If proof were needed that Amble has taken over as the gastronomic hub of north Northumberland, Jasper’s is it.
As we approached the small, stylish restaurant on a chill January night, a sweet intoxication of gentle jazz and aromas of herbs and fine cooking wafted over us.
Sandwich bar and coffee shop by day, Jasper’s becomes rustic bistro four nights a week.
Stripped wooden floorboards, pale pine chairs, tiny tiles surrounding deli-style chillers, sea-blue washed wall panels, fairy lights – even the plastic tablecloths depicted weathered boat planks.
We sat by the window – the only other couple in were two tables away, but the soothing music was just loud enough to muffle their conversation and make ours feel intimate. It was snug and homely – if we decided to open a restaurant, there is not much we would do differently, apart, maybe, from the plastic tablecloths and paper napkins, which would both be fabric in our joint.
Chef Ryan Humphrys has created a wonderful atmosphere at his first attempt to go it alone.
Until now, he has not had a drinks licence, so has invited diners to bring their own wine, or, as we did, pop to Tesco’s over the road and a buy a really nice bottle at supermarket, rather than restaurant, prices.
He didn’t charge corkage, nor does he plan to even when he has his own stock – a magnanimous gesture.
With courteous, obliging service, the scene was set.
The menu lived up to the surroundings, plenty of fare from the sea, local produce and some imaginative dishes. It was hand-written and reflected the chef’s ethos of freshly sourced and cooked food. There was a limited choice of seven starters, seven mains and half-a-dozen desserts, plus the specials board. But when the specials include Dover sole with tenderstem broccoli, wilted spinach and garlic mussel and white wine broth (£17.95), or whole lobster with aioli dip, new potatoes, rocket and fresh lemon (£29.95), we knew that we didn’t need a vast choice.
To start, I went for seared scallops and belly pork, with fresh mint, green pea, celeriac and black pudding puree (£9.95), while chilli crab soup in white wine and tomato, with fresh parsley and a dash of virgin olive oil (£5.95) was the request opposite.
Our saliva glands hit overdrive with the sizzling, bubbling, mixing and delicious smells all emanating from the open kitchen.
Both starters were spectacular. The crispy crackling on the belly pork and the soft, juicy scallops provided a taste sensation that I didn’t want to end. The puree was devine.
The soup was likewise full of flavour, hitting just the right note on a freezing night. Delicious artisan bread, and butter in a ramekin completed the picture.
The main event also took me down the marine route, with seafood risotto, including steamed mussels, clams, crab, crevettes and langoustines in white wine and tomato, with fresh herbs and garlic (£18.95).
Mrs L went for a meat option, with a seared 10oz ribeye steak, with grilled mushroom, garlic roasted vine tomatoes and butter-roasted crushed potatoes (£18.95).
The spectacular appearance of the risotto, its tumbling tower of seafood topped with impressive langoustines, was matched by the exquisite combination of subtle flavours and textures – it was shellfish heaven.
The sharper tomato risotto provided a neat contrast.
The steak opposite was cooked to perfection and simply melted in the mouth.
The butter-roasted crushed new potatoes were out of this world – quite a treat and a bit different from the usual basket of chips.
We’d just about had our fill so decided to share a dessert.
The apple, plum and ginger crumble served with ‘lashings of custard’ (£4.95) sounded just the ticket and, indeed, it was. The proportion of crumble to fruit was spot on and the taste sensational. The custard, served in a separate jug, was on the runny side but a perfect accompaniment.
Jasper’s takes its rightful place among the burgeoning culinary scene in The Friendliest Port.
KEY TO SUCCESS IS LOCAL INGREDIENTS
Ryan prides himself on sourcing ingredients that are as local and fresh as possible and would rather pay that bit extra for them than scrimp on quality. He is reluctant to freeze anything for the sake of cost.
The lobsters and langoustines are from Amble harbour, daytime jams and marmalades are from The Mad Jam Woman across the road and some of the cakes are from Pride of Northumbria around the corner.
Evening meals are served at Jasper’s from 6pm to 8.45pm, Thursday to Sunday.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Antipasta board for two......£8.95
Oven-baked garlic cheese bread......£3.95
Game terrine of venison, duck and wood pigeon wrapped in bacon......£8.95
Fillet beef medallions......£22.95
Surf & turf (langoustines and 8oz beef fillet)......£29.95
Goats’ cheese & spinach tart......£17.50
Banoffee pie, with Doddington’s ice-cream......£4.95
Pear sherry trifle......£4.95
Baked Camembert with cranberry relish......£5.95
STAR RATINGS (OUT OF 10)
Quality of food......9
Vegetarian choice......one starter/main
Use of local food......9
Access for the disabled......7
Toilet for the disabled......No
Verdict: Romantic fine-dining experience. Quite pricey but worth it for the quality and freshness of the food.
Contact: 01665 714724