Triumph of taste
NOTHING is too much trouble for the staff at Jesse's Bistro in Cirencester. Always willing to give you more time to choose from the exciting menu and even offer some helpful advice.
Tucked away in a side alley off Black Jack Street, the intimate restaurant is certainly a treat to stumble upon.
I admit I have been a few times; in fact it has become a ritual my mother and I enjoy when she visits from abroad. She looks forward to it for months.
When you walk in you are greeted straight away by the chefs, busy working away in Jesse's open kitchen.
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Exposed stone walls and candlelight give the restaurant a comforting feel.
And that is exactly what Jesse's Bistro does best. It gives you food you have always wanted to try, flavours you have always wanted to mix in an environment you feel at ease with.
For my starter I enjoyed the pan seared Scottish king scallops – huge and juicy – served with chorizo quinoa, tomato and shallot verde.
Scallops appear on Jesse's menu frequently, but always in different guises. Sometimes with some crispy black pudding, sometimes with a spicy accompaniment.
This one was lovely. The quinoa came packed in a little cake shape, surrounded by the scallops with the salad and dressing.
The other treats on the starters list included gruyere soufflé tart and soft shell crab with crab sushi roll, red pepper and soy.
My fellow diner decided to opt for the speciality breads which came with both olive oil and balsamic and butter.
I pretty much always opt for a steak when I eat out, especially from here as the meat comes from next door Jesse Smith's butchers – very local. And I love proper cooked chips.
But I know the fish dishes are something else.
So I bravely chose the Cornish halibut served with sweet potato mash, salt and pepper squid and pak choi.
A lovely chunky bit of halibut, king of fishes, arrived next to a delicate swirl of the sweet potato puree. But the saltiness of the squid combined it all together and gave the dish that mixture of flavours that I have come to love at this place.
Keeping up with the West Country theme, my fellow diner went for the whole Cornish lemon sole, served with new potatoes, wilted spinach and brown shrimp and almond butter.
The sole had a delicate but slightly lemony flavour and she declared the butter to be "lovely". High praise indeed.
The a la carte menu costs more than your average pub meal, but this is no pub and you get the full flavour for your pound.
Head chef, Paul Driver-Dickerson and sous chef, David Witnall always ensure all of Jesse's food is sourced only from the south west and is always seasonal.
Fresh fish is delivered daily from Cornwall and customers can even buy a fillet to cook at home.
The menu changes regularly and for our visit it included Cotswold pork chop, belly pork, crispy black pudding, mashed potato, savoy cabbage and tarragon cream sauce.
But the dish I had to resist the urge to go for was the Cotswold rib eye steak covered in béarnaise sauce, with hand-cut chips and a watercress salad.
Obviously I went for a dessert to finish off the meal. I chose the dark chocolate fondant, with espresso syrup, Tia Maria ice cream and chocolate tuilles. The menu tells you it takes 15 minutes – but the wait is worth it if you are a chocolate fan.
This is chocolate done properly – no messing around. We even commented that you could smell the chocolate wafting around the restaurant as the dish was brought out from the kitchen.
I think mine took a bit longer than 15 minutes but I really didn't mind. It was nice to have a decent break to let the main settle down.
The food at Jesse's Bistro has been painstakingly prepared using top-quality produce. The menu has been put together by someone with an excellent palate.
I will definitely be back.