“ Unit 17, 2 Churchill Place, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5RB. Tel: 020 3002 5252 „
I don't know why it had taken so long for me to visit Jamie's Italian chain of restaurants. Maybe it was the fact you couldn't book (I have tried ad hoc a few times) or maybe it was the fact that Jamie himself always seemed a bit smug that put me off trying too hard. The chain was founded by TV chef Jamie Oliver and his friend Gennaro Contaldo in 2008 and now has upwards of thirty branches throughout the UK. My friend recently discovered that you could now book in advance, so made a reservation for the two of us one Friday evening in Canary Wharf. The booking was for 8.15pm and we were slightly early and invited to wait at the bar or at one of the tables 'outside' (the restaurant was within some sort of shopping centre/office complex). We decided to order our wine at the bar and although we didn't know which table we would be sitting at, the server took a credit card and gave us a key. Once seated, we gave the key to our waitress and she returned the credit card, and the wine was added to our bill (the card wasn't charged).
To drink we chose a Sauvignon Blanc (around the £20 mark), which was very drinkable, and not too dry. It was (allegedly) "herby with melon flavours", but it tasted much like wine to me. They also do wines by the glass, beers, shorts and cocktails.
Veggies beware: there is no trusty 'V' sign on the menu to help you. I had checked the website beforehand and knew what I could eat, as the use of traditional Italian cheeses often also means the use of rennet (sheep stomach) in the ingredients. I am sure your server could help you if unsure. My friend deliberated over the Brixham Bay sardine bruschetta (£5.50) or the crispy squid with garlic mayo, chilli and lemon (£5.75). In the end he went for the latter as I had been teasing him for being a wimp and not eating spicy food. As it was he picked the chilli out, but otherwise he really enjoyed his starter. It was quite a small portion, it seemed, as he finished it in no time. I went for the Posh Garlic Mushrooms on toast (basically mushroom bruschetta) which was a long thin piece of garlic bread topped with lots of assorted chopped mushrooms in garlic, chilli and parsley. It was served on a massive plate and took some getting through. I didn't finish it as I wanted to save room for my main course, and because the last pieces of chopped mushroom were so awash in oil they refused to be scooped up on my fork.
Starters were cleared promptly, and after a suitable period our main courses arrived. My friend went for Sicilian Tuna Fusilli at £11.95, (apparently this is Jool's Oliver's favourite for those that are interested in such things) and my friend certainly enjoyed it. I went for Honeycomb Cannelloni Three Ways (£10.95). Served in an earthenware dish on a wooden board, the three different flavoured cannelloni were cut up and served on their ends to look like a honeycomb pattern. I wish I had remembered to take a photo as I was quiet taken with the presentation. More importantly than that, I loved the flavours. One flavour was the veggie staple spinach and ricotta, the other was pumpkin and my favourite was aubergine and sun-dried tomato. My only problem, as I said to my friend, was that it was so nice that if I came back I would be worried about ordering anything else in case it didn't live up to this dish. Thus the cannelloni gets the thumbs up from me.
We were neither of us too keen on the idea of desserts, feeling fairly full and instead decided to get a second bottle of wine and stay and finish it, rather than moving on and finding somewhere else. The inside of the restaurant was quite dark, but my eyes soon adjusted. As you come in they have a display of cookbooks, foodie gifts and tableware if you are so inclined, and the bar is on the left. Most of the seating is for diners, so if you have to wait a while you may find yourself having to stand around the bar, which was quite cramped. They have hooks around the pillars for your coats. We were seated so I was on a banquette seat, whilst my friend on an individual chair opposite. Seating was comfortable and there were no wobbly tables. Toilets were upstairs (I would imagine as a new building there would be adequate disabled facilities, but I did not see them). They were clean and well stocked with all the necessary. Service was always friendly and obliging, and efficient. In spite of being such a large, open plan restaurant it did seem to have a good atmosphere.
According to the menu they cater for children (we did see a pushchair as we went in) and I wouldn't doubt this is a family friendly chain, although I am not sure that Canary Wharf, being primarily a business district, naturally attracts a family clientele. For the adults as well as pasta, they do steaks, burgers and fish dishes.
Overall our bill came to just under £80 excluding tip, but that did include two bottles of wine. Whilst not the cheapest restaurant you will ever eat in, I did think the food and presentation was to a high standard and well worth the money.
2 Churchill Place
020 3002 5252
Monday - Friday
11.30am - 11pm
12 noon - 11pm
12 noon - 10.30pm
When I first heard that Jamie Oliver was opening a restaurant in the middle of one of the largest financial centres in the world, call me cynical but alarm bells started to ring. In my mind Jamie Oliver is one of these new chefs who have started to sell out and make a quick buck, and there is a lot of money to be made with high-street eating at the moment.
I am pleased to say that Jamie's Italian is a stand-alone, great restaurant and the news that the chain is expanding thrills me because more and more people can try them out (Canary Wharf is a little bit "back of beyond, even for Londoners).
As you may imagine, the restaurant is packed out at lunchtime, full of City Boys discussing how much money they have lost over a nice bowl of pasta or a signature seafood dish. Trade keeps up all day and all night and we have frequently been placed on the list for a table. The waiting area is a bit small and the "overflow" is a terrace, which isn't great on cold nights, in a part of London so windy I have seen a man's dog blown off the ground.
The hype is pulled through with the design of the menu and restaurant: everything is "Jamie-fied", modern, quirky, pink-paint-on-brown-wood kind of look. You are seated on green chairs that look like they belong on a B&Q patio display. Even the loos are over the top; I think the urinals resemble on-armed bandits.
