I'll be the first to admit that British Pub fare, up until now, has never done much to set my pulse to racing. What I've tried locally has been fit for little more than suds-sopping...greasy, bland, overcooked and uninspiring. Apparently, I just haven't tried it when it was properly prepared by an actual chef who hails directly from the source of origin...Great Britain. Thus, I was born again today in Jack's.
The website states that "we prepare all our food fresh daily, with the finest ingredients hand picked by our Master Chef Peter Leonavicius". After tasting it, I have absolutely no difficulty believing this claim. This cuisine, which I cannot with a clear conscience refer to as "pub grub", was delightful, creative, obviously prepared with care and presented piping hot (little makes me crankier than having lukewarm food plopped down in front of me). There was a short wait for our selections to exit the kitchen, but it was well worth it and our knowledgeable server (Leo) made sure we had cold beer to sip on while our meals were being prepared.
Hand-cut, beer-battered onion rings were sheer decadence. Crispy, non-greasy and right out of the fryer, they didn't even need an accompaniment...but the "chili jam" (which is pretty much like a really great sweet Thai chili dipping sauce) put a unique spin on this classic favorite.
Because I'm inherently fearful of British Pub food (having been scarred by prior experiences), I played it safe and ordered the classic fish and chips. A regular order (which I understand is massive) is priced at $10.99, but a downsized version is available before 6:30 PM (along with $3 pub wines and beer selections) so, anticipating something overly breaded, oily and fishy-tasting, I went with that. Good thing I did...not because my spidey senses were giving me a good read, but because the Happy Meal version was more than I could finish. The whitefish was delicate, moist, sweet and enrobed in more of the light beer batter that made the rings so stellar. It was coupled with an off-the-chain house made tartar sauce that I couldn't get enough of...I'm not sure what they put in it, but I think it might've been crack. The massive "chip" planks were twice-fried with a fine exterior salty crunch factor and tender insides. The little side salad was very nicely dressed and more thoughtful than most in Tampa Bay (certainly more for any dining establishment of this price point). Despite its tastiness, I didn't eat much of it because I was too enamored of the plethora of deep-fried decadence surrounding me to waste stomach space on greens. I'll take a vitamin tomorrow.
Bangers n' Mash were similarly impressive. What tasted like artisanal sausages in natural casings (intensely flavored with spices that lent a little kick of heat at the end) were perfectly grilled and presented atop a delectable mound of garlic and herb mashed potatoes that had been slathered in homemade wild mushroom gravy. Yummzzzamillion!
It was a ridiculous idea to order dessert when we couldn't even wrangle down our entrees, but of course we did it anyway (being hedonists to the highest power). The moist apple and cranberry bread pudding was a fine rendition that provided a welcome reminder that it actually IS autumn even if Tampa Bay temps aren't currently cooperating. Chocolate and caramel sauces added a nice touch.
The restaurant is housed in an old Pizza Hut location and you will pretty much be cognizant of that, but the interior is clean and comfortable...albeit a tad spartan. Chef stopped by to ensure that we were pleased (we were) and was happy to chat a little about his methods. Our menu selections were all outstanding and ridiculously affordable. Everything pictured plus two beers apiece set us back $43 before gratuity. A fantastic experience overall.
My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary, anonymous restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.