Given that one of Illegal Jack’s founding motivations was to address a gap in the market for hearty fuel to sate the appetite of tired athletes, it seemed like the perfect stop off point on a day of marathon walking. Yes, the ever energetic MJ and I completed a full marathon distance at walking pace, over the space of more hours than we would care to mention.
We were joined on our quest by Clo, Danny, and youngest quester Ruby, who had previously joined us at The Bonham, Paul, who had memorably donned a pakora hat in Kebabish, and a new quester, Sarah, Paul’s lovely wife.
Given that we had been walking for around six hours prior to our arrival, MJ and I could have been considered to be a touch peckish, when we arrived. I quickly tucked in to dips that the guys, who had been us there by a few minutes, were already munching on.
We soon turned our attention to the menu, which set out some easy steps for us to follow to gain access to Jack’s famous South West Grill treats. With hunger barking loudly coupled with a rare gap in traffic, we immediately made our way to the counter to access the foodstuffs.
I opted for the sit-in only steak fajitas, with a side of mini haggis quesos, on Sarah’s recommendation. I opted to try one of Thistly Cross’s ciders, to ensure I was suitably hydrated.
I’m not sure what other people’s bills were, as we all paid separately, but mine came to just over £19. I’ll return to this, later on.
We made our way back to our table, and our dishes quickly arrived. Well, some of them did. We waited a little while for Sarah’s quesos and burrito, but it didn’t appear. Paul did the noble thing and went check things at the counter. They’d forgotten. No great problem. They eventually got things right, and we could continue on our hunger combat mission.
My sizzling platter of steak was soon assembled into many fajitas for me to consume. They were good, but not near the quality we’d sampled at Tex Mex.
The haggis quesos were really tasty, and well worth trying when you visit. The haggis and cheese worked really nicely together, giving lovely warming mouthfuls of goodness.
I was really impressed with the Thistly Cross cider. I tried the Gold variety, and found it light and crisp.
So back to the price. The equivalent to what I paid can get you two courses and drinks at The Mulroy, The Purslane, Kanpai Sushi and many other places’ lunchtime service. It can pay for your contribution to The Bonham’sboozy snoozy, which gives you three courses plus wine. For me, all of these represent food of significantly superior quality than what we were served at Jack’s. For our purposes today, which were focussed on refuelling, it did us very nicely, but their price-point just doesn’t feel right to me.
Jack’s is immensely popular, and there’s lots to like about it. I was left a little baffled, though. This could have been a combination of tiredness, immense hunger, and my general level of basic confusion with the world. I’ll need to pay it a return visit, over the next few weeks and months, to come to a more sensible conclusion.
Oh Illegal Jack’s, I was so hungry when B and I strolled into your place in the latter half of our Sunday walking marathon (we are training to do the London to Brighton Challenge to raise money for a charity quite close to B’s heart) and you fed me, and I thank you for that.
The place itself is buzzing and cheery with people here and there and families and lots of positive energy, which immediately makes me happy and want to jump into the vibe.
We quickly located our group, who had arrived earlier, and began to remove our many cold-proofing layers while perusing the menu. It was Superbowl Sunday. There was no way I could not have the chili, obvious choice, right? So after a few minutes of catching up we wandered to the counter to place our order. B seemed a bit overwhelmed by the station were they make your burritos and such, but I am an old hand at this. These sorts of restaurants have been around in the States for a long while. Moe’s comes swiftly to mind. I ordered a bowl of the chili with very little rice (per request) with a pile of jalapeños on top and a bottle of water.
Before long, everyone in our group had ordered and we had begun to receive our food. I was the first, since my chili was bowled up and handed over to me with my change. I liked this idea, but my good Southern raising prevented me from beginning my meal until everyone had their food…therein was a problem… The food came out as it was made, which is great, but for me meant that I had to wait. There seemed to be a bit of a kerfuffle in the ordering process, as one of our party had her order totally forgotten. When it was brought to the attention of a waitress, she went away to retrieve the missing quesadilla and a few minutes later, 2 waitresses arrived with 2 quesadillas, and another order of haggis mini quesadillas (which was part of the original order, but had somehow managed to show up on its own).
We did the honest thing and sent away the duplicate stuff and then tucked in. My chili was good. Not like mom used to make, but more like my lovely ‘burgher flatmate K, who made a mean chili. It was good. It certainly did the job, but I think my Americanisms kicked in and I slightly resented the cost ratio. 1 bowl of chili +1 bottle of water = almost £10.00. I admit that have been spoiled by the fact that I could get a burrito, soft drink, and crisps and salsa back home for a fair bit less, but when it comes down to it, I just finished my final degree and am in no-man’s land between finishing and finding a proper job and for the cost, I couldn’t justify going back until I do.
Today’s questers were: Miriam, Clo, Sarah, Ruby, Danny, Paul, Blythe
We ate: mini haggis quesos, assorted burritos, quesadillas, and fajitas, beef chilli, chips and dips
We drank: Brewdog ales, pinot grigio, coca cola, Thistly Cross cider, water
We wore: lovely blue top, lovely red dress, the mischievous expression of someone arranging a poker game for the next time his wife is out of town (oops, was that supposed to be a secret, Paul?!), lovely Lyle & Scott sweater, lovely velcro cuffs, lovely new boots