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Gastro – reviewing Jackson & Rye in Guildford

A new opening from a small restaurant chain owned by Côte is always going to be worth a visit. While hardly ground-breaking, I think Côte offers a good value dining experience with service that tends to be a notch above others. So when Marcus and I were asked to review Jackson & Rye in Guildford, we leapt at the chance.

Offering upmarket East Coast American-style food, this is a small chain with just six branches, the Guildford one being their first venture outside of Greater London. Situated at the top of the High Street where McDonalds used to be, the building has undergone a big transformation from its previous incarnation. It is now very different, with an attractive bar area and diner-style tables with banquettes along the walls, mixed with more traditional tables and chairs. They have packed quite a lot in here, which makes some of the passageways a little narrow. Visually it is all rather retro-50s America and works pretty well.

Marcus and I went for lunch a few days after the restaurant opened and were shown to a comfortable banquet in what used to be the old kitchens, which have now been moved upstairs. The appealingly-designed menus are all rather tempting, with interestingly different takes on more traditional dishes. The breakfast menu offers Avocado Benedict and Huevos Rancheros as well as Peanut Butter & Jelly Bagel or Buttermilk Pancakes. The main menu has lots of choices, with ‘for the table’ snacks, ‘appetizers’, salads, entrées and sides. Plenty for everyone really. There is also a good value weekday set lunch, which is £11.95 for two courses or £14.95 for three. They even have a weekend brunch menu, which features a bit of everything and is available each weekend until 4.30pm. It also includes no less than five Bloody Marys which I thought rather appealing!

The small plates and appetizers all sound terribly enticing. We decided to share a couple of small plates from the ‘for the table’ section, Corn Dogs (£4.95) and Popcorn Chicken (£3.50) and also one appetizer, Crunchy Chorizo Prawns (£7.50). All three were exceptionally good, with the corn-batter coated frankfurters proving especially moreish and provoking a battle for the final one of five!

For mains, Marcus played it safe with a fillet steak (£21.95) while I opted for the J+R BBQ board, which included half rack of 6 hour smoked baby back pork ribs, smoked peri-peri chicken wings and sliced pepper steak (£17.95). Both came with triple-cooked fries and a ‘green slaw’. Both were perfectly good, although without the wow-factor that the starters had provided. The ribs could have been cooked a tad longer to make them really fall off the bone, but the pepper steak was delightfully tender and served perfectly pink. A good touch was a small (and rather charming) steel pan with extra bbq sauce and a brush. Sadly both additional sides were disappointing. The Baked Mac & Cheese was bland and stodgy and the Boston Baked Beans with Bacon, while well flavoured, were rather too hard. From an interesting, if small, wine list, we had a very delicious Malbec blend from Kaiken Terroir Series (£27).

The desserts include six choices with cheese and sundaes also available. We shared the J+R Pecan Pie, which was perfectly decent and not too sweet. Other choices include Blueberry & Apple Cobbler and a Potted Vanilla Cheesecake. Service was excellent; our waitress was quite charming and very knowledgeable about the menu, inspite of being a vegetarian and not having tried most of the dishes.

Following my visit with Marcus, I came back a week later with Auntie Gin to try the set lunch. It offers five starters, eight mains and four puds. One of the starters (White Bean & Kale Soup) was sadly not available, so we shared Pulled Pork Cups and Salt & Pepper Squid. Once again, both were really lovely, the squid especially so. It came with a garnish of lettuce with crispy rice vermicelli noodles which were delicious. We both then opted for burgers, one beef and one chicken. Both very pleasant. We saw someone with the Minute Steak which looked enormous and worth a try next time!

This is a decent restaurant and a good addition to the local restaurant scene. While some of the dishes are similar to those offered elsewhere, Jackson & Rye does provide diners with some more varied and offbeat options, especially through their breakfast and brunch menus.

I so much enjoyed the starters on both my visits that I really do need to try more of them. I think next time will see me ordering a wider selection to share, tapas style. They were that good. Who knows, it might even catch on? SR

Jackson & Rye
219 High Street, Guildford GU1 3BJ
Tel: 01483 910820 www.jacksonrye.com

Tel: 01483 910820


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