If you’re reading this blog, you probably watch (and love) the Food Network. It’s okay to admit. I love it too. I was there when Emeril Lagasse BAMMED his way into mainstream popularity. Remember those classic Iron Chefs? I loved how the dubbing made Chen Kenichi (Iron Chef Chinese, of course) sound like a complete doufus. Hilarious. One of my favorite shows was Jamie Oliver‘s The Naked Chef. It was fantastic.
The Naked Chef originally aired in 1998. Since then, Jamie has starred in numerous TV series, written numerous cookbooks (I own a couple), opened a few restaurants, and is now totally rich and famous. After all these years though, he’s still broadcasting the same message he had back when he was The Naked Chef: great food is a result of fresh, simple ingredients.
I’m in London. Last Sunday, I spent a fun and tiring day with family on the southern coast of Britain. I was excited when they proposed we reward ourselves with dinner at Jamie’s Italian. It’s probably not what you think though. Jamie’s Italian is created by Jamie Oliver, but it’s not his flagship restaurant; it’s actually a chain. There are currently 5 locations in and around London – Oxford, Bath, Kingston, Brighton, & Canary Wharf – with many more in the works. There’s even plans to open one in Hong Kong next year (“wah!”). Suffice to say, I didn’t see Jamie in the kitchen, but it was still exciting to experience his vision of what affordable, quick, and friendly Italian food should be.
Inside, the decor is casual and colorful. There’s fresh fruits, veggies, meat, and bread scattered throughout the restaurant. You can tell that they’re trying to appeal to younger crowds with a fresh message.
We started off with 2 antipasti platters. They were each £6.50 per person (~$11.50cdn). The meat platter had thin-sliced cured meats (delicious!) while the veggie platter had chargrilled veggies. Both platters contained fresh Italian cheeses, pickles, olives, and Italian salad.
The starters were nice and my entrée was even better. I ordered a Sausage Pappardelle – “Slow cooked Italian sausage, tomatoes, red wine, and parmesan with crunch herby breadcrumbs” – £9.95 (~$17.60). I really enjoyed this. It sounds strange, but with its al dente texture and odd shape, the pasta was a lot of fun to eat. The delicious meat sauce certainly helped. I realize that this isn’t the pinacle of Italian cuisine, but when you compare a dish like this to the super-cheesy, super-saucy, uninteresting dishes you find at a lot of North American chain restaurants (e.g. places that rhyme with “Coston Rizza” and “Molive Harden”)… well, there is no comparison.
For dessert, we shared a Tiramisu – £4.75 (~$8.40). Despite being a non-coffee drinker, Tiramisu is probably my favorite dessert. And this one did NOT dissapoint. Generous dallops of fresh marscapone cheese sandwiched between espresso-soaked (the stronger the better imo) lady fingers. With Tiramisu, I find that the messier it looks, the better it tastes (that sounds dirty..).
All in all, a really great meal.
Perhaps one day we’ll see a Jamie’s Italian in Canada. As the chain continues expanding, I do hope that they maintain the fresh philosophy that Jamie Oliver is known for. The world has enough crappy restaurant chains serving cookie-cutter meals as it is.
Jamie, keep it pukka.