Some people really haven’t taken to this guy but most can’t help but be impressed with the fact that he can make simple familiar food more exciting and more impressive when you’ve a few friends coming over. I have certainly got a crush on him and have found that I am able to cook with much more confidence having watched his shows. Jamie has been the consultant chef to Monte’s along with his friend Ben Donoghue. It’s a glass-fronted restaurant in Sloane St Kensington with huge cardboard displays in the front of Jamie Oliver and his books. These books contain sound, simple advice and promise to ‘strip the food down to its bare essentials’ and enable you to make good honest ‘pukka tucker’. So what pre-conceptions did I have? I knew that the set meal available to non-members at lunchtime was £23 a head for all three courses. For London, and not usually spending anything like this much on myself in one restaurant, I expected a hip busy restaurant serving good quality food on very small plates! I expected a youthful place full of people having business lunches or treating friends to Jamie’s smashing food. I thought I’d see a kitchen with chirpy but pressured chefs and the odd flame licking up from a hot pan. Now, I am an ‘All you can eat buffet’ girl, a ‘Harvester’ girl, a ‘Cantonese on valentines day that costs – shock £32 for both of us’ girl. This was a big treat and exciting because I wanted the Jamie Oliver experience. The celebration of food with guests and bubbly hosting in a vibrant hip atmosphere. So…what happened next? At reception I was greeted in a slim young woman in a pinstriped suit with her hair slicked back like on a Robert Palmer video (minus the guitar). She took our coats and bags and put them into a cloakroom. We stood there waiting for the next step – there was no big door with restau
rant written on it! Stumped me! We were directed up a staircase that incidentally stank of stale cigar smoke. Monte’s is also renowned for its cigar store and obviously from the aroma, the members loved to partake during their visits. We were greeted by another woman in a suit who led us to a seat in the restaurant area. It wasn’t very big. The décor was similar to Ikea’s beige room set ups. You know the ones – beige mats, brown floor, brown chairs etc. No vibrant colour, and the room was quiet. We were very nervous and out of place anyway as this place was obviously extremely classy and formal. As the tables were not very intimate and exposed we felt that every word we said could be heard by all present – not that I usually care but I felt like enough of a fraud and was about to order a dish I didn’t understand – didn’t really want everyone to witness it! My partner struggled with the menu too! Many of the ingredients and cooking styles reflected in the menu certainly were not stripped down to their bare essentials – they were disguised in the elitist jargon I assumed Jamie would have stripped away as part of his ‘keep it simple’ campaign. Despite this we received quick service and we both had a plate of seasonal vegetables that although cooked in butter - and I like them unadulterated - they were a very special selection of the veggies that supermarkets just don’t provide. Fresh, flavoursome, organic, unusual. I admit to not knowing what a few of them were but they were sweet and buttery and lovely. My partner had pork in some kind of filo explosion which he felt very uncomfortable about eating as everyone else in the restaurant were so seemingly refined – pastry was flying everywhere!! I had a wholemeal pizza with olives and erm, some green stuff and then some black stuff that was rather salty. This was the main problem, we really didn’t feel confident enough
in the environment created to be ourselves, feel comfortable and explore the menu items fully! We both had the same pudding that was basically real lovely creamy ice cream served floating on strong coffee in small cup. Following the meal I didn’t feel very full, and I was kind of looking forward to having tea at McDonald’s later that day – my own territory where I’m used to it! So, when I say Jamie Oliver Stood Me up, I mean that the elements of his character that he has conveyed so effectively in his shows and books failed to arrive. It was just another snobby restaurant I’m sorry to say. I do apologise to those of you whose budgets often stretch to this kind of eating out. If I had the cash I would too! However, Jamie needs to tie up his reputation with millions of everyday folk to the kind of experience he delivers on the high street. Fans like me who cannot always stretch to a meal at these prices would expect a Jamie Oliver influence. What we had at Monte’s was the kind of experience that left me wanting to undo all Jamie’s good work and eat at McDonald’s or do pie and chips at home where I feel comfortable.