In November 2006 erstwhile Oxford school chums Andrew Norton and Tom Buswell hooked up to open The Jam Factory, which combines a popular wine bar and restaurant come arts centre. Though slightly off the beaten track, just off Park End Street in Oxford, The Jam Factory has no need to rely on passing trade. Its justly deserved reputation means that recommendations are quickly spread by word of mouth and most lunchtimes and evenings are buzzing.
Now open from 8am (10am Saturdays and Sundays) until 11pm, The Jam Factory offers its customers culinary delights that range from cooked breakfasts, delicious pastries and homemade cakes (courtesy of Andrew's mum!), to a lunchtime menu of sandwiches, salads and light dishes to a mouth-watering dinner menu. All of this is accompanied by fabulous coffee (JF branded), an eclectic wine list and local and international beers.
I visited The Jam Factory in March and, given the chilly nip in the air, was very thankful of the warm ambience inside. My companion and I started the evening wandering round the art gallery, glass of wine in hand, admiring the current display. Andrew and Tom are passionate about many things and art is clearly one of them. They run a non-selective self sufficient arts centre which means that anyone can request to have their work put on display, and the pair receive no funding to help run the gallery. Art classes and events are run regularly and, given its setting within a fun and lively bar environment, the art is 'accessible'. A buzz word for the entrepreneurs.
We decided to indulge ourselves and went for all three courses offered on the evening menu. I started with the goat's cheese salad, which was served to perfection - warm, just melting, rich cheese on a bed of crunchy greens. My partner enjoyed the duck pÃ¢tÃ© with chutney which he raved about. It turns out that Andrew's mum makes this too. It is rare that I eat beef when dining out, but I could not miss out on this occasion. Tom and Andrew source their beef from Aubrey Allen, considered by many to be the finest butcher in Britain, and word had it that the rump steak and chunky chips was the dish to have. We ordered the Angus burger and the steak and devoured the succulent tender meat dishes between us. Fantastic. Our meal lived up to the hype. We had no room, nor inclination for dessert but, in the name of journalistic endeavour, shared a rich chocolate fondant. It was delightful, hedonistic, sinful pleasure - I could envisage Nigella Lawson seducing the nation reproducing this wonderful pudding on the small screen.
The Jam Factory has no pretensions. It sets out to make art, great quality food, drink and service accessible at affordable prices and within a friendly environment. It manages it very well. Put The Jam Factory on your 'must visit' list when next in Oxford.
The Jam Factory, 27 Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1HU
Tel: 01865 244613 www.thejamfactoryoxford.com