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Jamie's Italian by The Naked Chef [Restaurant Review]

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

Canary Wharf isn’t my favourite place in London. After all, it’s the spiritual home of bankers, the very people who have launched the UK into economic depression. Still, it does look like we are climbing slowly out of the recession, as despite climbing unemployment rates of 7.8% (at June 2009), the feeling about town is that big bonuses will be back as both Barclays and HSBC posted big profits earlier this month.

So quite a smart move then for Jamie Oliver to open a new restaurant in Canary Wharf, especially when there are 7,000 hungry people about to feed in such a tiny land area. Titled Jamie’s Italian, this is the fifth branch but his first in London (his flagship restaurant is Fifteen in North London). It only just opened on the 5th of August, but already a few of my friends have sampled it and the PigPig was supposed to have dinner there with 7 other girlfriends, but were told they had to wait an hour for a table (this was on Saturday night with no reservations made) – popular place.

Jamie's Italian 01

Since I was around the area, we decided to try the food to see for ourselves just how good the food of this celebrity chef is. On a Thursday night, we arrived at 6pm to find the place pretty near full capacity already. The small terrace area had about 8 tables filled with bankers swigging prosecco and the inside had a really lively atmosphere, enough to drown out the background music most of the time. The furniture seemed quite basic as well – metal chairs and plain wooden tables with matching slightly tattered looking napkins.

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Jamie's Italian 03

Jamie's Italian 02

A glass of white
trebbiano wine proved to be quite nice actually, very crisp and dry. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any Peroni beer so I had to make do with a Castello (new to me) which was serviceable but not memorable in any way. Although bottled water is on the menu, the waiters by default bring a carafe of tap water to the table, which is a nice touch.

Jamie's Italian 09

The bread basket had an assortment of Italian bread inside including
focaccia, grissini sticks (seemed like normal bread sticks to me) and ‘ snappy music bread’ (reminded me of poppadom without the spices). All in all quite ordinary bread and a bit disappointing it wasn’t delivered warm to the table. However, that was made up by the default delivery of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a little saucer to dip the bread in, the simplest way to really enjoy bread with (although eating bread or toast with foie gras is arguably better). Although the menu states that for an extra £1.50 there is even better olive oil and balsamic, the default inferior quality ones were very nice already to me.

Jamie's Italian 08

A ‘
seasonal meat antipasti plank’ for two was placed upon two tins (I was a bit bemused by this at first as the waitress put the tins on the table long before the plank arrived and thought it was complimentary for me to take it home with).

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Jamie's Italian 05

Starting with the meats provided, there was
salami (okay), mortadella (nice), prosciutto (very nice) and a mystery meat (that’s what it said on the menu, and it was quite nice).

Jamie's Italian 07

Although not a fan of cheese in general, I quite liked the
buffalo mozzarella as it had a refreshingly herby vinaigrette dressing and mozzarella is about as un-cheese-y as you can get. The ‘pecorino with amazing chilli jam’, I only managed a nibble, although the PigPig practically inhaled the remains of mine. I was still scarred from the previous pecorino at Sketch as theirs had a very strong sheep’s smell, but the PigPig said this one was quite mild in sheep flavour but still quite a strong cheese. The ‘amazing chilli jam’ tasted like normal Thai sweet chilli sauce to me, but the wife said it went stunningly well with the cheese.

Jamie's Italian 06

While walking in, we passed a man hand making fresh home made pasta so the PigPig couldn’t resist ordering a pasta dish and eventually settled on a
crab spaghettini (aka angel hair spaghetti). The pasta itself was fresh and had a very home made feel to it (which can be good or bad to you I guess), but it seemed a bit thick for angel hair. The crab itself seemed fresh enough but unfortunately isn’t as sweet as crab in good old Malaysia. Also, the PigPig felt the meat was shredded too thinly and she was expecting bigger chunks. The sauce itself was a tomato based one with plenty of flavourings from anchovy, capers, fennel which I thought was delicious but again the ever-critical PigPig felt it lacked seasoning.

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Jamie's Italian 10

Meanwhile, boring old me chose a
rib eye steak. The meat itself seemed pretty decent; British hung for 21 days gave it a good beefy taste. Unfortunately, I had asked for mine rare, but it seemed more medium-well done. Although not tough at all, I was disappointed not to see any pink in the meat. Weirdly, the beef had no seasonings at all but there was salt and pepper on the table so I just added enough to my own taste; I’m unsure if this was done deliberately by the chef to be honest. I had asked for mustard but the waitress forgot and I was too hungry to wait any longer, alas, such is life.

