EAT­ING OUT AND DRINK

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - JAM JAR CAFE BRIDGE OF AL­LAN If you know a restau­rant Ron should re­view, email ron­mackenna@fast­mail.fm

LUNCH, then, in Bridge of Al­lan, steeled upon only af­ter rub­ber neck­ing the big houses on the road in, park­ing at the ho­tel, lolly-gag­ging up the main drag and scan­ning win­dow menus. I’m a night­mare to go for a quick lunch with. One: I think a snap de­ci­sion about a restau­rant is a de­ci­sion ab­so­lutely al­ways re­gret­ted. Usu­ally 30 sec­onds af­ter the drinks have ar­rived when it is def­i­nitely, un­doubt­edly, too late to leave, though I have done pre­cisely that. Most re­cently in a tapas place in Glas­gow where the whole am­bi­ence, the prices, the gen­eral ter­ri­fy­ing slack­ness all around had me pay­ing up and head­ing for the door be­fore a morsel ar­rived, teed off fam­ily in tow, while the owner was tak­ing a mo­men­tous huff.

Two: if I see chicken liver pâté on a menu I al­ways have to walk on. Im­me­di­ately. Why? That’s ex­actly what Ian is ask­ing me as I spot an­other one over there. I dunno, it’s too easy, too safe maybe.

Why take up a whole starter slot – and there should never be more than four – with some­thing so unimag­i­na­tive? Some­thing that usu­ally ar­rives in the back of a van, pos­si­bly in a plas­tic tub, and has been do­ing so at cer­tain types of restau­rants for so many years.

So we end up at the Jam Jar Cafe, which you might think we should have gone to first given the lovely weather and the seats out­side and, er, that we have pretty much reached the end of the road.

We take a few sec­onds to take in the prices. Deep breath. It’s good to get out the cen­tral belt. It’s also good to re­mem­ber that the cor­rect price for any dish in any restau­rant is the price most cus­tomers will com­fort­ably pay. And come back.

This is the mod­ern uni-menu at play here – all things to all cus­tomers. Pulled pork sand­wiches at nearly £11, sigh. Piz­zas at £10. An­other menu with starters, though strangely two of those (there’s only three) con­sist of moz­zarella and toma­toes on ei­ther br­uschetta or flat­bread. Flat­bread costs an ex­tra 25p. Must be a Bridge of Al­lan thing.

There are also su­per­food sal­ads, a Skin­ners of Kip­pen burger, fish and chips, nib­bles, more mains, some sides, a smoked had­dock and black pud­ding risotto, and desserts weigh­ing in at £6 min­i­mum. From all this menu chaos we are or­der­ing in the most co­her­ent fash­ion we can when chicken liver par­fait, shal­lot gel, ser­rano ham crisp and home­made olive crack­ers jumps out.

Where did that come from? It’s cau­li­flower in a tem­pura served in a bowl on a wooden board that we end up with. Cau­li­flower tends to be bland and it’s not helped by a sticky, sweet and generic-tast­ing chilli jam but the bat­ter is crisp.

I’m pre­par­ing to moan about truf­fled mac ’n’ cheese with toasted gar­lic three-flour sour­dough, not be­cause just read­ing the menu de­scrip­tion is ex­haust­ing, but be­cause at £12.50 it had bet­ter be good.

In fact it is moist, creamy, packed with cheese and the truf­fle, an oil prob­a­bly, doesn’t over­whelm it. It is prob­a­bly the most ex­pen­sive mac ’n’ cheese I’ve ever seen, and I doubt I would have it twice, def­i­nitely not for lunch any­way, but it’s a suc­cess.

Across the ta­ble Ian is hav­ing one of those calo­rie bombs that can eas­ily sink an af­ter­noon. Shred­ded beef brisket on toasted cia­batta, red cab­bage, jalapenos, pep­pery rocket (is there any other kind?), mixed leaves and hand­cut chips.

The menu de­scrip­tion for this prom­ises much more than it, and the £12.50 price-

tag, de­liv­ers. The meat should be soft and unc­tu­ous and the dom­i­nant flavour. It’s sim­ply none of the above.

Still, we’re sit­ting out­side. It’s a lovely af­ter­noon and the staff who were a bit slow off the mark at the start are fine. What’s more, it’s busy. Pre­sum­ably they know what they’re do­ing, then.

For me, it’s a pleas­ant enough place but by try­ing to be all things to all din­ers it ends up hav­ing no dis­cernible char­ac­ter of its own.

The menu at the Jam Jar Cafe spans risotti, pizza, su­per­food sal­ads and more be­sides

Quay Com­mons oc­cu­pies a former bonded ware­house in Leith

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