Jacqui – Aug 2013
After my recent preview of Jacobs Inn and subsequent opening of the new Oxford pub, I waited a few days to before visiting for a full restaurant review. Judging by the phenomenal interest in the grand unveiling, I wanted to allow any initial stampede, and doubtless teething problems, to calm down.
Following a day of pre-baby decorating and de-cluttering at home, MrF and I were more than ready for a trip to the pub; and in MrF’s case, several pints. Seizing the opportunity to mix review and relaxation, I threw the lot of us in the car and headed on over to Wolvercote to see if the hyped up watering hole could live up to expectations?
Arriving for a 5pm reservation, we managed to park right in front of the pub, which was pleasantly surprising – I’d expected the car park to be rammed. Heading straight to the bar to confirm our booking and order some drinks, we were served by one of the brand new bar staff, who was clearly still finding their feet, along with the location of all the drinks; whilst a few of the faces you will see at Jacobs Inn may be familiar from their cafe, Jacobs & Field, there will of course be some newbies. Said newbies do seem pretty green right now, prone to a few minor mistakes, but given time they’ll catch up just fine.
With the option of sitting in the dining room, bar or garden, we decided on the less formal bar are and were shown to a table in a smallish nook, off to the right of the bar. This was perfect for dining with children as we were away from the main bar enough not to disturb everyone, but close enough to not feel excluded. There was a lovely big fireplace there just waiting to be lit on cold winter days; but, as pointed out by General Manager Luke, it is awaiting some of the ‘Jacobs & Field touch’, so expect big dried hams, chorizos and bunting, etc. in due time.
Settling in with drinks and menus in hand, MrF expressed his sheer delight at the American Pale Ale he was sampling; the ale in question was Shipyard, a 4.5% collaboration between Marston’s and Shipyard Brewing, served on tap at Jacobs Inn. Big thumbs up from MrF so far. Moving onto the food, there isn’t currently a children’s menu, but they do welcome special requests to accommodate, so we ordered sausage, chips and veg for MiniF; for us, the Potted Pork to start (£6), then Sirloin for MrF (£17) and Ground Beef Burger plus Swiss Cheese for me (£14).
Arriving alongside MiniF’s plate of goodies, came our wonderful Potted Pork starters; deliciously soft and succulent, the pork was an utter triumph. Served in the same was as potted shrimp, in a small ramekin dish bathed in seasoned and solidified butter, but with meltingly soft pulled pork as the main ingredient… Absolutely stunning accompanied by char-gilled sourdough bread and home made gribiche sauce (I must admit needing to Google this – here is a description on Wikipedia), which added a perfectly balanced sharpness to counteract the buttery sweetness. BLOODY MARVELLOUS.
Keen to leave room for my main (and hopefully a pudding), I regretfully stepped away from the pork… Had I not been planning a three courser I would have happily wolfed down the whole thing – it would be perfect as a light meal or snack if you’re popping in for a drink.
Moving on to the mains… MrF had chosen the Romesco sauce to accompany his Sirloin – a tomato and red pepper sauce with a little kick; he found this went well with the dish but wasn’t totally sold. Being more of a peppercorn sauce man, I wasn’t expecting much else. If it were me? I’d have gone for the Béarnaise sauce or Cafe de Paris Butter – perfect for a nice juicy steak. I had a small taste of the Romesco sauce myself, which I thought nice; however I would possibly prefer it with chicken, as a personal choice. Accompanying the steak were chips and grilled courgette; the chips, MrF thought, were a little undercooked, and the courgette tasty, but too much of a similar texture to the steak to be fully enjoyed as a pairing – although, when asked what he would propose instead, he had no answer. As far as the steak itself went, it was cooked rare, to MrF’s request (tick) and of good quality (tick), but the dish as a whole didn’t leave a lasting impression on him. With Atomic holding the local crown for Burgers, could Jacobs compete? Their burger was so different that I genuinely don’t think they would consider themselves competing. This burger was served within a char-grilled (they do like their char-grilling) ciabatta, with a tasty home made tomato relish, lettuce, tomato and onion, alongside skinny fries and glorious chunky pickles which took me back to Katz’s diner in New York. Still planning to save room for dessert, I stripped the top off the burger and got to work on the rest of it. Meaty, juicy and well-seasoned, the burger held its own against a backdrop of flavours from the cheese and relish; the ciabatta works well in a supporting actor role, maintaining its character while not impeaching too much on the main events. The fries were good, although cooked a tiny bit under for my preference, and seasoned with what may have been a little cayenne pepper. I LOVED having the big chunky pickles on the side.
I didn’t manage to finish all the burger or fries, however I can imagine someone not embarking on three courses would find this a well sized but manageable main. Again, a good dish, but not one that left me wanting more, unlike that potted pork…. Ahhhh, the potted pork!
Anyway… At this point, MiniF was getting restless, having finished his meal and progressed to playing with it (read as throwing it), so we moved out to the garden to allow him freedom to run around… this is where MrF and I have to take it in turns to run after the little monkey – fun but incredibly knackering after a big meal!
