KATHERINE MACALISTER rues the day she decided to eat out with the groovy people at Oxford’s Jam Factory.

In hindsight, a main course would have been a good idea.

Before a pub crawl that is. But then if the food had been any good at The Jam Factory I would have been able to line my stomach with something other than the flatbread appetiser and the following day might have been less painful.

And yet I remember every second of our dreadful meal, from the burnt bread starter to the laughable salad.

Which is a shame because I loved the Jam Factory until last Friday night. It’s light, refreshing interior is always full of smiling staff, groovy people and amazing affordable art.

It’s big on community, so all sorts of events are held there, and is taking part in the West Oxford Beer Festival, doling out wristbands and T-shirts to anyone who completed the tour of duty – Duke’s Cut, Coco’s, Honeypot and Oxford Retreat.

Had we left it at that I would still consider it to be a great little place. But we made the mistake of eating there.

It all started off well. The smiley staff led us to our tables and gave us the delicious sounding menus, but it was the food that was the problem. And the details. If you’re going to serve bread, serve butter, make sure there is salt and pepper on the table, (throw out all white pepper, it tastes like dried bones, and stick to black).

Don’t serve toast with the black bits scraped off and then put them back on the plate – we’re not that stupid – and always dress your salad.

If you serve salmon, provide black pepper and lemon or a dill mayo, and if you promise a feta and beetroot salad with a yoghurt dressing, make sure it’s that, not a blob of white yoghurt, a stand alone acidic boiled beetroot, some feta cut up on the side and a pile of damp lettuce in the middle. It was in fact the most unappetising dish I’ve come across in a long time and therefore remained untouched.

Don’t get me wrong, some elements of the meal were better. The pork cooked in Coco-Cola was a big success, as was the falafel with mediterranean veg. But it was all overshadowed by the bad bits. Because when you have to ask for lemon, butter, toast that isn’t black and dressing, you begin to feel a bit needy, and your arm aches from holding it up for so long trying to get the waitress’ attention. All of the above should have been taken care of before we arrived.

But the piece de resistance was when Mr Greedy asked for some butter to accompany his (“dull”) meat platter and bread and the waiter said ‘no’. That silenced the table.

“What do you mean ‘no’?”, Mr Greedy said in a still, small voice of calm. “We’ve only just this second been served our mains, how can the kitchen be closed?” But our waiter wouldn’t be persuaded otherwise. And at that point we realised that dessert was probably out of the question.

Anyway, having aired our grievances, the bill was presented unaltered. So I paid the full £11 for my salad, despite not touching a morsel.

Unsurprisingly we then embarked on said pub crawl to drown our sorrows.

Sharing a taxi home with a random punter, we expanded on our diabolical dinner and there was a strange silence before he replied: “Well it’s always good to get feedback,” before adding: “The Jam Factory is my place actually.” Of all the cabs in all the world...

* The Jam Factory Restaurant and Bar, Hollybush Row, 27 Park End Street, Oxford, OX1 1HU. 01865 244613.