JSW is currently one of a handful of Michelin starred restaurants in Hampshire and is located in the small market town of Petersfield. JSW are the initials of the restaurant’s chef and proprietor, Jake Saul Watkins, who attained his first Michelin star in 2002. We visited recently on a fine Summer evening for dinner. The restaurant is housed in a former 17th century coaching inn and is inviting and modern with crisp white tablecloths and wooden beamed ceilings. There are also a few elegant line drawings on the wall – the artwork opposite me was that of a female nude, a tasteful one of course! There is no background music which may be a little disconcerting if you’re one of the first to arrive.
The menu changes regularly and is described as ‘Modern British’ and the ingredients used tend to be seasonal and locally sourced (although the poultry is sourced from France). The options available are the à la carte menu or a tasting menu (six or eight courses). There is also an extensive wine list featuring wines from across the world. We opted for the eight course tasting menu with accompanying wine (described as the ‘wine flight’ on the menu). The wine option included a glass of champagne to start followed by six small glasses of wine to accompany each following course. As a vegequarian, I could swap the meat courses with a vegetarian or fish dish with no trouble 🙂
We started our meal with a glass of champagne and a delicious complimentary amuse bouche of smoked haddock brandade (a creamy dip), home made crostini and some plump green olives. The brandade was smooth, full of flavour and very moreish. This was a great start! We were then presented with our cutlery, a basket of some excellent assorted home made bread rolls and our first glass of wine in anticipation of our first course (we were yet to finish the champagne…!)
This will be a very long review if I were to describe in detail each dish (ten of them in total) so I will summarise what we had. The description on the menu is rather minimal and although the friendly waiter described each dish, I can’t remember word for word what was said. Also, I am no wine connoisseur (although I did once win a wine tasting session at an office Christmas do) but I do enjoy a nice vintage. This is what we ate and drank:
- Soup; Wine – Viognier, Baron Phillipe de Rothschild 2013
This was cream of root vegetable soup, topped with a Parmesan crouton and a foam. I thought this was a wonderfully light soup, a Michelin starred veggie dish 🙂 My meat eating partner was less enthused than I was with the soup but enjoyed it none the less. The accompanying white wine was lovely and fresh.
- Scallops; Wine – Picpoul De Pinet Jean-Luc 2014
A large and perfectly cooked scallop with mushroom foam, mushroom spheres (I think) and a nasturtium leaf garnish. This was the nicest scallop dish we have eaten. Ever. I love scallops and I love mushrooms so this was a perfect match for me and one of my favourite dishes of the evening. I could have eaten a whole plate of them! The white wine was delicate and perfect for summer (and with scallops).
- Salmon; Wine – Nederburg Chardonnay 2010
A little slab of cured salmon served with tenderstem broccoli, pickled cucumber and radish. This dish was beautifully presented and tasted like Summer on a plate. The salmon was perfect and (yes, you guessed it), one of the nicest salmon dishes we have eaten. We had yet to finish the glass of wine from the previous course but I recall this being another lovely white wine.
- Duck; (non meat dish) Truffle risotto; Wine – Pinot Noir, Baron Phillipe de Rothschild 2013
Slices of slow cooked duck with hay baked parsnips served with a jus. The verdict was that the duck was tender, beautifully cooked and another delicious dish. I had the truffle risotto from the vegetarian tasting menu and this was lovely – another highlight of the evening for me (I realise that each course is turning into a highlight!). The risotto was wonderfully creamy and topped with a black truffle foam and spheres. We were half way into our meal and I was still feeling hungry – as this was a tasting menu, the portions were very dainty. The wine was a nice red but by this time, we were starting to feel warm and fuzzy from the wine and champagne.
- Lamb; (non meat dish) Wild local seabass with Jersey royal potatoes and sea vegetables; Wine – Negroamaro, Paololeo 2013
The lamb was a take on spaghetti Bolognese – slices of lamb with a slow cooked tomato sauce, parmesan foam (I think), sprigs of basil cress and a twirl of tagliatelle pasta. The verdict was that this was delicious and a lovely interpretation of a spag bol, but, shock and horror… the pasta was overcooked! This was a shame but it wasn’t worth sending the dish back. I had the seabass from the à la carte menu. This was a nice little fillet of pan fried local seabass served on a bed of crushed new potatoes and accompanied by some vibrant green sea vegetables – samphire and sea aster I think – and little white spheres of something (I can’t remember what). This was beautifully cooked, delicate and elegant and as the dish was from the à la carte menu, more of a complete meal. However, it was slightly under seasoned for my taste. The wine was a fruitier red and was perfect with the lamb dish.
- ‘Hendrix G & T’
A palate cleanser of sorbets flavoured with: gin and tonic, cucumber and lemon curd (I think). G & T is my favourite tipple so needless to say, I loved this. A mouthful of the three sorbets together was like a frozen Hendrix G &T.
- Cheesecake; Wine – Nederburg, Late harvest Muscadel 2012
A deconstructed strawberry cheesecake – the elements were vanilla cream cheese with biscuit crumb, strawberry puree, strawberry spheres and a strawberry tuile. This was pleasant enough with a lovely intense strawberry flavour but for us, it did not reach the height of the previous courses. The accompanying dessert wine was, however, rather fine and went well with the cheesecake.
This was a showstopper of a dessert of milk chocolate and white chocolate ganache, a doughnut, popcorn, lime purée, salted caramel sauce and peanut praline. This combination may be too much for some people but for this pair of sweet toothed diners, it was amazing and another highlight! The lime cut through the sweetness beautifully and the doughnut was light and fluffy. This final course did not come with wine.
We finished the meal feeling very full – those eight plates did add up – but we had room for coffee. We also felt nicely rosy after the wine – we were told that the wine flight was equivalent to roughly half a bottle of wine each but it seemed more than this, especially including the champagne. We could just be light weights! The coffee was accompanied by some delicious petit fours – home made jammie dodgers and salted caramel chocolate truffles served on smoked coffee to dip. We loved the mixture of coffee, smoke, chocolate and salted caramel – genius! This was a perfect way to end a wonderful meal.
Here are some pictures from our evening:
So the verdict? Eating at JSW is not cheap but we had a leisurely evening eating some top notch food paired with some excellent wine. The service was charming, efficient and not intrusive and all in all a deliciously memorable evening. We will be back!
20, Dragon Street
Hampshire. GU31 4JJ
Tel: +44 (0)1730 262030
Opening hours: Dinner Wednesday – Saturday 19.00-21.00
Lunch Thursday – Sunday 12.00 – 13.30
Cost per person excluding drinks and service: À la carte lunch or dinner – from £30 – £40
8 course tasting menu – £80, Wine flight – £45