If I was asked to choose a favourite cuisine, nine times out of ten I would say Italian food (of course loving food as much as I do, the answer to this question changes fairly frequently depending on my mood). It’s also the cuisine that I love to cook the most. And the cook books I usually turn to? Jamie Oliver. I love his style – throw in a little bit of this, a little bit of that and done. It’s not overly prescriptive and it’s how I like to cook. Love him or loathe him, he’s done more to raise awareness of food issues than most well-known chefs and you have to admire his tenacity.
Jamie’s Italian was founded in 2008 and he now has over 30 restaurants worldwide, with plans for more. On this occasion, we chose to go to the Canary Wharf branch. It’s an area that is packed full of bankers during the week, but relatively quiet on weekends. The Better Half and I lived nearby when we first moved to London and it’s changed massively since that time but we both love the area and thought this was a great opportunity to pay it another visit.
Food: The menu is not your typical Italian and you won’t find pizza here, but everything is seasonal and fresh and portion sizes are huge! Jamie’s friend and mentor, Gennaro Contaldo, consults on the menus and ensures that while still sticking with tradition, it is current and innovative. TBH left me in charge of ordering and I could’ve easily ordered any one of the dishes on the menu – they all sounded delicious. In the end, I chose three items from the antipasti section for us to share – crispy squid with crushed garlic mayo, chopped chilli and lemon (£5.50); crispy porcini mushroom arancini (£5.50) and ricotta bruschetta with balsamic roasted cherry tomatoes (£5.50). Our favourite was the bruschetta – great textures and flavours that made this a light and refreshing starter. The arrabbiata sauce that came with the arancini could’ve had more punch, but all in all it was a great way to start.
I chose a lamb ravioli special (£12.95) for my main that was as seasonable as it gets – lamb, peas, courgettes, mint. A marriage made in heaven. TBH ordered the turkey Milanese stuffed with prosciutto and fontal cheese (£13.50) which was a huge portion of well cooked turkey and he especially enjoyed the wild truffle shavings on top. The funky chips (£4.00) with rosemary and garlic made a nice change from ordinary chips you would get in most restaurants. The big portion sizes though meant that we had no room left for dessert.
Ambiance: The restaurant was fairly empty as you would expect it to be in this area on a weekend. It’s a big space though and the floor to ceiling windows let the gorgeous sunshine flood in.
Service: Our waiter was a little distracted at first and we felt we didn’t have his full attention but things improved as the meal progressed.
Price: Our total bill was £61.00 which included drinks, but on this occasion we dined as guests of Jamie’s Italian.
And finally…With 30 of these restaurants world wide (and more in the pipeline), there’s sure to be one near you. Like the restaurants name sake, it’s a pretty safe bet. The food is good, well cooked comfort food and pretty reasonably priced too.
Until we eat again!