Last weekend I ventured back to Jacobs Inn to see how far this pub in Wolvercote has come since opening it doors to the public in the summer of 2013.
2014 has already seen some great coverage and awards with The Oxford Times giving a firm thumbs up to everything its doing, further cemented by a place in the Waitrose Good Food Guide 2015. However, accolades aside, they have not rested on their laurels with a new head chef on their books and monthly changing menus, there were clearly some changes worth checking out.
One thing that really grabs me about Jacobs Inn is the warmth that greets you on arrival. Firstly, even in our Autumnal Indian Summer the evenings are getting colder, so it’s of genuine comfort to walk into physical warmth in a cosy venue on a cooler Friday night. And then there is the staff who are also warm, making a conscious effort to greet customers on arrival making sure you aren’t just making up the numbers and re-assuring you that they are here to serve you. But one thing some restaurants can get wrong is the vibe; if you have a warmth, an atmosphere and a vibe then half of the hard work is done and it’s here in abundance. There’s a coming together of retro elegance and modern edginess that takes you away from pretentious dining and into something modern, something on point and something that is warm in all the right places.
Once we’d arrived and settled into our table we ordered some pork scratchings with apple sauce and the British Charcuterie sharing board with beef salami, venison salami, veal & sage salami, chorizo and locally cured ham. Sharing when eating is always a winner, but with such an array of meats accompanied with pickles and gherkins it was one half of a fantastic starter. The other half was the pork scratchings, a staple pub favourite and it’s great to see that someone’s actually thought about the apple sauce accompanying them. These were awesome soft-yet-big chunks of apple that combined well with the crunch of the scratching, a match made in Wolvercote.
After two great starters, it was time to decide what took our fancy out of the mains. I was sold on the special of Cornbury Park Venison Haunch, while Mrs Ox went in for the Ground Steak Burger, and both of us were swapping forks saying how good each others dish were. In fact Mrs Ox claimed it was the single best burger she has had – big claims indeed but after trying it they were justified. With Venison I’m sometimes put off by having a game dish but this didn’t have a bitter flavour, it was cooked medium rare and absolutely bang on the money. So much so that I was claiming an early victory over Mrs Ox in the battle of the mains but truth be told there wasn’t anything in it, both excellent dishes with her burger claiming rightful praise.
With the merits of each main debated and devoured, a sweet touch was needed and after a chat with the brilliant Luke, who told the story of the choice behind having a brownie on their menu, we were sold and at this point ordering one to share so that we could both claim a joint victory in the pudding fight. The guys, in their own unique way, had added a special twist to the Brownie by putting pecans inside, meaning alongside the elements you expect from a brownie that there was a sweet crunch in the middle.
Eating and drinking done, we were feeling happy and ready to start our weekend. More than this though we felt like we’d had a proper treat, not some average pub fair that you resentfully end up handing your buck over for. The food isn’t on the cheap end of the scale, but it’s all about getting value for money at the end of the day you pays your money and all that, and you pays your money here and you’re getting top service, warmth, great food and for me a yardstick to judge others with.
FOTO Rating: 9/10