Lunch at Jamie’s Italian, Sydney: Does it live up to the hype?
To start, sorry, but I had to do it. I’m not usually one to follow the crowd, but as all this hype surrounds my favourite chef Jamie Oliver, whether I was going to be disappointed or not, I had to give it a try. When I say favourite, he’s probably not the chef who’s cooking I most admire, but like a first love, he will always have a special place in my heart as the chef that got me cooking. So when Jamie Oliver opened up one of his restaurants in Sydney, whether it is good or not I just had to give it a go.
When I say one of his restaurants, what I actually mean is a branch of one of the Italian restaurant franchise that Jamie Oliver has put his name to. Sadly, I don’t think Jamie will ever put in an appearance in the kitchen in Sydney, but you can’t say he hasn’t left his cheeky-chappy mark.
So what did I think? Well, I’m going to get it all out there from the get go. This is what Jamie’s Italian is not:
- a fine dining restaurant.
- a place for a quiet, romantic meal for two.
- somewhere to enjoy a long, lazy lunch.
- a place to showcase amazing Italian food.
With that one out of the way, where there aspects that I liked? Of course there were, or I wouldn’t be writing this post. I am not one for writing negative posts for the sake of writing something. If I don’t like somewhere I just don’t write about it.
The highlight? I loved the mozzarella, in fact I might go as far as saying it is the best mozzarella I’ve eaten outside Italy. It was rich and creamy and actually had flavour, unlike most of the mozzarella I buy here. We ate the mozzarella as part of the vegetable antipasto plate, but if I went again I would order the mozzarella as a dish in its own right.
We also tried the meat antipasto platter. After my year of making meat, this was the obvious choice for me, so was my suggestion for the shared entree. I’m sorry to write that I was a little underwhelmed by the cold meats. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with it, I just expect a little more from cured meats these days.
Despite having to wait half an hour for a table (you cannot book unless you have a party of 6 or more) the number of people in the restaurant did not slow the service down. The food came quickly, in fact, perhaps a little too quickly and the waiter didn’t really have time to stop and answer my questions. I also know from all the reading I have done that we were meant to receive a complimentary serve of bread, sadly this didn’t arrive, but by the time I remembered the moment had passed.
There were plenty of options on the menu to keep everyone happy for the mains. There is a large choice of pastas, salads and other dishes. We sampled the mussel linguine, buffalo ricotta ravioli and the prosciutto, pear and pecorino salad. The pasta comes in an entree or main size. I chose the entree size as I normally find restaurant pasta is served in very generous portions and I wanted to save room for dessert. However, the entree sized ravioli was very small and I think I could have had the main portion size and dessert. Thankfully the salad was completely the opposite; an extraordinarily generous portion, especially as the person ordering it was expecting something a little lighter. I was happy to assist with a small plateful to help them out.
If I’m also going to critique this dinner properly I am also going to have to mention that technically the ravioli was not ravioli but actually agnolotti. I believe ravioli is usually square or circular filled pasta, whereas this was semi circles of filled pasta, or agnolotti. I understand why they do it; all the pasta is handmade on the premises so making agnolotti is much faster than ravioli, and I’m sure every second counts when you are feeding this many people on a daily basis.
I’m not usually a dessert girl, but on this occasion I was seduced by the dessert on the next table. I had to try the chocolate ice cream with honeycomb. There is a daily selection of ice cream to choose from and you can choose up to three flavours. I went for chocolate and salted caramel. I passed on the white chocolate and chilli and doubled up on the chocolate instead. The chocolate was delicious, the salted caramel was subtle.
The rest of the table didn’t need asking twice so we also sampled the Italian Bakewell tart and the creamy panacotta. Not being a dessert aficionado I’m not sure how an Italian Bakewell tart differs from the traditional English dessert, so I will just have to take Jamie’s word for it on this occasion.
The overall experience made for a pleasant Saturday lunch. There is a buzz of excitement in the atmosphere, and if you venture to the toilets you can see the chef’s at work on the way to the amenities. The food is reasonably priced. For the three of us we paid $150 for three courses, including a bottle of wine. If you go with what it’s not in mind, you will probably have a good time.
Would I go back? Maybe if I was shopping in the city and wanted a quick bite to eat in somewhere a little nicer than the numerous shopping centre food halls. I guess price wise it is comparable to pub food, so a pub alternative in the city. Will it stay this busy? I’m guessing yes. I don’t think there will be many regulars who go back time and time again, but there will be plenty of passing trade, especially from the tourists who want a recognisable, international destination.
If nothing else, Jamie’s Italian has inspired me to make some more ice cream at home. Following the success of my Christmas semifreddo, I decided to give chocolate semifreddo a go. Again, it isn’t ice cream, because I don’t have an ice cream maker, but I reckon this comes a very close second. It was so soft and creamy it felt very indulgent especially with the honeycomb that I made from a recipe on Citrus and Candy’s blog. I also added a little rum to the semifreddo which made it feel a bit more grown up and good enough to serve for dessert at my last dinner party.
6 egg yolks
25ml dark rum
150g caster sugar
600ml pouring cream
200g dark chocolate
Whip the cream until soft peaks form and set aside.
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and rum, over a pan of hot water until the sugar is dissolved and the the egg yolks start to thicken. Do not allow the water to boil as you don’t want the eggs to scramble. Transfer to a cold bowl, or set over ice and continue to whisk until cool.
Meanwhile melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water and allow to cool.
Combine the cooled chocolate with the cooled egg mixture. The mixture is likely to stiffen, so stir in a couple of spoonfuls of the whipped cream to loosen the mixture then fold in the rest of the whipped cream. Put in a container and freeze for a minimum of six hours or overnight.
Serve with honeycomb.