These days, the ‘cool’ ‘different’ and ‘quirky’ are at the forefront of food presentation and interior design when it comes to dining out.
Restaurateurs suspect there’s something abhorrently wrong if your sweet-potato fries aren’t neatly nestling in newspaper and encased in a mouse-sized chip pan which will never actually go near a deep fat fryer. If you aren’t eating off a wooden board, you’ll definitely face difficulties when cutting into your steak.
Walk into 7 out of 10 restaurants or cafés off the street and you’ll be greeted with vintage, almost scruffy-looking tables and chairs, old bookcases and furniture instead of some easy IKEA option and to top things off, an extra strong Wi-Fi connection.
At a first glance, Jamboree Food Fest and Bar, which officially opened onTuesday, appears no different.
Sofas in a 1970s style and inviting vintage armchairs sprawl across this cosy lounge restaurant. Tables alternate with window food booths, against the backdrop of a swanky bar and modern lighting which allows the room to dim.
For the city worker, there’s no shame of having to ask if you can charge your phone behind the bar. The place is adorned with 50 plug sockets which all have USB ports, ideal for a lunchtime break from the office or a last minute essay spruce up for a student.
Unless occupying a booth by the window, where you can look out onto the hustle and bustle of commuters approaching Piccadilly, many might take Jamboree as your average quirky bar in the Northern Quarter.
But manager Daniel Adcock insists that Jamboree is proud to battle it out alone from the northern quarter scene.
When it comes to worldly flavours, Jamboree thrives on being all inclusive, open and fun. You can kick things off with potted duck rillettes from France, or ‘Crispi Calamari’ served with Wasabi sauce. The bite-sized falafels could have been a little bigger, but like all things in Jamboree, size magnificently compromises flavour. These chick-pea delights were served with a tangy lemon-based tahini dressing on a crunchy bed of grated beansprouts and carrots.
Jamboree somewhat tames down the modern-day eating style of the eccentric, but fantastically maintains the modern-day feel which is so often sought by the savvy foodies of today.
Against the likes of Byron, Handmade Burger Company and GBK, burgers at Jamboree sizzle in a rich flavour of the cosmopolitan.
The Morris Major, a Scottish beef burger, is totally different to the Racing Bull, whose Argentinian meat has a higher fat content and is naturally juicier and brought to life with a dollop of chimichuri sauce. Chicken lovers can opt for the marinated Jamaican Jerk served in a special brioche bun specifically tailored for the chain. Veggies can lose themselves in the smokiness of the towering Yucatan – a cumin black bean burger bonanza, garnished with guacamole and chipotle mayo.
And then there’s the Maryland. This, as Daniel Adcock proudly proclaims, is Manchester’s first ever, historic crab burger. The simplicity of soft-shell crab meat embellished with celeriac remoulade, pickled cucumber and classic shoestring fries.
True to its name, this restaurant and dive bar offers an all-inclusive party menu for everyone – meat-eaters, vegans and vegetarians and the gluten frees. For those precariously watching their waste lines, all burgers are offered in their ‘skinny’ option and Daniel even tells there might soon be the possibility of halal burgers.
This of course, all seems fantastic. But this naturally begs the question whether there are too many invitees on Jamboree’s party list. Instead of the niched, but whether the restaurant will be able to tempt everyone to a food fest is another thing.
To my delight, there wasn’t a wooden board or chip pan in sight. The sweet-potato fries which accompanied my decent-sized Yucatan were happily stretched out in front of me across my plate.
The party doesn’t stop there either. Each burger is paired with a different ale or cocktail – such as the ‘Tulum Tower’ – a Mexican style Jose Cuervo Gold, passion fruit and a squeeze of lime.
Out of the five desserts on offer, three include chocolate brownie – a subtle suggestion that the gastro party is winding down before the after dinner drinks kick in. The crunch of my hazelnut infused chocolate brownie was topped off with a thick layer of fudgy icing and served with a scoop of salty toffee ice-cream – a ridiculously easy choice over the fruit salad on offer, which, despite its simplicity, was proudly bathing in its own chilli, ginger and lime syrup.
Perhaps most importantly, Jamboree doesn’t just focus on food, but the experience of eating and socializing in a relaxing and comfortable setting. Customers can even take over the restaurant’s ‘plug and play’ system to feel right at home.
Lights are dimmed during the evening, when the restaurant transforms itself into a dive bar ready to cater for a cosy, after dinner atmosphere and when it truly hopes to live up to its swanky, old-style celebratory name.