Slap bang in the middle of Old Hall Street – and therefore in the middle of business lunch city – Jigsaw used to be called The Cott’n Bar. Despite working nearby we never went in to the punctuation-challenged bar – a good example of how the most superficial aspects of a restaurant can work against it.
Was it the misplaced apostrophe? Partly, obviously, but mainly it was the fact that you couldn’t tell whether it was open or not and, even if it looked open, you couldn’t really tell what it was. Simply, it did not invite you in. In its own way it repelled you.
Jigsaw is a little different. While it looks smart and presentable it looks a little sterile from the outside. Again, the high windows, closed doors and amateurish outdoor signage on abandoned-looking bulletin boards do not invite further investigation.
At least it has a menu board outside, though it advertises a free glass of wine or bottle of beer deal with meals. Are business lunchers necessarily looking for wine at lunchtime? Perhaps, but not this business luncher.
The name Jigsaw, to us, suggests fun. But inside Jigsaw is smart, quiet and a little serious. There are two tiers and a sweeping bar inside with plenty of places set out downstairs; upstairs there’s a long, smart, chilled-out coffee lounge, but again it’s rather hidden away.
At noon Jigsaw is virtually empty, but it fills up steadily throughout lunch hour. The menu is the classic working lunch selection of salads, pasta and light bites – all seem reasonably priced. With any pasta dish – most are about a fiver – comes a free glass of wine or bottle of beer. Given that a beer can set you back three quid in this day and age that’s a good offer.
We don’t want beer so have two bottles of coke at £1.50 each. After a few minutes of chat we decide to order canneloni and carbonara at £5.50 and £5.95 respectively; as they’re the dishes we want to eat, regardless of the free drink.
Can we swap the beer or wine for another glass of coke? No, we can’t. That’s a little irritating and just a little bemusing. So we have the beers anyway.
The canelloni is rich, flavoursome and sloppy – which is pretty much as it should be. Happily there are some tasty, slightly burned bits at the top and on the sides, which all baked pasta dishes should have by our reckoning. The carbonara is creamy, salty, rich. Again, just right.
There are more interesting dishes on the menu – rib-eye and fillet steaks, braised lamb, sole and breaded chicken – and the people behind Jigsaw have form, they run a restaurant up in the wilds of Ainsdale. Given our admittedly brief dip into the menu there’s reason to believe the other dishes will be good.
But for the business lunches it’s in and out in 60 minutes flat. Our service was brisk but not impolite and we were done and dusted well within the hour. Our bill came to less than £15 with the two bottles of coke, which was very good value for generous portions.
So, for a dinnertime feed Jigsaw ticks all the boxes – even though its slightly po-faced atmosphere seems a little at odds with its offering – and its name.
Beyond that slight puzzle, Jigsaw fits the bill very well.
Old Hall Street