The Jam Tree, London

With their bright, quirky interiors, seasonal cuisine and tasty cocktails, The Jam Tree pubs have proven to have a winning formula. After the success of the first two in Kensington and Chelsea, owners Yann Roberts and Ashley Letchford have taken the concept to south London. They have transformed the site of bar-restaurant Grafton House in Clapham Old Town, changing the layout and injecting it with their trademark energy and colour.

With an extensive background in the bar and club sector, the pair have designed the interior themselves, breaking the existing large space into smaller areas with partitions such as a wall of jars with hanging plants and a tall cabinet filled with jam jars. The focus of the venue is now the main bar at the front, set up for drinking and eating, while the former dining room at the back has been turned into a flexible area for private hire and events such as comedy nights as well as more eating and drinking at busier times.

With its own small bar, this room at the back also has a table-tennis table, while the open kitchen pass has been covered with a long distressed antique mirror. “I have a bit of an issue with open kitchens,” Yann explains. “They look great when it’s busy but when it’s just a kitchen porter with a mop, it starts to lose its impact.”

To establish the new layout, a wall has been built to separate the two spaces, with a concealed door in what looks like a bookcase. The back room opens out onto a stylish landscaped garden, which can also be accessed through a corridor from the main bar. After the success of the immense garden at their Chelsea site, Yann and Ashley are set to add a barbecue next summer.

The furniture and lighting throughout the venue has been mostly sourced from specialist supplier Andy Thornton and its on-trend Urban Vintage collection. These include tables made from old floorboards, high refectory tables, café chairs, battered Chesterfields, crystal chandeliers and a sofa upholstered in Beatles-design fabric. Features familiar from the other sites include Tom Dixon copper globe lights above a copper-top bar and the jam jar pop art on the walls, plus other quirky items bought at auction. An industrial 19th-century detail has been added with large traditional tin tiles on sections of the white ceiling.

Open from midday for coffees and lunch Sundays to Fridays and from 10am on Saturdays, it ramps up the mood in the evenings until midnight on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A new sound system has been installed with Turbo Power speakers, Crown amps and Soundweb processing, while music throughout the day has been programmed by Music Concierge.

“Local” twists have been added to the food menu by the group’s executive chef, James Browne, who grew up in Clapham and nearby Brixton surrounded by Caribbean flavours and exotic ingredients. Formerly head chef at Rapscallion in Clapham and the Settle Inn in Battersea, he has developed seasonal British food alongside “colonial” favourites from countries such as Malaysia, South Africa, Canada and India. He has used local suppliers wherever possible such as Clapham butcher Moen & Sons and cheesemaker Hamish Johnston.

Another familiar feature on the menu are the signature jam cocktails, with customers able to choose from a selection of Bonne Maman jams for drinks such as a Jam Mojito. With cocktails designed in-house by a “cocktail committee” of bartenders, other popular drinks include the Jaffaholics Anonymous, made with Tia Maria, Eristoff vodka, Mozart chocolate liqueur, orange marmalade and orange juice. Another is the Wham Bam Thank You Jam, which mixes Cariel vanilla vodka with Chambord, Passoä, raspberry jam and a sour mix, topped with popping candy.

The bar also serves a wide selection of beers, including Birra Moretti, Sagres, London Pride and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord on draught and Saint, Leffe, Duvel and Vedett by the bottle. Alongside a champagne list featuring Louis Roederer Cristal and Dom Pérignon, there is a strong wine list, with over 20 available by the glass.

The Jam Tree is part of a burst of activity in the area, with new bars opening over the next few months around Clapham High Street alongside an urban regeneration scheme that will create more pedestrianised space. The arrival of The Jam Tree confirms the continuing profile of Clapham as a leading London destination for drinking and partying.

The Jam Tree, 13-19 Old Town, Clapham, London SW4 0JT Tel: 020 3397 4422

Originally published in the December 2012 edition of Bar magazine.

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