Sharing my birthday with two others over the last 25 years has of course, caused issues. Back in November however, seeing as both my siblings had made plans with their friends and didn’t want to make any joint plans, for the first time in 24years I was free to do exactly what I wanted. And what I wanted was to eat some great food, drink just as great wine and not have to drive. I’m happy to report that I managed to accomplish all three of the above thanks in no small part to JSW. Despite the relatively short distance it was over an hours drive to Petersfield and the white walled exterior of the Michelin Starred establishment named after its Chef Owner Jake Saul Watkins. Situated on a main road, a trend I noticed with the upmarket restaurants I visited in 2017, it’s easy to miss on first approach. It won’t be however, be easy to forget.
Dinner took the form of an 8 course tasting menu with an accompanying wine flight. The menu had changed since the time of booking, but I’ve never been more happy to see a change than I was as I glanced over the menu sipping on a glass of complimentary Champagne. Right from the word go, things were looking more than just okay.
After the usual array of freshly baked bread and an Amuse Bouche we cracked on with the first course. A caramelised root vegetable soup was both light in colour and texture but carried a wonderful rich buttery flavour, perfectly matching the pale yellow colour and candied notes of the 2016 vintage of Viognier from one of many wineries owned by the infamous Rothschild’s family.
A dish I’ve been practicing at home and written about just over a year ago is Scallops, Smoked Bacon and Pea Purée. Let’s just say, it’s a work in progress. Soft and sweet Scallops, smoked ham and then the freshness of the green peas came together to make a dish that just made me smile. If I ever manage to produce something half as good as this I’ll be over the moon.
The third course was another absolute favourite of mine; Risotto. The Risotto, which was already pretty decent, was nudged up a notch with the earthy flavour of some artichoke crisps and a piece of expertly cooked Dover Sole which was gently placed on top.
For the penultimate savoury course, we were presented with Duck cooked two ways. The first were a few slices of evenly cooked breast meat, that wore a glorious shade of pink throughout, the fat rendered down leaving a layer of crisp skin around the edge of each slice. A light, golden brown bonbon of shredded duck leg brought contrast to the dish, whilst the additional notes of cherry coming from the accompanying Pinot Noir (once again courtesy of the Rothschild estate) made for one of the all time classic flavour combinations.
A dish of suckling pig would be the final savoury course of the evening. A crisp bonbon made a return to the table for its encore whilst slices of tender young pig would melt in the mouth and vanish in seconds.
A Blackberry, Apple and Cinnamon Yoghurt topped with a baton of shortbread would be a delightful introduction to the sweet courses. The spice of the cinnamon coming through the yogurt was beautifully subtle and wasn’t as overpowering as I had first feared, balancing with the sweetness of the blackberries and shortbread baton.
I’ll be honest, when I read the menu and saw the next course I was a little apprehensive. Not quite to the same extent as my nut intolerant girlfriend (who’s peanut parfait was swapped for a honeycomb equivalent) but I’m not a particularly big fan of nuts. Unless of course it comes in a jar with the word Nutella enscribed on the front. That shit is gooood! Similarly to the Cinnamon in the previous course, this too was perfectly balanced and easily beat my initial expectations. Alongside the parfait, came sharp raspberries helping immensely to cut through the richness of the accompanying Valrhona Genache and parfait.
The final official course of the evening was a Cheesecake with tropical fruits and spiced pineapple. Ever since I was in my mid-teens, whenever anyone says cheesecake to me, I immediately think back to a YouTube video including Greg Wallace and the words ‘buttery biscuit base’. This was a more adult version of my childhood recollections of a cheesecake. There were still murmurs of a wonderful buttery biscuit base and a soft and smooth cheese topping, only this time with the added sweetness of chunks of pineapple. Exotic fruit in the form of lychee and my favourite herb in the entire world coriander, was a good way to refresh the palette at the end of the meal.
I’m not normally one for coffee and petit fours especially after a lengthy meal, but seeing as it was my birthday we decided to throw all caution to the wind. Much to my delight, alongside an espresso came 8 Salted Caramel Truffles. This would be the cherry on top of the cake. I won’t lie, after the first two I was done. I couldn’t stop there though. The rich and indulgent truffles with caramel and a hint of salt were little balls of heaven. So much so, that I soldiered on leaving only two for my partner to enjoy.
Our evening at JSW and the subsequent overnight stay that included a superb continental breakfast delivered to the room the next morning came to £370. From the second we arrived to the moment we left, our every need was taken care of without hesitation. Over the course of the evening, JSW delivered dish after dish of sheer brilliance using some of my all time favourite ingredients to produce what would quickly become one of the stand out meals of 2017.