, this time to try out their extremely popular Sunday lunch offerings. Lucky us! Obviously we accepted. We arrived at 4pm on a busy Sunday and were swiftly shown to our table. Waiting for us was a chilled carafe of iced water with lemon and glasses ready to go (I’m not sure if this star treatment is standard or because we were there to review but whatever, it was a nice touch). We were first greeted by Josh, one of the owners, who ran through the menu and engaged in a bit of light chat with us. Nice guy, more on him and his counterparts in a moment…

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Their Sunday lunch menu is full of the usual suspects, with a good range of starters, mains and desserts. I’d already heard quite a number of positive comments about their food and I must say, head chef Mark Taylor has certainly made use of the fantastic local produce available in the region. His menu pays homage to local farms and producers, showcasing the best they have on offer with innovative dishes served at sensible prices. It’s a nice change and certainly one that will work well in Jesmond. After a little deliberation, we made our starter and main course selections and I got a chance to look around the place.

As far as decor is concerned, no stone has been left unturned and it’s clear that the three young graduate entrepreneurs have had a large hand in making their vision come to life. Josh Rose, Jonathan Edwards and Robert Clarkson all met at University while studying Estate Management and have ploughed a hefty £100,000 into renovation to create Jam Jar. Jonathan explained, “We felt that we could do something really special in the leisure industry, and we knew that Jesmond was the location we really wanted to be in, as we felt that there was a demand for a more contemporary, trend-aware venue in the area.” And trend-aware it certainly is. Think distressed wood furnishings (including some old school desks and chairs), custom ‘Jam Jar’ wallpaper in the extension and a great use of neons around the bar area.

They’ve also had the Unit 44 treatment and are displaying an array of work by celebrated street artists from around the world. It’s perfectly styled and reminds me very much of Bubbledogs, London. Couple this with a pretty damn decent playlist (we heard everything from James Brown to Fleetwood Mac to Jurassic 5 and plenty in between) and we’ve got a super cool venue on the block.

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After about a 10 minute wait, our starters arrived. I chose the Roasted Fig, Beetroot and Goats Cheese salad while the boyfriend went for the Mussels with Bacon, Cider and Tarragon (which would have been my first choice if he hadn’t nabbed it first!). The mussels were plentiful and arrived with bread to mop up the delicious broth and a finger bowl. Again, it’s nice to see a venue giving their guests exactly what they want, without them even having to ask for it. I pinched a couple of his mussels and can confirm they were considerably plump and juicy and the broth was full of flavour thanks to lots of bacon, tarragon and diced onion. My salad was very autumnal; earthy beetroot clashed with bittersweet roasted fig and salty goats cheese. For me, it was missing toasted pine nuts, but it was otherwise delicious and there was plenty of it.

For main course, we both chose the Roast Beef. As regular readers can attest, I’m a firm believer that a restaurant’s entire Sunday Roast success rests on how well the roast beef is cooked. The pressure was on and thankfully, Jam Jar rose to the challenge. What arrived was a beautifully presented plate of succulent and perfectly roasted beef, accompanied by seasonal veg a-plenty and (hallelujah!) an extra gravy boat, sparing me from making my Excessive Gravy Addiction known to the waiting staff. The Yorkshire pudding was enormous (a perfect size for stashing all of the gravy into!) and there were a few crunchy roast potatoes on each plate too. Honestly, it’s one of the best roast beef dinners I have had in a long time and it’s impossible to argue with the price. I’m told the Roast Pork is decent too and served with crackling, so I’m definitely up for shunning my Jewish roots and giving that a go on my next visit.

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During the course of our visit we were served by pretty much every member of staff working that day and all of them were really, really lovely. It’s a pretty relaxed venue and to me it seemed like the staff actually wanted to be there. Nothing was too much trouble and every member of the team was comfortable enough to have a good bit of banter. We were treated to a ‘Jam Jar’ signature cocktail each (I had the whiskey one, my boyfriend had the gin one) and both of them were literally bursting with fruit. The gin one had some Caribbean vibes with coconut and pineapple undertones, while my whiskey version had a good dose of marmalade in it. Again, very autumnal and the jam jars are a nice touch. Big shout to Jaemi on the bar for rustling those up and for inviting us down in the first place!

Although some may say this is a “young venue” aimed at a student demographic, I’d have to object. Yes, it’s styling is very current and it’s in an area that’s populated heavily by students, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken seriously and put up against the big boys in the area. Josh, Jonny and Rob have created a unique venue that can be enjoyed by everyone, no matter what their age, and we saw plenty of evidence of this on our visit. I couldn’t fault their prices either and for the level of quality that we were treated to, I’d even say they were selling themselves short – but I know that’s not the case when their mantra is to serve “comforting, wholesome food at an affordable price in an unpretentious environment”.

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It’s great to see three young guys creating something that has real staying power and in terms of the food, we would absolutely go back for both Sunday dinner and to sample their main menu. With outstanding burgers, slow-cooked pulled meats, traditional fish and chips, buttermilk pancakes and fried chicken all available, it’s a perfect place to enjoy locally and responsibly sourced produce served with a transatlantic twist.

The Sunday Lunch menu is priced at £9.50 for one course, £12.50 for two courses and £15.50 for three courses.

Jam Jar Jesmond, 88 Osborne Road, Jesmond, NE2 2AP. Check out their website here for details of opening times and sample menus, or have a natter with them on Twitter: @JamJarJesmond.

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