The man who has worked out the magic formula for opening thriving restaurants across the world has now been at in Causeway Bay for around 7 months. Since July last year, Jamie Oliver's restaurant in Causeway Bay has had queues around the block, hour long waiting lists and a full house nearly every night. And it still does. We popped to the cavernous restaurant last week to get a feel for how it was doing half a year in, along with what felt like the majority of Hong Kong Island–on a Monday night.
The starters were disappointing, and not something we would make a point of ordering again. The dishes all needed seasoning, and the three cheese gnocchi ($55) was bland to say the least, and reminded us of neither cheese nor gnocchi. The roasted squash and ricotta bruschetta ($65) was presented nicely but also lacked impact. All was rectified when the spinach and taleggio croquettes ($70) arrived, as they, along with their basil mayonnaise were intensely cheesy with the right amount of crispiness.
Their polenta chips ($45) were, as always, divine, covered in a frost of salt, rosemary and parmesan. The chargrilled aubergine ($40) was not overly chargrilled and we missed the sweet sour interplay in the caponata dressing, which tasted more like glorified vinegar.
We skipped the mains to revel fully in the house-made pasta, which proved to be a rather astute decision. The pasta is outstanding and the price point is incredibly good value for the quality. The bolognese ($80/$135), always a good one to try to assert the standard of any Italian restaurant, was rich and deeply satisfying, with the handmade tagliatelle coated in the beef and prok ragu that had suggestions of Chianti, Parmesan and Pangratto. The sausage pappardelle ($80/$135) was surprising for the pasta that came as the pappardelle, which was not a pappardelle we were familiar with (expecting the flat long version). These were a lot more ribbed and cylindrical, which worked exquisitly with the flavourful fennel sausage ragu.
Dessert was the epic brownie, which was indeed epic once it had been heated. On first attempt landing this was not the case, which meant the cake had no chance to soften in to the moist, dense pudding we know and love. After whipping back from the kitchen, a warmer, fudgier brownie greeted with salted caramel gelato, and was quite sublime.
Overall Jamie’s Italian does what it sets out to do; high volumes in record times with decent if not magically ingenious food. The price point is so reasonable and the spacious bouyant restaurant makes for a most gratifying evening. The pasta is superb, and would be the best thing to go for when popping by for a meal. And the utterly incredible polenta chips.