This independently-owned café and pizzeria is a place for through trade, local people or those making a bee-line because they’ve heard about its repertoire of pizzas, ice creams and coffees! They come for a breakfast of eggs and Portobello mushrooms, a lasagne lunch or an evening calzone and a bottle of wine or even a milk shake.
Community, consistency and inclusion are strong hallmarks of Java & Jazz. It’s also known for its friendly, courteous and energetic young staff - a feature of life here since this well-regarded local venue began life as a small café with a pizza oven in the late 1990s. Back then, it was an informal gathering point for many local youngsters. The mum of one of those youngsters decided to buy it, extend it, employ those youngsters and turn it into what is today’s Java & Jazz. Maggie Johnston recalls: “Alongside my daughter, it was full of other Michael Hall kids working here and was a bit like a sixth form common room. I had fifteen 16-18 year olds in a ready-made team. The work ethic was fantastic and the place became known for great service. And of course, they began getting lots more tips! But the restaurant’s atmosphere remained laid back and sometimes, the kids even had A level English classes upstairs!”
In 2007, she opened the ice cream parlour. This gelateria is extremely popular, especially in warm weather when its al fresco seating becomes a feature of village life.
In 2015, John and Anne Gallagher took over Java and Jazz for very similar reasons, you can see their daughters working there, continuing the same ethos and traditions.
Forest Row nestles beside the beauty of Ashdown Forest’s 6500 acres in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Drawing folk from across the world, it is also home to a number of high class independent schools such as, Michael Hall, the UK’s largest Steiner Waldorf school, and prep schools Ashdown House, Brambletye, and Cumnor House, as well as excellent state provision in the local villages. These schools are part of the rich resource Java uses for its future staff and ideas. For example Java’s main artwork is even the creation of a former Michael Hall student, and the pizzas are often designed by staff, such as Rattlesnake Jake.
It’s a place of free-thinking and alternative life styles. And it’s proud of that. It’s full of artists, craftsmen, musicians, writers and performers. Forest Row hosts its own ever-popular Forest Row Festival every September. Java & Jazz sponsors the Forest Row Festival and the village’s own FrowShow comedy troupe. It is also the official sponsor for one of Forest Row’s youth football teams! Java & Jazz also hosts charity evenings such as the annual meal to raise funds for a Ugandan village, which is a Worth Abbey friendship parish.
Java & Jazz has a dynamic and upbeat energy, has many repeat customers and a loyal fan base. This includes local resident and actor/comedian Ben Elton who has flagged it as one of his favourite restaurants in the whole world. The Observer complimented it for its “mouth-wateringly good” food. The ultimate sweetener comes in the form of Java’s own raw chocolate brownies, created by John’s wife Ann.
Java and Jazz is passionate about coffee. It's main blend was created onsite, when there was a coffee roaster here. The Java and Jazz signature blend is Medium Dark 'Full City Roast' in the Italian tradition and the blend is a mixture of the following beans.
Sumatra Organic (Java), Coasta Rica Re Rios, Colombian Medelin Excelso and Ethiopian Mocha.
It one thing to have good coffee but the process does not stop there. The staff are trained Baristas who understand the bean and the process. Equipment, such as the Mythos One coffee grinder, must be up to the task of allowing the Baristas to perform. Coffee is tested each morning and equipment adjusted to allow for the humidity changes that affect the daily taste of the coffee.
Java and Jazz has it's very own coffee club, meeting monthly to learn and discuss coffee, each month the club will choose a 'Roast of the Month' to run along side our signature blend. Being an arty community, you’ll also usually receive your coffee with a particular leaf/dragon/bear/bird outline if you’re ordering something with froth!
Gelato is Italian ice cream made with a base of milk, cream and sugar and flavoured with fruit, nut purees and other flavourings. And gelato is what you’ll find at Java & Jazz’s gelateria. Ice cream, gelato and sorbets contain milk from a particular Lombardy-based herd of Montebeliarde cows. This is pasteurised in a Turin factory where it is turned into gelato. Gelato uses less milk than ordinary ice cream because it contains other ‘real’ ingredients such as pistachios, vanilla pods or Sicilian mandarins. The gelato has a creamy, dense texture because less air is pumped in compared with standard ice cream. The proof is certainly in the pudding at Java.
