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No encore for me.

Byline: By Paul Fulford

SELDOM do I crave those dishes served up in the live music venues of yesteryear - scampi in the basket, for instance.

Here, though, a tinge of nostalgia crept in as I ate a series of dishes that promised much but delivered little.

The menu at the Jam House suggests sophistication and that, I think, is the problem. It doesn't seem to me to be a venue suited to fine dining. Punters are primarily there to listen to live music and, when they've necked enough alcohol, perhaps even to shake a wobbly leg.

In such circumstances I don't want fancy nosh, but something simple and substantial.

As I ate the prettily presented dishes laid before me, I craved the sort of stuff that used to be served at the long-gone Hawkins Wine Bar when I still had hair. Burgers topped with chilli con carne, for example. Or jacket potatoes filled with creamed spinach.

Instead I started with a chicken liver and foie gras parfait that was too firm, too chilled and showed the greying signs of oxidisation around its edges.

A couple of slices of toasted honey and walnut bread were good, but the raisin puree alongside was over-sweet sludge.

My wife Lynn and her friend Bev ate unremarkable smoked trout with buckwheat blinis that apparently tasted more like Scotch pancakes. A bowl of minestrone failed to enthuse Bev's husband Paul.

Nor did main courses reach any heights. The slow roast belly pork I ordered was horrible stuff - the meat hard, the fat under-cooked, the skin nowhere near crisp enough. Pureed sweet potatoes were spiced too heavily with cumin. Apricot relish added unnecessary extra sweetness. And broccoli was soggy.

Lynn and Bev grew morose over plates of chicken wrapped in Parma ham and served with beans and a salsa verde. Nor did Paul's grilled beef fillet raise a wide grin.

Neither woman wanted (their own) desserts. They were wise.

My pistachio creme brulee had a clumsy, thick crust below which lurked a custard that was too firm and tasted of little. A scoop of bitter chocolate sorbet was also unimpressive.

Paul's bourbon vanilla cheesecake came with poached rhubarb and looked a far better bet.

None of this came cheap and, with three bottles of house wine and a coffee, the bill edged towards pounds 150. But, of course, this also gave us the opportunity to sit in pleasant, buzzy surroundings listening to live music.

Shame the food didn't hit the right note.

"The slow roast belly pork was horrible stuff - the meat hard, the fat undercooked, the skin not crisp enough

Verdict *****

How much? pounds 148 (for 4)

Vegetarians? Choices

Child friendly? Over-21s

Disabled access? OK

Parking? On street

Go back? To listed to music

CAPTION(S):

DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR... The Jam House seems to be catering for the wrong crowd.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:May 4, 2007
Words:474
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