The digs: If you’ve eaten at any of the many Jamie’s that are now around the world (Singapore opened last year, there’s a few in Oz, as well as a plethora in the UK among others) you’ll know exactly what to expect. Open kitchens, comfy, colourful seating, shiny red brick-effect walls, lots of light shining in on the beautiful antipasti streams of peppers, tomatoes and chillis on display to highlight the most important aspect of the restaurant, the ingredients. Delicious aromas greet you at the door along with a volume of excited chatter. It’s a family-friendly bistro that welcomes you to spend time enjoying it (even despite the current two-hour queues to get a lunchtime table). The servers are well-trained in friendliness and there are plenty of smiles that contribute to the happy aura that makes it easy to forgive the longish wait times that are to be expected in this brand-new hotspot.
The grub: There are some who are bewilderingly expecting fine dining from Jamie’s Italian, simply because J.O. has a behemothic celebrity following. But his food is neither fancy nor pricey, and never has been. The homemade pastas come with two size options, and for lunch the half portion is more than enough, especially since you’ll want to check out one of the sharing planks in either meat, fish or veggie ($79 per person), beforehand. It’s like eating a picnic spread and is the kind of informal grazing we adore.
The crispy squid ($60) starter is moreish and tender and the crab and avocade bruschetta ($65) inventive while the tiny chilli peppers stuffed with tuna ($60) are a delightful morsel to fire up the appetite. The playful lamb lollipops were gorgeous and fun to dip, the signature prawn linguine ($100/$165) was good without being outstanding while the pumpkin panzerotti ($80/$135) (an ingredient we adore in pasta) was just fine.
The food isn’t mind-blowing; it’s tasty, filling and good value. His menu does offer some fancied up items like ‘posh chips’ (fries with a dash of truffle oil) and there are also dishes that pop up from his recipe books such as the ‘fish in a bag’, ‘honeycomb cannelloni’ and ‘epic brownie’ that are nods to all the Jamie fans. The dessert menu has all the old favourites such as Tiramisu, panna cotta and Frangipane served in generous portions that are perfect for sharing.
Get your drink on: there’s a Bellini on the menu for $44 and a lot of the libations run in the $50-$60 zone. It’s refreshing to see mid-range cocktail prices delivered in such a cool setting.
For the tots: As you might expect from the man that transformed what Britain’s children are eating for school lunches, they have an award-winning kid’s menu. It features all the usual suspects of spaghetti bolognaise, fish tenders and sliders but all are done with fresh ingredients and healthy “shake” salads. The coolest part is the old school viewfinder menu that made us adults yearn for our menus to be presented the same way.
Does it live up to the hype? We think so! As long as you go in knowing what Jamie’s Italian is all about, you shouldn’t be disappointed. To use a collection of the effusive chef’s own words – it’s a cracking place to muck around with mates.