This year has not been a good year for anyone. Our politics is a shambles, xenophobia and fear have resulted in us being shunted away from Europe like one of the fragments of the disappearing polar shelf, and anyone who has made a profound and significant cultural impact over the last four decades has been taken away. But also spare a thought for people who have had to come with this year’s summer menu. Meeting after meeting, deliberation after deliberation, test after test and the final PR release is drafted up and sent out. And what happens after all that work? A summer that has all the zest of a five-day Sylvia Plath symposium. Whatever your troubles, put them aside and think of the poor head chef who wakes up in cold sweats, wondering how the hell is he going to get rid of all this salmon ceviche.
One place that announced its summer barbecue menu was the Jam Tree in Clapham’s Old Town. Accompanied by my sister, who is a refined connoisseur of this establishment’s cocktails, we sat down under thwarted sunshine to see what the Jam Tree had put together for anyone eager to try and trick themselves into thinking it might be summer.
For starter, I went for the Sotang Manis, which were sticky battered squid served in a sweet kecap manis sauce, along with chilli and coriander, whilst my sister went for the barbecue ribs, which were served up with a barbecue glaze & pickled red cabbage. My sister was extremely enthusiastic about the ribs, complimenting the sauce and how easily the meat fell off the bone. I was equally happy with my squid, with the coriander providing an excellent counterpoint to the manis sauce. My only complaint, and this is a strange one, that it was a rather large portion for a starter. I fell into the trap of wanting to keep some room for main but unable to stop myself from finishing them all off.
As for mains, my sister plumped for the marinated lamb kebab, which was composed of diced leg of lamb, which had been marinated in yoghurt & spices, served in a pita with lettuce, pickled pepper, harissa & thyme fries. I went for the classic dish of jerk chicken, which came with hot pepper sauce, fried dumpling, rice & peas. My sister greatly enjoyed the lamb kebab, with its delicate marinade and great texture to the meat. As for my choice, my fears over the size of my appetite were realised and I could only manage half of the course. However, what I could enjoy was reasonable, a little bit insipid on the chicken but some very good rice and peas.
As for dessert, my sister is a big fan of the adage that food tastes better when it is stolen from someone else. We ‘shared’ a dessert, which was the mango pudding, set mango and coconut crème, accompanied by ginger ice cream & fresh mango jelly. I found the texture of the jelly a little rubbery but overall the dessert was a success.
Summer may never truly arrive this year and we may be set a pallid version of it. The Jam Tree have done well to put together an enticing summer menu with a good variety of dishes. Allied with some wonderful service, the Jam Tree is well worth a visit. Although it might be better sat inside.