Bear with it though! This quirkyness slowly makes sense. Once seated, down to earth details start to show themselves, such as the tea towel-style napkins, scrubbed steel pots growing rosemary and cans of tomato sauce supporting the (incredible) antipasto starter plank.
Food-wise, I may as well recommend the antipasto planks, big enough for four to share, overflowing with freshly carved cured meats (I have seen the chefs labouring away in the starter bar), the freshest fresh Buffalo Mozzarella I have ever tasted, huge olives and delicious pickled chilli. Main courses are faultless; the chefs make good use of nearby Billingsgate Fish Market and the pasta is freshly prepared and spot-on Al Dente. The portions are large; just bear in mind that there are no pizzas on offer which my put off some people. Desserts are wonderful: the chef must be addicted to Brownies as there is usually one on the menu at all times; and it is always gooey, show-stealing and perfectly sweet.
The ample wine/cocktail list and the menu itself changes frequently which annoys my friends but I love: I think it shows the kitchen cares and is innovative. The service is basic but friendly; the staff are really eager to chat and I have never had any issues. There was a fire drill one night I went and the way they dealt with it was very professional (even though most tables drank up and did a runner).
I regard Jamie's Italian to be averagely priced: 3 courses and vino for 2 will set you back about £50.
I must admit, Jamie's Italian surprised me. It is one of the best all-round restaurants in Canary Wharf, and sells itself on seriously good food and a "feel good", lively vibe probably inspired by Mr. Oliver himself.
Maybe his programmes are worth watching after all...
After all the hype, and all the TV appearances, along with an unending (or so it would seem) stream of campaigns to get Britain eating Brittish produce, as well as happy, well looked after, and cared for chickens/pigs/cattle/vegetables/children; Jamie Oliver once again goes back to the thing he should have been doing all along. Opening Italian restaurants up and down the country (I mean, how patriotic is that?).
Jamie made his name in the kitchen and on our screens, teaching people how to cook in the nude (I never watched but can only assume, given the title of the programme) and has become a mainstay on our screens and in our hearts, not to mention stomachs, because of his good old fashioned attitude towards food.
So, does his new chain of 'authentic Italian' restaurants live up to all the hype? Read on to find out ...
**** Location and Booking ****
This particular branch of the infamous Jamies Italian is located in the Docklands, a stones (somewhat long) throw from Canary wharf station, and to be fair, it is a doddle to find and get to, well, that is as long as you dont attempt it at the weekends, when half of Londons transport system shuts down. Canary Wharf is on the Jubilee line 10 minutes from London Bridge National Rail station for those of you unfamiliar with the tube.
Bookings aren't taken at Jamies, as according to the website, it reduces waiting times for diners, and would be unworkable at the moment due to the extremely high demand for tables. When I read this I was apprehensive to say the least, as it seemed to me this would just be a ploy to make more money and create a false appearance of popularity, by having diners waiting and drinking at an overpriced bar.
**** The Restaurant ****
We arrived at the restaurant at 8ish and were told there would be up to an hours wait for a table by a very friendly mamber of staff that seemed to be doing a hundred different tasks at once; We were then given one of those vibrating flashy light limpet things that jump around when your table is ready, and headed for the bar.
The appearance of the Restaurant is quite impressive, as half of the tables look out throught floor to ceiling windows overlooking a huge drop into a promenade area of what looks to be either an office foyer, or entrance to a shopping centre. and the other half are nicely spaced within the hub of the restaurant but give a great feeling, and create just the right ambience. The outside space is pleasant enough, with (not very eco-friendly) heaters covering several tables at the front area adjacent to the road. There is Wheelchair access to the restaurant via a small enclosed lift from the street for those who need it.
The decor inside is very homely and the tables and chairs look like something taken from a 1930's tea party, however, they are comfortable, and sturdy, again adding to the whole italian kitchen feel. at the far end of the restaurant, there is a meat counter, with various hams, and cured meats hanging above that are freshly prepared when ordered, as well as a bread board in the centre of the seating area where the numerous breads are again freshly cut to order.
**** The Food ****
Well what can I honestly say, other than I was completely blown away by the quality of the food served up. I was expecting half decent food to be churned out like some kind of production line, and it really didnt seem like that at all. The pasta dishes are made with hand made fresh pasta, the meats as you would expect are from brittish producers, and local where possible, not to mention packed with flavour, and cooked with skill.
We (oh by the way, I may have forgotten to mention there were two of us) had a mixed bread plate, which was mountainous, and although we thought it had been seved for two, we were charged for a single portion. we then had a cured meat platter (well, wood board) with the current selection of parma, and other hams and cured meats. along with cheeses and olives...and... and.
Mains were again really good, with the pork kebab type things that I had being just brilliant, and the wierd looking pasta that my fiancee had being extremely well cooked.
We didnt (couldn't) manage desserts, which was a shame as they looked great, however we did mangae to sink a couple of bottles of very nice wine.
**** Service and staff ****
The workforce in the Restaurant is young and professional, but in no way pretentious, in fact they were very friendly and informal, the only negative here was that the bar seemed to be understaffed for the number of guests having a drink before being seated, although I'm not sure how they could improve this as the bar itself was not very big, and had three people staffing it. It just seemed to me that there were many more people than the staff could physically handle at one time.
**** Price and Value ****
Taking into account the service and the quality of the food, the price we paid was extremely fair, the bar prices were not over infalted as I initially thought they would be, and the drinks served were of a high quality as well. for the meal and drinks (including a frangelico each afterwards) came to around £70 including a tip, and i paid about £20 for the wine and a couple of drinks before being seated.
**** Overall experience ****
Fantastic, the wait was not as long as I was told, which was a nice bonus, and I really couldnt fault the experience overall, apart from the exceptional amount of patrons, but then at somewhere as good as this, that is not really going to change, or be avoidable.