Let me jump right in and say that The Jam Factory‘s Thursday Taco Takeaway is a fabulous idea. If you love tacos – warm from the grill and piled with a balance of tasty titbits – you’ll be as excited as I was to hear about a new addition to Oxford’s taco landscape.
Situated just around the corner from the Oxford train station, the Jam Factory is a friendly creative arts hub and restaurant-bar with a laid-back vibe and a tempting range of food and drink. I miss hanging out in their funky gallery space, but the new takeaways enticingly reflect their eclectic approach to dining. If you don’t feel like tacos, you can select another evening.
The full takeaway offering is currently:
- Wednesday Meat-free Marvels
- Thursday Tacos
- Friday Fish & Chips / Burgers
- Saturday Steak Night
- Sunday Roasts
It is open to change, so check their Instagram feed for updates. You can order online, and the pick-up is efficient and welcoming. They’ve even carved out a drive-through space outside the entrance, to make it easier.
First impressions matter…
…and I was excited to see that my taco takeaway box contained what I consider to be ‘real’ tacos. Small, soft, corn tortillas branded with the tell-tale griddle marks of recent warming; each lovingly half-wrapped around a meat/veggie core, sporting a colourful, textured garnish. They looked so tempting that my second thought was I should have ordered more! I ordered six tacos, which came with a small bucket of nachos with salsa and guacamole, plus some doughnut holes.
How were the Tacos?
For me, the stand-out taco was the Porter-braised ox cheek; the dark intensity of the rich, slow-cooked meat brightened by a lime crema and crunch of crispy fried shallots. It was a mouth-watering treat designed for meat lovers and I basically devoured it in three bites. If I could only have one of the five options again, this is the one I would choose every time.
A close second was the classic Mexican carnitas (literally – little meats). Slow-simmered meat bringing out the simple pork flavour, a hit of acid from the pickled fennel balancing out the striking meatiness.
Fish tacos are another mainstay of taco vendors in Mexico and beyond, and the Jam Factory’s spin on this standard was a delightful hake tempura taco with pickled daikon radish. An envelope of flavour and texture, combining an extra-crispy light batter, sweet fish and pickle, with the soft corn tortilla. I thought the citrusy mayonnaise was a bit sparse, though my co-taster felt there was plenty.
The two veggie options, pumped up with juicy coriander red cabbage slaw, were also tasty without being particularly gutsy.
The chargrilled Mediterranean vegetable taco featured gently spiced and perfectly cooked little chickpeas with red pepper for sweetness and crunch. A hit of chilli heat lifted the flavour and, even though the shitaki aioli got a bit lost, I enjoyed the overall combination.
The caramelised plantain was well-paired with goat’s cheese, but we gave it conflicting reviews. I felt it needed more cheese to dial up the salt, and my companion wanted more of the ripe, golden plantain. Thinking about it now, perhaps the only issue was the uneven distribution of the contents. The lesson is clearly to have your own taco rather than trying to share!
The side dishes were an unexpected bonus. Nachos were a hit, because the kitchen had made the effort of making their own fried tortilla triangles, served with zesty salsa and smooth guacamole.
The doughnut pieces were likely a nod to Mexican churros, which are usually long sticks best served with chocolate sauce. Without this sauce, they weren’t particularly exciting, though I wouldn’t make an issue out of a sweet gift of this sort.
Taco Takeaway – Final thoughts?
You owe it to yourself to try out the tacos at The Jam Factory. They aren’t for wolfing down like a huge bean-packed burrito; instead, each one is designed to be savoured as a small-but-balanced composition, for which your taste buds will thank you. Let’s hope that Taco Thursday is here to stay.
£3.50 each; all 5 flavours for £15
We dined as guests of The Jam Factory, all views remain our own.