the UK based Restaurant and Hotel Review

Jamies Bar, Charlotte Street W1
one of a kind that offers terrific wines and decent food
- says Clifford Mould

How did Jamies pass me by? Or rather, how did I pass by Jamies? Probably because I'm a louche West End bar-fly and nearly all 17 (yes seventeen!) branches of Jamies are located in the EC post code. City slickers have clearly been keeping this to themselves, but last week I broke out and staggered up Fitzrovia (W1 by the skin of its teeth) to their Charlotte Street wine bar. So close to the much vaunted Pied-a-Terre, yet such better value. Instead of paying 45 for a bog standard bottle of Rosemount Chardonnay as our reporter Adam Kingl did last week (see his review of Pied-a-Terre). At Jamies you could have the Wolf Blass equivalent, just as good, for 15.50. Their most expensive white is 49, but that buys you a bottle of Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 1995 from Latour. Which is a very different kettle of fish.

Speaking of which, do try Jamies wonderful monkfish and whole scallops, (6.75 or 11.25 for a main sized portion). They come skewered onto a twig of fresh rosemary and served with a delicious freshly chopped salsa that perfectly sets off the sea-freshness of the fish. The blond, (AAdrian doesn't have the monopoly on blonds) had the Thai fishcake (5.25) which was spicy enough, but the concept is no longer quite as novel - perhaps its time for Thai fishcakes to be returned to the wild

The menu is worth taking a look at, it's a little unconventional, but works well in the grazing ambience of a winebar. I had a steak sandwich which contained a tasty chunk of rare ribeye liberally coated with caramelized onion and jammed between some very fresh crusty wholemeal bread. lt was substantial and worth 8.95, and for a pound more you could have a plate of French fries. The blond had one of their Ginger Rice bowl dishes. She chose chicken (9.95) which was equally substantial, as well as being tender and tangily flavoured. I managed to save a corner for a piece of pecan pie (4.25), which was very sweet but not quite gooey enough. I suspect that the desserts are made centrally, which with so many branches is rather inevitable if overall quality is to be maintained.

Wine flights at Jamies

But the real excitement of the meal was a tasting flight of four wines, presented in ISO tasting glasses. We had Flight 4 "Exploring the old world" which began with Lagrima Virgen, very smoky and aromatic, with an old fashioned faintly oxidised note, almost like sherry. I asked to see the bottle, and it was the first sample out, so I supposed that a touch of ox is part of its charm. Then on to Fallanghina, from Campi Legrei in Italy, which is imported exclusively for Jamies, a most attractive fragrant wine made in a more modern style. Espiga, from Quinta do Boavista in Portugal is an old friend - I stayed on the estate a couple of years ago and have always enjoyed its flinty dry character. Finally there was Albarino from Castel de Fornos, another old style charmer, strongly aromatic, almost piney, but stopping short of retsina, thank heaven. These flights are money well spent at 9.50 a go; at lunchtime, we found one flight between the two of us was just right. Click here to see the listing of the current range of wine flights.

Jamies is a neat concept: The quality of the food was good, the meat comes from organic farms in the Peak district of Derbyshire. They've just removed cod from the menu until stocks are sustainable again. The service was youthful and friendly but professional - they are making efforts to see that staff are educated in wine by sponsoring them to train for Certificates and Diplomas of WSET (the Wine and Spirit Education Trust). The decor is upbeat and the music at lunchtime was not too loud; all in all there's plenty of evidence of thought and care, resulting in useful places where you can relax, snack, or eat substantially as you please. But perhaps the best news is that you can find really lovely wines to drink at sensible prices. And of course there are lots of other bevvies to enjoy too!

Clifford Mould - February 2001

Jamies Bar, 74 Charlotte Street W1 Tel: 020 7636 2505

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