First impressions matter, and waiting for a table at the Jam Factory was awkward; with no one to show us the way to our table, we hovered tentatively. This was an unfortunate start, because once we had told them that we were staying, my friend and I were treated with warmth, humour, and enthusiasm.
Being in the Art Centre, we expected the decor to be chic and it didn’t disappoint. The seats were simple but stylish, and on the walls were hung a plethora of watercolours. The bright lighting and simple furnishings make it seem like you are sitting on the garden patio or a conservatory. The cutlery and water jugs were clean and heavy, the flowers decorating the table were real. Most impressive was the love and respect for the food, and even our waiter could talk at length about the very specific questions we had. He gave great service, and was very attentive, even though we were mere students. He explained that the menus were written up daily around which fresh ingredients were available. We ordered Nick’s Tongue and Cheek (£14.50) and Whole Cornish Plaice (£15.00) in the end. Prices were steep, but matched what we had been told about the creative efforts in the kitchen. And although the dishes were simple in presentation, and could have done with some vegetables on the side, the food itself was cooked to perfection.
My ox cheek was tender and glutinous after being slow-cooked for ten hours, and the tongue was not chewy but tender and firm. The mashed potato was smooth and buttery and superbly seasoned, laced with horseradish that you barely notice on the tip of the tongue but which then packs a punch at the back of your throat. This was all topped off with a generous portion of meat jus. My only complaint would be that the few salad leaves added for garnish brought nothing to the plate, and it seemed wrong for them to be served in a dish with gravy, which, of course, made them wilt.
We had already spent well beyond our miniscule student budgets but the mains were so tasty that we were persuaded by the waiter into having dessert. We followed our hearts and not our heads and opted for a plum crumble (£5.95) and a chocolate brownie (£5.95) in one of the quickest decisions we’d ever made. My crumble was neatly presented and colourful, and the flavours still worked well together, and the fruit didn’t turn mushy — I am often put off by the waterinessof crumble.
Finally we sat back, satisfied and ready to leave, only to discover that the evening does not end with the arrival of the bill. Rather, the instructions for how to turn your bill into a paper airplane helpfully distracted us from the cost of our meal, which was quickly covered up by folds and flown to and fro. Dinner at the Jam Factory is an expensive evening out, but not one that you will forget for a long time.