Home cooking with a twist at Jamaica Street Stores
Jamaica Street Stores offers something different to Bristol’s abundant restaurant scene. Former head chef at River Cottage Cafe Charlie James set up shop (quite literally, but we’ll come onto that) in this Grade II-listed carriage works about three years ago with younger brother Phil, and people have been flocking to the establishment ever since.
After spending five years cooking up a storm in Melbourne, Charlie opened Jamaica Street Stores with the straightforward aim of serving great-quality, unfussy food and drink, without a hint of pretentiousness.
The very cool building that the restaurant calls home is almost entirely glass-fronted and was for a few years one of the largest artist-led studios outside of London, with 43 artists in residence. These days Jamaica Street Stores, as the name suggests, is a multi-functioning space selling wares from local businesses as well as being a fantastic eatery – something that was in Charlie’s original vision for the place.
Bar stools are circled around a round table-cum-small tree receptacle, ginormous cheese plants hang suspended above diners’ heads courtesy of Wild Leaf, the Bristol indoor plant shop, and a mini-DIY supermarket stocked with art prints, handmade crockery and even bike helmets sits next to the bar. Perhaps this multi-purposing is a reflection of these gig economy times? Slash careers and businesses ease collaboration, and in the case of Jamaica Street Stores, local businesses are given a leg-up in return for a beautifying of the space. It seems to work incredibly well and certainly gives you plenty to look at as you wait for your friends or food to arrive.
I’m still no better at making decisions quickly when it comes to small plates menus and this one was no less tantalising and varied. Chicken liver paté with onion jam, slow-cooked aubergine and haricot bean chilli, salt-baked beetroot with raspberry vinegar…
We picked our plates and shucked some oysters to start – a brilliant choice, if I do say so myself – cool and invigorating, they were served with a sprinkling of chopped onion.
Now for the main event. Juicy IOW tomatoes with coriander dressing and chili were super sweet, almost fruity. The autumny squash risotto with old winchester cheese and crispy sage was smooth, silky and curry-like. The fried Somerset chicken was pleasingly peppery – maybe a tad over-crunchy – but the pork shoulder dumplings were perfect little savoury cushions.
The accompanying crab soup served as a delectable sauce. Simple and delicious were the fried potatoes, garlic and parsley.
Well and truly satisfied, we ordered a couple of decaf Americanos as digestifs.
Jamaica Street Stores doesn’t stop at evening meals, it also has a recently revived and reasonably priced lunch specials menu featuring mussels, soups and chicken. One imagines the sun streaming in through the many-windowed front would make the restaurant a splendid lunch spot.
An equally-enticing Christmas menu is up on the website (West Country cheeses, cured salmon, venison haunch, boozy desserts) – let the festivities begin!
Image credit: Jamaica Street Stores
37–39 Jamaica Street BS2 8JP/ 01179 249 294 / jamaicastreetstores.com
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