After rushing in the door from Parent/Teacher night at Arabella’s school I then performed the ‘five-minute wonder transformation’ that took me from serious, concerned, sensible, drug-free parent to middle-aged woman looking to kick up her heels with a bunch of girls for a night on the town.
It was my friend Jane’s birthday and she had made a reservation at Jamie’s Italian. Reservations are apparently hard to get but not if you’re prepared to eat late so our reservation was for 8.45pm which was later than I would have liked given I’d just moved house and pulled an all-nighter in Accident and Emergency rubbing Arabella’s back while she writhed around in her hospital bed.
There had been a scandalous rumour flying around that Mr Oliver himself would be at his restaurant that night but actually he wasn’t anywhere near his Sydney restaurant with later rumours stating he had left Sydney for Melbourne.
One good thing about the restaurant’s positioning is that it is next door to a car park and at night you can park for just $15.00 and that’s a bargain for Sydney’s CBD.
We arrived at the restaurant a little early so our table wasn’t ready. We sat at the bar and under a display of Jamie’s cookbooks surveyed the scene. The door to the restaurant was kept open by a large urn containing umbrellas and so there was an icy draught blowing in chilling me to the core especially as I had worn a short, sleeveless summer dress – well, I’d bought it new this season and with the terrible summer we’ve had it’s done little more than hang in the cupboard and I just wanted to give it an airing before winter descends.
The restaurant is long and narrow and on two-levels. When our table was ready we were led upstairs and shown to a small round table that was positioned directly above the entrance. The chairs around the table were made of metal so when I sat down it was my bare thighs that hit the seat and the cold metal chair felt like it had come straight from the deep freeze. The external wall behind me was made of glass panels that had openings to the outdoors so gusts of wind would blow through these cracks making me wish I’d ditched the dress for my winter tracksuit.
It’s good to be seated at a small table when you are in a group of six because it means you can talk to your friends and be heard and that is necessary in this restaurant because with the interior having a polished concrete floor, then the use of glass and the metal chairs, it’s, ‘Oh the noise, noise, noise’.
The waiter brought the menu and these are enormous and I thought quite cumbersome as there was no where to put them as the table was too small to lie them flat and when you held them up you couldn’t see the people you were dining with. But, the wait staff at this restaurant are very attentive and there is no annoying hovering or idle chat like, ‘How’s your day been so far?’
We ordered red wine to start with. I was surprised to see so many imported wines from Italy and I realise this is an Italian inspired restaurant but I would have liked to have seen more Australian wines on the menu. We ordered Chalmers Nero D’Avola 2011 for $53.00/bottle. The waiter did tell us that the 2010 was better than the 2011 but I assured him I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
We ordered the Sweet Mini Chilli Peppers for $9.00 to have with our drinks that I thought were delicious and presented beautifully and were quite inexpensive. We also ordered the Fat Green Olives on Ice with black olive tapenade for $6.00. I noticed that a selection of bread is complimentary but we didn’t order any.
We were thinking of sharing dishes but the table barely had room for our wine glasses let alone a selection of plates so we decided against the sharing option. I ordered the Bucatini Carbonara for $19.00 (or $12.00 for an entree). It was a tubular spaghetti with fried smoked pancetta and leek tossed with free-range eggs and parmesan. It wasn’t a generous serving but it was attractively presented and while the taste was excellent, the pasta was under-cooked and so stiff it couldn’t be twirled on the fork.
I also ordered a Trevise and Gorgonzola Salad with walnuts, pear and sticky balsamic for $9.00 and that was full of delicious contrasting flavours.
There were a couple of sides ordered so I tried the Posh Chips for $6.00 but they were soggy rather than crunchy and needed more seasoning. The Crispy Polenta Chips for $8.00 were a real hit. We all loved them. They were definitely crispy and we wished we’d ordered more of them.
One of my friends ordered lamb and liver on skewers and she said the lamb was overcooked and chewy and the liver undercooked. She also found it to be under seasoned and had to reach for the salt and pepper grinders to give the dish a bit of a kick.
We all wanted to order dessert but I didn’t find anything on the menu that sounded enticing or exciting. There was a selection of ice cream for $8.00, a selection of sorbets for $8.00, Panna Cotta for $8.50, and a Tiramisu that for me had an overpowering coffee taste. I ordered the almond tart and that was moist with a lovely balance of flavour.
This restaurant serves good food at very reasonable prices. You’re not going to be over-charged here. But the menu contains only basic, simple dishes that you would expect to see Jamie sharing on one of his TV cooking shows where he’s pitching the basics to novice home cooks. And while I’m a huge fan of Jamie’s cooking shows, when I dine in one of his restaurants I’m after something more. I want something that shows me the genius he is, not something he thinks I might be able to manage at home.
Sadly for Jamie, our expectations of him are all too high.
Jamie’s Italian: 107 Pitt Street, Sydney. Ph: 8240 9000