Fourteen types of ice cream and sorbet are on offer and while owner John plumps for his favourite Praline, other senior staff members name the chocolate hazelnut, toffee or vanilla options as the most popular. For children, it’s usually The White Italian or Mint Chocolate that grabs their attention.
The gelato comes with their Italian names beside the English translation so you might just prefer the sound of Dulce de Leche (toffee) or Panna Fragola (strawberries & cream) when making your choice.
Pizza is at the core of Java & Jazz, both traditional and gluten free people now travel for miles to eat in or take away. It was there in its informal pre-restaurant early days when apparently (according to Maggie), sometimes just one pizza was served in a day. Now serving up to 1,000 per week! And it’s a big part of why folk stop there now. It offers many different types of this ever popular flat bread with toppings that has its origins in Naples. At Java & Jazz, the challenge is to pick one from the many types on offer.
They are stone-baked and served with Java’s own freshly made pomodoro sauce and mozzarella on either normal or gluten-free bases, as 11” or 14” and with or without cheese. Some are vegetarian and everyone has a favourite. Maggie cities the Jazz (ham, bacon, roasted peppers & red onion), John names both the Ocean (prawns, tuna, anchovies, artichokes, olives, parsley) and Rattlesnake Jake (pepperoni, salami, roasted peppers and chillies) as his top two.
Other staff members list these five as their top choices; the Napoli (olives, anchovies, capers, parsley & garlic), Venice (peppers, onions, olives, mushrooms, gorgonzola, bacon), Greek (feta, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, onion, garlic), Popeye (spinach, ham, goat’s cheese, egg), Java (ham, salami, mushrooms, onion, feta, sun-dried tomatoes).
London-based chef and restaurant owner Yotam Ottolenghi says of salads: “A well-made salad must have a certain uniformity; it should make perfect sense for those ingredients to share a bowl.”
Salads can sometimes be an after-thought on restaurant menus. Not at Java & Jazz. And every effort is made to ensure the variety of ingredients justify their places on each dish. A dozen different versions running the full gamut of ingredients makes this a tempting option while you sit in the cosiness of upstairs or the buzz of downstairs with its views of Forest Row street life (and the A22!) amid the décor that nods at 1950’s Americana with a strong hint of a Norman Rockwell painting.
This might put you in the mood for that classic American option of a Caesar salad. You could enjoy mixed leaves tossed with Java’s Caesar dressing, fresh parmesan and croutons. Or the restaurant’s signature salad is the Java & Jazz Salad and comes with tender chicken breast, bacon, avocado, roasted peppers and croutons on a bed of mixed leaves, tomatoes and cucumber with pesto dressing. Or given that Forest Row is a varied and creative environment, go for the vibrant and colourful Greek Salad. This offers feta, olives, red onion, sun dried tomatoes and roasted peppers on a bed of mixed leaves and cucumber with the house’s classic vinaigrette dressing.
Though seen culturally as an Italian food, pasta is thought to be the descendent of ancient Asian noodles. A common belief about pasta is that it was brought to Italy from China by explorer Marco Polo during the thirteenth century.
From that long journey, pasta has become a familiar dish on nearly every restaurant menu but at Java & Jazz, its pasta comes from a small family owned producer in Tonbridge! You can choose from the familiar dishes such as Classic Lasagne Verde, Spaghetti Bolognese, or the Tagliatelle Carbonara or there’s the vegetarian Penne Pomodoro. Alongside Chicken Arrabiata and Roasted Vegetable Lasagne, there is the oven-baked, non pasta option of Melanzane Parmigiana which is a tasty, bubbling mix of sundried aubergines layered with fresh mozzarella, baked in tomato and basil sauce with parsley, parmesan and garlic.