January has a canny reputation for making us all feel a bit doom and gloom. Christmas is all but a distant memory, jeans are twenty inches too tight and temperatures are twenty degrees too low. At such a time, positive mental attitude is key; if we look for things to bring us joy, we’re going to find them, right? Equally, if we look for an excuse to feel miserable, let me tell you, we’re going to feel miserable. This January, I have been determined to feel the joy. Let me tell you about an initiative I have encouraged my fellow beans to join me in supporting, this month…

Try January is an initiative set out to spark positivity at the start of the year and encourage people to try new food and drink in pubs, bars and restaurants, as opposed to staying in, which inevitably is only going to make us miserable as we deprive ourselves of social interaction and a well-deserved treat. After all, we work just as hard in January as any other month, so why shouldn’t we be rewarding ourselves?

Jessica Mason, Founder and Editor of the Drinks Maven, explains the significance of Try January perfectly: “Pubs suffer in January because January is tough. And it often gets overlooked how pubs generate an unbelievable amount of money for charities across the entire year. [Their] community value is enormous for social interaction and good mental health in general.

“Try January also doesn’t suggest that you need to consume more or imbibe more, or that instead of alcohol you should drink soft drinks. Instead, it puts the control back into people’s own hands and encourages them to use the month to create new favourites in food and drink for the rest of the year. The choices needn’t be wacky, or even completely new, but they should, perhaps, add a little more excitement to your usual order. And that is all we ask.”

So, inspired by the Drinks Maven and determined to not let the January Blues knock us down, the Jellybean Team went on a food & drink odyssey. Our highlights are below:

Laura hot-footed it to the incredibly multicultural food scene in Brixton. Arriving at Pop Brixton, a temporary project that has turned disused land into a creative space for local, independent businesses, Laura found heaven in a Saag Paneer Naan-wich from Baba G’s. Offering spice, vibrancy and colour with a touch of theatre, all at a very competitive price, Baba G’s was quite the foodie find. Sticking two spicy fingers up at Dry January and a big thumbs up to Try January, Laura’s lunch was washed down with a beer flight at Brewdog Brixton.

Continuing the theme of mixed-up mains, Rosie experienced a savoury sensation at Have! A Pinch, Bath. In her own words, “this delicious-smelling crepe stall was a welcome winter warmer when exploring the beautiful sights of Bath, and the crepe itself was absolutely to die for. I went for the ‘New Shepherd’ (Caramelised Onion, Goat’s Cheese and Thyme savoury crepe) and was so happy I did! I’ve tried a lot of crepes (being one of my favourite savoury or sweet street foods ever) and this was honestly one of the best I’ve ever had, reasonably priced and fully-packed with flavour. A real reward for venturing down to the city on a wintry January weekend!”

Whilst in the glorious city known for its natural hot springs and 18th-century Georgian architecture, Rosie found herself in lavish surrounds at The Ivy Brasserie, Bath. Again, in her own words (I would really like to state this); “It’s all about the Chocolate Bombe. My friend described it as ‘the best thing I’ve ever had in my mouth’ and you don’t get that sitting at home on the sofa. Or maybe you do (in which case, good for you) but either way, this was pretty damn good and you get to watch it melt into a syrupy cocktail of delicious goodness.”

Adding some class to Jellybean’s Try January mission (sorry Rosie, I don’t think your friend’s account of The Ivy quite cuts it), is Jellybean MD Sooz with her spa trip to Nutfield Priory. Sooz recalls, “While enjoying a new year spa day at Nutfield Priory I was presented with menu choices for lunch, including ‘Arnold Bennett Omelette’. This was a new one on me, so I took to Google and discovered the following… The writer Arnold Bennett was so delighted with the egg, smoked haddock and parmesan concoction that chefs at the Savoy created for him, he insisted on it being made wherever he travelled. And at the Savoy, Omelette Arnold Bennett remains a standard dish to this day. Well, I thought – what’s not to like? Eggs, Haddock, Parmesan – yum! So, in the spirit of ‘Try January’ I gave it a try and I wasn’t disappointed. Now I know what one is and I know that I am rather partial to them!”

As a team of foodies working in the foodservice arena, we are always enjoying meals out of home. Conscious to keep the size of our carbon footprint down, we understand the importance of eating locally sourced food. It was with great pleasure, you’ll appreciate, that Andy found himself at The Bakery in Tatsfield – a great, local, independent, family run business specialising in Modern British and European cuisine. Using the finest fresh produce which is sourced locally where possible, Andy had plenty of delicious, environmentally friendly dishes to choose from. He opted for a Homemade Leek and Potato Soup followed by Roast Pork in Mild Green Peppercorn Sauce with Seasonal Veg and Potatoes.

To round off Jellybean’s Try January experience, it was only right that we all join together in sampling ‘Santa’s Scotch egg’ – Venison, Black Pudding & Haggis, with Cranberry Ketchup – at the Jellybean Christmas Party held at Mac & Wild, Devonshire Square, London (yet another reason for us Beans to not feel blue in January!). Serving up the best of Scotland’s produce in true Highland spirit and style, the Beans devoured the Venimoo Burger (voted London’s best burger 2018), a Beef Patty, Venison Patty, Cheese, Bearnaise and Caramelised Onions served with Chips; Haggis Pops, Deep-fried, crispy nuggets of Haggis coated in breadcrumbs served with Red Jon Sauce; Tattie tots (vegan), Potato Bon-bons, White Bean Paste, Pink Dulse & Green Chutney and more! A unanimous decision that it was a culinary experience like no other.

Other highlights from our Try January include the Merluzzo – Wild Atlantic Cod, spicy Calabrian Sausage & Tenderstem Broccoli – at Piccolino in Surrey; Smoked Salmon Fishcakes with Sriracha Hot Sauce from a local Surrey gastropub, and some delicious vegetarian choices at Italian chain Prezzo including Beetroot Gnocchi filled with Goat’s Cheese, served with Basil Pesto and a Fusilli Pasta made with Peas, served with Peppers, Aubergine and Tenderstem Broccoli.

If by now you aren’t swimming in a pool of drool, then, as a fitting finale to #TryJanuary, I’ll eat my hat. I truly hope you have been inspired to go on a culinary exploration of your own. We’d love to hear about the new foods and drink you try. Keep us posted @JellybeanAgency.