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The PigPig was so excited by the ‘
posh truffle chips insanely good with truffle oil and parmesan, proper posh’ on the menu (word for word) that she could only be hugely disappointed when it arrived. Neither of us could smell any truffles lurking about on the chips or indeed any parmesan smell either, which is usually quite noticeable. The chips itself seemed a bit dry to me as well.

Jamie's Italian 12

By this time we were quite stuffed actually, so we just ordered a
tiramisu to share. The tiramisu itself was very moist and generous in the coffee and liquor, just the way I like it. Gratings of orange peel gave it an interesting twist as well. A dollop of extra mascarpone cheese on top was a bit excessive though.

Jamie's Italian 13

Altogether the bill came to just under £60 for two or £30 each; however, as a place billed for cheap Italian grub, it wasn’t exactly very affordable.

Food - 6.0
Service - 5.0
Atmosphere - 7.0
Value - 5.0

Overall the food was pretty decent and tasty but nothing very fantastic. The buzzing atmosphere was quite fun though, this place definitely managed to build a good vibe. The no-booking-unless-your-party-is-bigger-than-eight policy is just ridiculous though.

Would I eat here again? Maybe in a couple of months when the excitement has died down so I can get a table without queuing for an hour with my banker friends in the cold.

Jamie's Italian
Unit 17
2 Churchill Place
Canary Wharf
E14 5RB
Tel: +44(0)20 3002 5252
Official website

Jamie's Italian - Canary Wharf on Urbanspoon

33 oink oinks...:

girlichef said...

Even though it was a bit of a let down...I want to go! Of course, I'm a big Jamie fan and stuck over here with no Jamie restaurants to dine at (that I know of)!! Beautiful photos and review :D

Angie's Recipes said...

I want to visit it if I am in London. I like his cooking. Your photos are always beautiful.

Angie's Recipes

Helen said...

I've heard elsewhere that it is pretty mediocre too. That can't be deliberate not seasoning the steak can it? I mean, a steak needs very generous seasoning.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Wow, what a great place! I'd definitely love to eat there if I visited London!



Wild Boar said...

I wonder if you're a big fan of his cooking or his looks? I'm sure Jamie has plans for opening a branch in the USA soon though.

Angie's Recipes / Rosa's Yummy Yums:
Hopefully you'll get a chance to visit in the near future.

It's not bad, but it isn't great.

I think that steaks do need seasoning, but it doesn't need a lot if the beef itself is good. I want to taste the beef too, not just the marinade. But yeah I think the chef made a mistake on my steak.

Ninette said...

Great comprehensive review. Sounds like they have some kinks to work out there or maybe turn down their marketing speak.

Natashya said...

I enjoyed Jamie's Italy series and have the book. Too bad it didn't live up to the hype, but I would like to go anyway!

KennyT said...

Love Jamie! I will visit this restaurant if my London trip in October is confirmed. Yay!

the ungourmet said...

Looks like a fun place too bad the food isn't a bit better. I love Jamie too. I haven't seen his show is ages, I wonder if it still plays here???

nora@ffr said...

i shud visit here one day!! just perfect for lunch :)

burpandslurp said...

I ADORE jamie oliver...I would still go even though it seems to have more misses than hits...probably, as it's starting, it's still struggling to get its grip. hopefully as time goes by they will learn to adjust and come up with more stellar dishes.

Pierce said...

I would love to be ANYWHERE in London and eat! But this sounds great and I hope you go back and do another review....I live vicariously through others travels ;-)

Sharon said...

Yea, not so affordable but I love Jamie and your photos look great. I suppose it'd be worth going once!

Kerstin said...

Aww, sorry the food didn't blow you away. I like Jamie Oliver and would love to visit one of his places!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I'd love to visit a Jamie Oliver restaurant although them overcooking the steak is a pretty big faux pas especially as you ordered rare. I've had similar chips here at a restaurant called Manta-shame that they were disappointing there but it looks like there were quite a few highlights there too! :)

Lizzie said...

It sounds like a big let-down.

If I saw anywhere on a menu saying 'proper posh' or 'amazing' I'd scream and run away.

