11 Upper St Martin’s Ln, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9FB
Jamie Oliver – the quintessential English celebrity chef – talented, charming, and a proud advocate of the importance of home-cooking. I love his simple recipes full of fresh, seasonal ingredients, his amazing YouTube channel that features up-and-coming chefs of all specialties, and his firm, whole-hearted belief that food can be both delicious and healthy. He spent the better part of 2015 campaigning for the introduction of a sugar tax in the UK in a bid to reduce obesity and will continue his work on child nutrition this year*.
One of his many business endeavours as a restauranteur is his chain of Italian eateries, Jamie’s Italian, which were established in 2008 in partnership with his mentor, Gennaro Contaldo, and has seen international success ever since. In fact, a branch opened in Canberra many years ago, but strangely, I’d never felt the urge to visit until one of our first weekend trips to London from Cambridge. Perhaps it was the fact that we were in the UK, or that there are 11 different branches in London alone, but we decided to drop by for dinner in Covent Garden after a full day of sightseeing.
The Bolognese was lovely, flavourful and tender – obviously a labour of time and love. However, I was very disappointed with my pasta, which was unevenly cooked so that some was al dente while other areas were still crunchy.
This pasta was definitely a lot more enjoyable than the other. The thin squid-ink spaghetti was cooked perfectly and paired with a simple white-wine sauce that was full of seafood flavour.
I’ve had some great polenta chips in my time and this one from Jamie’s Italian unfortunately didn’t measure up at all. Instead of having a lovely crunch and fluffy polenta inside, this version was very chewy and gluey.
A warm, rich brownie always goes well with refreshing ice-cream on top, which was a little lumpy but had a great salted caramel flavour.
Overall, I left quite disappointed with our meal at Jamie’s Italian. My expectations were high and I don’t think the food was particularly special or worth the price. It was actually a bit of a shock to see the bill and consider the conversion to Australian currency. While I’m fully aware that the cost of everything in London is high, I couldn’t help but think about the quality of the food that this meal would have bought us back in Melbourne. Regardless, even though I have great respect for Jamie Oliver, I don’t think I’ll be visiting another Jamie’s Italian soon – perhaps next time I’ll try one of his many other non-chain restaurants?
*If you’re interested in Jamie Oliver’s work on childhood obesity and his sugar tax, check out his short series ‘Sugar Rush’ here.