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Restaurant review: Jacoby’s Tavern & Kitchen, Ware

PUBLISHED: 10:53 19 June 2017 | UPDATED: 10:53 19 June 2017

Jacoby's, Ware

Jacoby's, Ware

brian arnopp

There’s more than a touch of the Tudors at an unfussy and reliably good restaurant in Ware

Sometimes food is not the only consideration in picking a restaurant to visit. Formal menus and five-course tastings are all very well in their time and place and I can do without the cult of the celebrity chef. But I’m a sucker for interesting surroundings, in which context Jacoby’s Tavern and Kitchen, in Churchgate House in the square next to Ware’s imposing parish church, does its customers proud.

Its central feature is a Tudor courtyard, covered now but with the outline intact. And if you venture towards the ladies’ loo, the woodwork you see comes from a Tudor shopfront. It’s all complemented by lots of beams, wood floors and simple furnishings including the bar, making for an atmospheric and cosy night out, or a fun lunchtime.

The restaurant was taken over in 2013 by Herts-based entrepreneur Alastair Bramley who with his wife Anna has a portfolio that also includes the Bull at Watton-at-Stone, the Lodge cocktail and music bar (next to Jacoby’s) and, most recently, the White Horse at Hertingfordbury, currently being refurbished and due to reopen in its new guise next month.

Jacoby’s sells itself as ‘primarily a pub and dining room serving local foodies and ale-tasters’. The website talks of a ‘unified, hearty, simple and unfussy style’ and ‘a down to earth drinking and dining experience’. In other words you know what to expect, but there are some smart marketing ideas at work too, including a favourite of mine, a BYO day on Mondays when customers ordering from the main menu can bring their own wines. Wednesday is steak night, with a platter for two plus trimmings for around £35, and Thursday is ladies’ night, with prosecco at a special price after 6pm. There is also a midweek lunch special at £8 including a drink.

Piri-piri chicken supreme with wilted spinach, cherry tomato and chilli jam, crème fraiche and sweet potato friesPiri-piri chicken supreme with wilted spinach, cherry tomato and chilli jam, crème fraiche and sweet potato fries

The place was recommended by a friend, so we invited him and his wife to join us for dinner, giving us two more opinions than usual and a wider choice of dishes, though the ladies cheated on the mains and both had the pan-seared halibut fillet with rich butter sauce, Lyonnaise potatoes and buttered seasonal vegetables (£17.95). Despite the website’s truth-in-advertising approach, the menu was more adventurous than we expected, with my starter of Orkney herring marinated in Madeira (£6.25, far right) a tangy example. Other starters to grace the table were a garlic and thyme box-baked camembert (£10), with spicy tomato chutney and rustic breads, and homemade soup of the day (£4.50), which turned out to be minestrone and did what minestrone does without any problems.

For my main course, I chose piri-piri chicken supreme (£13.95, right), which came with wilted spinach, cherry tomato and chilli jam, crème fraiche and more sweet potato fries than I could eat. It sounds ordinary and it’s not always a reliable dish but in this case the balance of the spice with the crème fraiche worked well. Across the table, along with the halibut, the choice was the 12-hour slow roast pork belly (£12.95), with caramelised fennel and apple and sautéed potatoes, plus a cider and black pudding sauce. The sauce was a major hit and aside from the fact he said the dish as a whole was more than he could eat, I heard no complaint from my guest critic. Puddings, all at £5.95, also went down well, as you might expect from a list that includes homemade rice pudding with stem ginger and shortbread, which two of us shared and found a real treat, while homemade chocolate torte with vanilla ice cream occupied one guest and tiramisu with coffee and Tia Maria impressed the other.

We visited Jacoby’s midweek and sat downstairs with fellow diners and cheerful drinkers at other tables around us in the 40-cover dining area, all very friendly and relaxing. On busy nights, there is a 60-cover restaurant upstairs which we didn’t see but is by all accounts a popular hang-out at weekends. We agreed with the website about the unfussy style, but our visit was no less enjoyable for that.

Orkney herring marinated in MadeiraOrkney herring marinated in Madeira

The cost of this meal for four was £122.35 plus tip.

This is an independent review featuring a restaurant selected and visited by our food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.

Book a table

Jacoby’s Tavern & Kitchen

Churchgate House, 13-15 West Street, Ware SG12 9EE

01920 469181. jacobys.co.uk

3 of a kind: historic surroundings

Tudors

The White Hart Hotel, 23-25 Holywell Hill, St Albans AL1 1EZ. 01727 853624. whiteharthotel.org

Blade of beef and steak and mushroom pie are among offers in this oak panelled restaurant in one of St Albans’ oldest buildings.

Bushel & Strike

15 Mill Street, Ashwell SG7 5LY. 01462 742394. bushelandstrike.co.uk

Good-looking village pub built in 1854 as a brewery, with craft beers and ambitious menu from Martin Nisbet, 20 years a chef, and partner Lucy Thompson, an events and catering specialist.

The Orange Tree

Norton Road, Baldock SG7 5AW. 01462 892341. theorangetreebaldock.com

Dating from 1680 and a former Camra Pub of the Year, the Orange Tree is big on real ale and local produce with a classic menu including vegetarian and gluten-free options.

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