I wasn’t backing down though, I’d set my mind to a pudding and a pudding I would have. Damn pleased I was too when a divine slice of lemon tart arrived at our picnic bench, topped off with a little crème fraiche and three pert raspberries. As you can see, I couldn’t even wait to take a picture before diving in. With a delectable taste of lemon curd, smooth and sumptuous, the tart was beeee-utiful! Just the right level of sweetness, just enough crust, just enough crème fraiche and just set enough – it would probably have wobbled a bit if I’d have thought to shake it.
Stick a fork in me, I was done. MrF was ready for a post DIY and drinking nap and MiniF was almost ready for bedtime – perfect time to say adieu.
Overall, a very good pub meal; the starter and dessert were the highlights (along with the pale ale for MrF) – real stand out performances by both; I would quite happily tuck into both those dishes on a regular basis! The mains were good, but lacking a little of the wow factor that the other two courses provided. I know Jacobs Inn will be planning to feature a number of daily specials once they’ve had chance to familiarise themselves with the full menu, so I look forward to seeing what they have to offer; I’m also keen to go back and try a number of other items from the main menu and am damn sure we’ll pop in for one of their famous breakfasts sometime very soon.
Becca – Nov 2013
I finally made it down to Wolvercote today and had lunch at Jacobs Inn. I realise I’m several months behind everyone else but as I spent a good part of my errant youth in Wolvercote, I reckon I’m entitled to voice an opinion anyway!
If I’m honest, the whole reason for a trip to Lower Wolvercote was to visit their local shop, The Post Box. I spotted a chocolate producer at last week’s Christmas Market that I hadn’t heard of before so was keen to try them out. Chocsford is run by a local lady who gave up the day job for the love of chocolate, what seems to be a very sensible decision to me! I hadn’t been in The Post Box for years and remembered it as being a dark and dingy shop which sold approximately twelve items, ten of which would be out of date. Now, it’s a lovely little place with proper fresh bread, eggs, samosas, plants and of course the Chocsford range. And wool. Quite a lot of wool…
Anyway, I was informed that the Chocsford lady had delivered supplies that morning and they would probably all be gone by this evening so my visit was timely. We debated the merits of the dark chocolate orange, the marc de champagne truffles, the Swiss Rocher and the pistachio ones before I settled on a bag of pure unadulterated truffles. £5.99 for a bag of 12 heavenly balls that bear more than a passing resemblance to Hershey’s Kisses. Thankfully they taste absolutely nothing like them! Cocoa dusts a crisp shell of dark chocolate before you get the cool creamy truffle of dark but not bitter chocolate. One should be enough but two is perfect!
Well worth a visit to Lower Wolvercote for these, you can always walk them off in Port Meadow afterwards. Just don’t look at the Oxford skyline… head over to http://chocsford.co.uk to find out more.
Or, you could do what we did and have a pub lunch at Jacobs Inn. You all know the story, a very successful deli in Headington took over a village pub and expanded their menu, focussing on local suppliers to the extent they even have their own chickens and pigs in the pub garden. I have to confess I’m in two minds about this place, on the one hand it’s clearly a thriving local business but on the other hand, the Red Lion as it was in its previous incarnation was a good local pub doing average pub food. Now the locals have just the White Hart opposite which is a much smaller venue (and where I used to live), the Plough in Upper Wolvercote or the pretentious and overpriced Trout. I doubt very much that Jacobs Inn has retained many of the old regulars, perhaps they didn’t want to! The food prices are definitely significantly higher than they used to be. Maybe they all go to the White Hart for some pork scratchings and pickled eggs… Curries there used to be really good though!
Anyway, our lunch today consisted of a New Yorker sandwich for him, comprising granary bread, pastrami, mustard mayo, gherkins and red onions. Verdict was really good but more pastrami needed, there was two slices inside and a proper New Yorker would have crammed that meat in. I had the pulled pork sandwich on white bread with lettuce, red onion, tomato, chutney and Mr. Jacob’s sauce. This didn’t work quite so well for me and I think the first reason was that the pulled pork was cold. Not really cold, but the chilled side of room temperature and I expected it to be warm so was unprepared. Oddly, some pieces were just warm. Adding to that, the chutney was fridge temperature so made everything feel a bit like an M&S sandwich straight out of the chiller. The pork was a good texture, a slight hint of five spice but other than that, nothing to get the taste buds tingling. Chutney, other than cold was a tad tart and they just didn’t work together for me.
Admittedly, it could have been me. I’ve had a cold for the last ten days so my tastebuds may not be up to much, so I asked hubby for his opinion. He agreed. We have so much good pulled pork in Oxford at the moment, whether it’s on a burger at Atomic Burger, in a bun with coleslaw from Shredded Meat Company or in a sandwich from Big Society that this paled in comparison. Disappointing.
However, the centimeter thick chips were pretty damn good! We’d both like to go back for something off the full menu but I would say it’s not top of our priorities. Love the chickens and the talkative black pig though!
Oh, both sandwiches were £5.50, £3 for the chips.