Tucked away in the back corner of The Gate Mall is Jones The Grocer, an Australian cafe-style restaurant popular with locals and expats alike particularly at the weekends. It has a slightly haphazard, but well-lit, interior with elements of industrial design but without the grunge factor. They have an outside terrace area but my dining companion and I opted to sit inside, despite the balmy evening, due to the awkward looking chairs.
Upon stepping inside we saw those same chairs were everywhere; the only way to avoid them was to sit at a booth. We took our chances with the chair seating which wasn’t a comfortable sit, but we didn’t spend too much time on them as we took the opportunity to look around before our mains were served.
Priding itself as a ‘food emporium’ Jones sells lots of gourmet international food products, including premium tea and coffee, artisan cheese, crackers, pasta sauces and chocolate (including Green & Black’s, which you can find at most supermarkets for a cheaper price). There are also kitchen items to buy such as the weird coffee contraptions on display that can be purchased for a hefty price tag.
When we first walked in I could smell a slightly sour strange smell which, upon walking around, I was able to pinpoint to the cheese room. However, the scent isn’t overwhelming thanks to the well-designed storage facility – but I’m sure it is a different story when those doors are opened!
Displays have different products on show including the sandwich options available – which was interesting considering it was past 6pm. I am not sure I would enjoy their sandwich options, as they looked a little bland and far too bread-heavy; if you are looking for sandwiches head to Montreal Bread Company found further within The Gate Mall.
A small area of the main kitchen is open to the dining area allowing you to see the chefs at work. And surrounding this are the pastries, desserts and macarons display with beautiful multi-coloured desserts on show to tempt the eyes.
We caught the last of the January Specials Menu from which I ordered the Pomegranate Couscous Salad. It came bejewelled with chunks of green honeydew melon, white feta cheese, ruby-red pomegranates and golden almonds. The dish was texturally interesting and the mix of the melon and cheese added much needed moisture to the dish. Unfortunately, the ratio of couscous to the wet ingredients was not adequately balanced; when the toppings ran out I found the couscous to be unpalatably cloying and difficult to consume. I left over half the couscous on my plate – perhaps with a dressing of some sort, or leafy salad leaves, it would have been better received.
On the other hand my dining companion’s choice of meal had the complete opposite reaction. The Wagyu Burger is made from 100% Wagyu beef from Australia, and comes with fries. Inside the burger bun there is a nice thick Wagyu patty, leafy salad and veal bacon; my companion asked for the bacon on the side. The beef patty has been prepared with care and the meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender. I cannot even comment too much on the lack of other condiments within the burger because the patty was so amazing – yes I finally found it, the burger patty to rule them all!
Unfortunately, at QR 68 it is an expensive choice, but this is the first Wagyu burger I have had that actual tastes like it has the fatty marbling the meat is renowned for – considering the food experience the cost was worth it. I write this as I am looking at a picture of the burger and the intense flavour elements come to mind: the soft baked bun, the crispy salad leaves, the beautifully moist and appetising burger cooked to perfection. I was glad not to have tried it with the veal bacon inside it as I savoured the unadultered beef taste. The smoky, salty bacon would have added another element of flavour, but it would have also ruined the meat for me.
The burger came with straight-cut fries and a bois boudran sauce, which has a strong tomato ketchup taste with a zesty kick. It is a little different to pair it with fries as it usually is served with steak. The fries were excellent and had a lovely crispy crunch.
There is another burger on the menu with grilled chicken, but based on the delicious beef I would be happy to come back and re-order the Beef Burger or try the Wagyu Beef Pie. For a seafood option I have heard the fresh fish and chips are deliciously light and tender.
We could not leave without having dessert, but we couldn’t decide what item to choose. Thankfully, the chefs at Jones have made the choice of dessert easy with mini dessert options, such as the brightly coloured macarons or pastry tarts. We chose to try the Mini Caramel Slice and Mini Cheesecake with a scoop of ice cream. There was some confusion at first as we were told by one server that there was no ice cream, whilst another went and asked the chef and came back with flavour options.
The ice cream was creamy but quite standard for handmade. It was missing the gourmet factor – where was the real vanilla taste? The cheesecake was too fluffy, it had an unnecessary thick layer of icing sugar on top, whilst the base was barely non-existent. A good cheesecake requires a crispy, buttery biscuit base with a silky smooth filling, but this failed on both accounts. We did not finish it and more than half was left behind – which is an achievement when you remember that the portion was mini-sized.
The Caramel Slice again received the opposite response (detecting a theme here?). The caramel was not easily distinguishable in taste from the rich chocolate but the texture of the dessert was smooth and luscious. Real proper chocolate had been used for the cocoa powder dusting on top and the silky filling inside. A mini dessert shared between two diners and it was still almost too rich, thanks to the use of good quality chocolate – this is my kind of dessert. Fortunately it is not sold as a larger portion otherwise I would be back here regularly despite the calories!
Although service was lacklustre I would recommend the place due to the regular menu items. The chefs handle gourmet ingredients well despite my issues with the Couscous. I would happily come back for the Wagyu Beef Burger, and would definitely visit for a quick bite or snack.
A popular eatery it is family-friendly and has a variety of quick snacks available for that pesky in-between mealtimes hunger – I have my eye on one or two of those macarons.