When brain-storming ideas for my work team’s Christmas celebration, there was one over-whelming favourite: lunch at Jamie’s Italian. We’re a little group of foodies and bakers who love nothing more than avoiding work chat to talk about what we ate for dinner last night, so it was natural that we all wanted to try the Brisbane opening of one of the world’s most famous celebrity chefs.
Jamie’s Italian opened to expectant crowds in late November in Rowes Arcade. The restaurant is large, with upstairs and downstairs dining, chefs on display in open kitchens and wandering through the restaurant with bowls of pasta and tomatoes. The decor is a little incongruous, a little ‘Pfft, I know it doesn’t work but I can totally get away with it’ being a mix of modern industrial, Jamie Oliver promotion and Italian kitsch.
We ordered a bottle of prosecco ($55) between four of us to celebrate the end of the year. It came fast – all of the service was speedy and good, but we were on a ‘special treatment’ list so I’m not sure what it would be like otherwise. It took us a while to decide what to eat. The menu is tempting and appealing to almost all tastes, like most of Oliver’s food. I settled on splitting a share-plate of fried three-cheese gnocchi ($10) with a colleague followed by the main sized serve of lamb and ricotta tortellini ($26).
The fried gnocchi was tasty and crispy, most enjoyable. A very satisfying start. My lamb tortellini were handmade of course and flavoursome. I would have liked a couple more tortellini, but I have a larger appetite than many people and I adore pasta. After my shared starter and main pasta I could have squeezed in dessert, but I wouldn’t have felt terribly good afterwards. I washed down my main with a glass of dry Italian red wine.
Others at the table had the prosciutto and pear salad ($19.50 and packed with prosciutto), Jamie’s Italian burger ($19.50 and a foot high), sausage pappardelle ($12.50 for a small) and lamb osso bucco ($29.50 and the hit of the meal, it smelt incredible and apparently tasted devine).
I abstained from dessert but other people happily sampled the lemon meringue pie and epic brownie. All in all we were very happy with our experience. Everyone was full and had enjoyed their meals very much. With the prices and the portion sizes it would be easy to spend a lot of money at Jamie’s Italian. This is not to criticise the cost vs quality – everything we had was excellent and I have no complaints, it’s just something to consider when you go. If you wanted a less-expensive but equally good Jamie experience, there are places at the upstairs kitchen bar where you can sit and watch the chefs and enjoy anitpasti over a glass or a bottle of vino.
Jamie’s Italian won’t be for everyone. I have heard from other diners complaints about service, portion size and cost; $4.35 for an espresso is excessive, no matter how you look at it. They make the pasta in a passageway into the restaurant – interesting to watch but still odd. The music when we were there was a strange early 2000’s soundtrack that included Britney’s Spears ‘Toxic’ and Tatu’s ‘All the Things She Said’. Not everyone’s idea of restaurant music.