Tucked up a lane in Hertfordshire is an old inconspicuous farm plot.
February 2nd, 2022
Tucked up a lane in Hertfordshire is an old inconspicuous farm plot. Blink and you could easily miss it but for those in the know, it has quickly become a buzzing weekend outpost for locals, Londoners, and the occasional celebrity. The site has been home to fashion and homeware brand, Osprey for 15 years and has gradually expanded to include a gin distillery, beauticians, and more recently, JJAM, a countryside kitchen serving brunch style breakfast plates, light lunches and delicious dinners using fresh and where possible, local, seasonal ingredients.
Set in a pretty courtyard, JJAM was founded by school friends Jack Ellisdon and Scott Martin during the first lockdown. The pair have a hospitality background, Jack previously worked in the hotel industry for the likes of Dorchester Collection Hotels while Scott has experience in private members clubs including the renowned Annabel’s.
I took my daughter and husband on a Saturday afternoon in January and the place was literally JJAM packed. The indoor space seats around 30 covers which adds to the intimate personalised service however, outside there’s a courtyard with a firepit for those who prefer to dine alfresco. Despite a chill in the air, there were couples meandering around the Osprey outlet store, people nipping in and out of the distillery and groups relaxing around the courtyard with hots drinks. Ellisdon tells me “People tend to come here for the best part of the day. They might have a leisurely breakfast with us then have a look around the shops or perhaps have a beauty treatment with Francessca, (who is also an old school friend), then pop back to us for drinks and dinner”. Dinner at JJAM is a big hit, especially in the summer when you can make the most out of the outdoor space, but more on that later. We were sat on a cosy corner table with a chilled glass of Sancerre while we scanned the food options. The menu at JJAM is refreshed every month and is an eclectic mix of classic British, and rustic, internationally inspired dishes. The chef has put his own spin on flatbread style pizzas, sharing platters and sandwiches which make this place more than a café. Front of house is big Dutchman, Parcifal, who casually mingles around the café chatting to people, answering any questions about the menu, and making you feel welcome.
We ordered the JJAM toastie, steak sandwich and triple stacked pancakes. Each plate served would look at home on any foodie’s Instagram page. Presentation here is next level and when our food arrives it looks too good to eat. The conversation grounds to a halt as we tucked into each plate. For the next few minutes, the table was filled with lots of nods and moans of appreciation. My daughter, a pancake connoisseur, took one bite from her fluffy stack and exclaimed it was the best plate of pancakes ever! My toastie was not your regular Breville toastie, wedged between a parmesan crusted sourdough was succulent, chunky slices of Wiltshire ham, melted mature cheddar cheese and a tangy onion chutney. The sourdough had just the right amount of crunch while the sweet onion chutney balanced out the cheddar and parmesan. I sneaked a bite of the steak sandwich and again it didn’t disappoint. The meat was melt in your mouth tender, enveloped in a toasted ciabatta bun.
Dinner at JJAM is the jewel in the crown. They switch up the menu to include specials and larger plates. There’s live music every weekend and no time limit on tables. In the summer tables are like gold dust with people vying over a courtyard seat. Fairy lights adorn the space, blankets and fire pits keep it cosy.
After lunch I had a wander around the shops. Ellisdon tells me they have plans to expand the site, host regular events and turn it into a destination location. The venue lends itself to private events and is already popular for parties and weddings. From May, they will be running JJAM x WELLNESS, a series of weekly subscription-based yoga, running and fitness classes that will be followed by a light breakfast, juice and coffee. The view is to then expand these ‘wellness brunches’ to include beauty treatments such as massages by their onsite beautician. As well as the venue in Hertfordshire, JJAM Regent Street has just opened offering coffees and tasty bites served with the same enthusiasm and passion.
JJAM has vibe, it’s one of those places you want to take your friends just to show off but at the same time you want to keep this place a secret. Word is already getting around so book your table in advance to avoid disappointment.