The only two cookbooks I have ever purchased have both been adorned with the cheeky face of the one time ‘Naked Chef’, Jamie Oliver. His simplistic approach to creating good hearty food has always appealed and therefore, I was delighted to accept when my friend and food blogger, Foodie Eshé, invited me to join her for a meal at his Brighton venue.
Escaping the cold winter night we were welcomed into the buzz of the mainly full restaurant bathed in the warm glow of the orange bulbs and cheered by some trendy tunes.
A little early, we decided to have a pre-dinner cocktail in the bar. In line with his simplistic approach, I was not expecting to be presented with geometrically jaw-dropping glassware garnished with some wild and wacky endangered fruit, as is often the case with cocktails these days. However, the non-alcoholic ‘Berry Blast’ and Vodka based ‘Blackberry Mule’ did little more that bring back fond memories of the many slush puppies I enjoyed as a child and both drinks went unfinished.
I always prefer meals that allow me to graze over a variety of dishes and flavours and for that reason and the quality, the starters were by far the dining highlight.
The fresh warm Artisan Breads with olive tapenade got my taste buds into gear and the Cured Meat Plank, one of the restaurants signature items, was a visual treat. In keeping with the rustic feel, the plank was presented on two tins of Italian tomatoes taken from the wall display of the many ‘Jamie branded’ cookware and food items available for purchase.
The generous portion of fennel salami, pistachio mortadella, prosciutto and schiacciata piccante with mini buffalo mozzarella, pecorino and chilli jam, a selection of pickles, olives & rainbow slaw was pleasant, but better quality items could be purchased from any half decent Italian deli.
Our two other starters however, were sublime. The Italian Paté Bruschetta was as smooth and flavoursome as any I had ever had. Topped with crispy pancetta strips and readily placed atop a fresh crostini, avoiding the global issue of paté eating, not enough toast.
Our final starter was the best, Spinach and Ricotta Croquettes. The four plump croquettes were a delightful consistency and topped with a fiery arrabbiata sauce that was bursting with flavour. I could have quite easily eaten a dozen of these and left happy.
I like to judge a restaurant on how well it does the simple dishes, so for my main I opted for the ‘Turbo Penne Arrabiatta’. After the delightful kick that still danced on my tongue from the croquette sauce, I was excited when the large bowl of pasta was placed in front of me. Whilst satisfactory it was a little underwhelming and the sauce had none of the kick that the starter had.
Eshé had the Lamb Chops Scottaditto served on grilled peppers and salsa verde. Again it was a visually impressive meal. The chops looked huge, however once the bone and fat were trimmed away, the meat though perfectly cooked and tasty was somewhat sparse for the £17.50 price tag and needed the seasonal greens and funky chips as additional sides.
Full from the starters I omitted to have a desert and finished with a Machiatto. Sadly one of my biggest bug-bears with UK restaurants was confounded – bitter, stale coffee.
PRICE: £75.80 for 2 people (including drinks)
RATING: 3/5 – based on this visit
The service was friendly and attentive without being intrusive and the venue was warm and comforting. I had visited the venue many years before when it first opened and had enjoyed it. Whilst this meal was ok, it feels that now with over 40 branches across the country it is losing some of its uniqueness to the chain mentality and with a wide selection of Italians across Brighton and Hove I would not rush to return.
NEED TO KNOW: Throughout January you can get £10 off your bill when you spend £30 or more on food and drink. Pop your email details in here to claim your voucher.
*Disclosure this is based our experience at Jamie’s Italian on the 30th December 2015. The meal was subsidised by the restaurant but this has not affected the review which is honest and impartial account of the experience.