Can I ask why didn't you send the steak back? I can't deal with overdone steak.

Food For Tots said...

Jamie Oliver is one of my favourite chef. Hope I have a chance to visit his restaurant one day. ;)

lisaiscooking said...

Too bad about the truffle flavor in the chips! Hopefully, the place improves with time. The anitpasti looked great!

Velva said...

I like Jaime Oliver and I really enjoyed reading this post. The photos were very nice too. Your post gave me an idea how to present a cold meat platter. Thanks!

noble pig said...

Well at least you checked it out and I love your pics!

Grace said...

i don't enjoy the term "mystery meat"--it reminds of things i ate in the cafeteria at school as a child... interesting review, great pictures, sorry for the disappointment!

Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

Just wonderful. I love how adventurous you are.Mystery meat would have been given the pass by me, & I would have taken the cans home too!!LOL...who's to know a plank comes next...novel! You've done a fab review...I loved reading it. Great pics too...oink oink (shouldn't be oinking really, as both my kids hv suspected H1N1 as of now)...but then, life goes on!! OINK eh?

Sam said...

It's a shame it was a bit of a let down, I'm quite surprised as I think Jamie Oliver's food is fantastic.

Maybe as it's still a very new restaurant it will improve with time, once the chefs get used to everything.

diva said...

ahhh. the canary wharf restaurant is a lot lighter than the Oxford one. but then again, i did go in the evening so they would've put up evening mood lights. anyway, the pictures are gorgeous. and i agree, the truffle chips were a bit of a letdown as we couldn't taste the truffle oil. but then again, they were fried to perfection so it was still tasty with a good crunch! x

Jo said...

Well at least you can say that you've visited Jamie Oliver's restaurant even though it may have been a little bit of a let down.

Big Boys Oven said...

Now I so envy you two as you two got to dine at a place that i can just dream off! :) Great to see you enjoy it!

Janet @Gourmet Traveller88 said...

I would love to try too but perhaps at a later time point when no long waiting time required. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

Wild Boar said...

Oh sweet hope you have a great time here!

the ungourmet:
I have to admit I don't routinely look out for his tv shows so I don't know if he still has any new shows on.

Travelling via food blogs is the new in thing.

Well, most of my dinners seem to cost £30 each lately x_x

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella:
Manta's surf and turf looks jaw droppingly amazing!

Haha its hard to turn down chips with truffle oil.

Even though it was a little overcooked for me, it still wasn't tough so I couldn't be bothered to wait another 20 minutes to get a new steak (I'm quite impatient).

I think so too :-( My friend had the same truffle chips and she said her's was super-mega-fragrant. I think they just forgot to put truffle oil on the chips that day!

Haha all credit to Jamie (or Gennaro Contaldo, his Italian chef tutor).

noble pig:
Yeah, scratch one off my list :-) And thanks for the compliment.

Grace / Deeba @Passionate About Baking:
Ah well, I was brought up to eat anything handed over to you, whether it used to walk, run, swim, wriggle, waddle or fly.

So its not just me who couldn't smell the truffle!

Big Boys Oven:
Ah but I still miss good old Msian food.

Janet @Gourmet Traveller88:
It shouldn't really be a problem if you go on a weekday if you happened to be around Canary Wharf.

5 Star Foodie said...

Sorry it wasn't the best experience but sounds like it was still a fun place to check out.

Forager said...

A shame it was a bit of a let down. Always a mistake to oversell things on the menu - "insanely good"? It'd better be or it's going to disappoint! Still - sounds interesting and I'd be keen on trying it if I was in London.

Wild Boar said...

5 Star Foodie:
Oh yeah the vibe felt pretty good and it felt like a nice place to down a few glasses after work.

Oh the descriptions for everything on the menu is hyped up. Guess he thinks it sounds cute or appealing.

Chef E said...

I am sorry to hear that too, and felt the same way about some of these guys places in Vegas, to hyped up and over priced for what we all can make ourselves.

I always have thought he was appealing when he first came out, but rank him with Rachel Ray...please no hating on that one, but think about it, they get so much press and vision time, but I have seen Food Network produce so many more good Sarah Molten...

P. Smith said...

@ Chef E
Never heard of Rachel Ray so cannot compare but Jamie's Italian in Canary Wharf was ok for me, just as good as the one in Oxford.

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