I've lived in London seven and a half years and last Wednesday was my second foray to Clapham - the first was to the Chicago Rib Shack launch with the Try This For team just last year. I don't know a great deal about SW4 other than there's a club called Inferno's and recently there's been a whole host of new openings recently that really are worth a look in. Last week, The Jam Tree invited me down to try and show me that it's worth crossing the river once in a while.
I had some time to kill after a meeting and walked from Marylebone to Clapham - a cool 4.4 miles across town - meaning I was ready for a cocktail or two. As well as the classics (and a very tempting Bloody Mary menu that included homemade beef stock as an ingredient in one), The Jam Tree's signatures are their concoctions made with jam. They recommended I try the Confiture (Cariel Vanilla vodka shaken with raspberry jam, Chambord and pineapple juice) and boy, was it good. Ideally sweet but without being overly saccharine, it was a great introduction to their list. Next up was the Damson In A Dress (Damson vodka, Martini Bianco, lime jam and prosecco) which was the perfect antidote with that vermouth bite cutting through the fruitiness.
We were there to try the new menu from Executive Chef Gary Smith who aims to 'create globally inspired plates bursting with flavour. The menu comprises an assortment of small and big plates as well as hearty sharing dishes, perfect for enjoying with groups of friends'. We started with the sotong manis (sticky battered squid) - large pieces of squid in a sweet honey and soy dip with a little added heat from chilli. A nice touch to a perennial favourite. I spied 'lardo' and had to have the lardo and braised Scotch Bonnets on toast - bitesize delights with a real kick. The chilli here outshone the lardo which was a shame but a nice try nonetheless. Finally, we shared the buttermilk fried rabbit. I've never eaten rabbit so had no idea what to expect but was surprised it was a whiter meat than I'd imagined. Less gamey too. Good when dipped in the hot sauce but I doubt I'd order again.
Moving on to mains, we originally planned to share the salt baked sea bass with caponata and polenta but another table nabbed the last one so A chose the hanger steak with chips and salsa verdi. Nicely cooked, it was melt in the mouth and I enjoyed my bites but A found the rosemaryed meat a bit too much for him. I went for two more starters - the salmon tartare which was nice and came with the seasoning on the side to fold in yourself. I'm not a massive fan of pumpernickel bread but that's an aside and I used my toasts from the very buttery potted shrimp to dip into the two.
Service was friendly and attentive and the recommendations were good. The restaurant around us was filled with lots of dates and a couple of groups at the bar. Windows open onto the street and there's a large garden area out the back that is no doubt rammed on Fridays and Saturdays when things really kick off at The Jam Tree. Would I venture south of the river again? Yes - to check out those ridiculously brilliant sounding Bloody Marys.