“ Address: Jamie's Italian / 7 George Square / Glasgow / G2 1DY „
I ventured to Jamie's Italian in Glasgow for lunch with friends one rainy Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago. The expanding Oliver chain had planted a
branch in my city as well earlier this year which I had yet to try.
I was quite looking forward to this, despite markedly underwhelming reviews of my local branch I held out hope. How bad could it be? I thought, surely the man who trekked round Italy in a VW camper van must have picked up some gastronomical pleasures to share on a mass market level with the nation?
Despite my griping, I don't actually mind Oliver as a t.v. chef, I like that his food is simple and straightforward, and genuinely admire his efforts to stop the nation's children from porking out to American proportions.
We arrived at the restaurant, just off George Square, rain soaked and overnight suitcase encumbered. The door staff helpfully offered for us to store our bag with the pram brigade's baggage.
The space is quite vast, with high ceilings, "exposed" (pretty sure much of it was fabricated/not original) pipes, and rather a lot going on. There is a large deli counter looking space at which little appears to be going on from which fancy looking meats are hung. There is a large table with piles of artisan bread as you walk in (none of which we were offered gratis). There is a display with Oliver artefacts like olive oil and chopping boards for sale. Hey Jamie, I came here to eat, not to cook, mate!
We were a party of 7 (5 adults, 2 kids), seated at a spacious long table. The seats were a sort of red, cafeteria style plastic, the tables were wood. I think the whole thing was going for urban industrial chic or some such, according to the website all of the restaurants have unique décor. The overall effect was a bit cold and cacophonous at once. The downstairs area has a bar and more intimate seating for those looking for a quieter dining experience. Also very old toilets by the inventor of the toilet Thomas Crapper(!) according to my friend, with which the toddler in the group was endlessly fascinated. The kids were also provided with crayons and paper, as well as a viewfinder toy with the menu inside which kept them momentarily amused.
The service was very attentive, if slightly harried. We were read a list of the specials which were also posted on a board approximately a mile away (it would be helpful to have more than one board in such a vast space as this). The menu has a wide array of Italian pasta dishes, as well as plenty of choices for the non-pasta enthusiast.
The menu was full of very yummy sounding dishes and it took us a while to decide. I went for the baked chestnut mushrooms to start - described as prepared with "smoked thyme & crispy "music bread". For the main I went for the smaller (I presumed lunch portion, they have two price points for the pasta and risotto dishes) "Land and Sea Risotto" - "with spicy Italian sausage, pancetta, mussels, clams, white wine, black olives, sweet baby tomatoes & field mushrooms.".
Our food arrived after a slight wait, with the children's burgers arriving first. I have to say the burgers for the kids were miniscule - two mini-burgers on a plate. Luckily neither child was particularly interested in the food or they might have gone hungry. They came with a side salad in a jar that you are meant to shake to season - a bit of a foolhardy serving idea for kids in my opinion but the toddler had fun with it nonetheless!
Everyone else who had a starter went for the ciabatta with buffalo mozzarella (I think it was the special). There was either a miscommunication or they ran out of mozzarella because it was in fact ricotta cheese. No one complained though, as we were all hungry and the place was a bit busy to be sending stuff back.
My starter was a bit uninspired. The "crispy music bread" was in fact soggy mushy bread that had been baked with some cheese and a few sliced mushrooms scattered on top. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting when
I ordered baked mushrooms and I have to say it was pretty underwhelming. The cheese had a nice smokiness, I did wonder if I had ordered what I thought I had; though looking at the menu again I can see I was maybe expecting more of a stuffed mushroom.
The mains arrived relatively promptly after that. Two of our party had ordered the special, a linguine with sardine dish, one had the burger, and hubby had the Jimmy's Farm Italian Sausage (Jimmy being Jamie's fellow t.v.chef mate who has a farm). Hubby enjoyed the sausage, and for research I had a bite - it was indeed very good. For £10.95 though it seemed a bit paltry to not come with any carb on the side (Is Jamie trying to streamline us all?). This kind of thing just irks me.
My risotto was....sigh. Where to begin. Well the seafood, what little of it there was, was nice and fresh. The bits of sausage and olives and things were lovely, although it did seem at least one flavour too many to me. The risotto itself was hugely disappointing. Now I am not an expert, but I do cook risotto, and have had it enough times in restaurants to have some idea (I think) of what it's supposed to be like. Maybe this was some sort of very special risotto, but it was just unlike what I have become used to - more like a split grain rice, in rather a lot of broth (a big no no as far as I understand risotto is meant to absorb all the liquid). Just as well there were approximately three or four spoonfuls of it on my plate then.
My fellow diners were less than blown away by the under al dente cooking of the pasta as well. "Practically inedible" was one comment. I think the only happy customer was my friend who had the burger, which did look lovely and came with a generous serving of polenta chips, which were quite nice.
We also split the "Epic Brownie" for pudding (I was still famished), as my friend recommended it. It was indeed a lovely warm gooey brownie, definitely death by chocolate. The small spoon of amaretto ice cream was nice but there was not enough of it to cut the denseness of the brownie and its gooey chocolate sauce. It also had caramelised amaretti popcorn on top which was just a bit pointless and added nothing to the dish.
The brownie was so big and rich that the five of us did not manage to finish it.
I have to say I was pretty underwhelmed and disappointed by the food here - while some of the raw ingredients are obviously high quality and fresh, the quality of the cooking is pretty sub-par, especially given the prices. If a place purports to be "Italian", they really need to learn how to get the basics right for a start.
I would definitely not recommend you go for the small portion unless you have a bird like appetite. The service was fine, the ambience a bit chaotic and loud. I doubt I would return of my own volition.
Jamie's Italian seems to have expanded rapidly into many major cities, so if you are still curious it shouldn't be difficult to find one- although in this diner's opinion I can't see them sticking around for long unless major improvements are made. Chain restaurants serve a purpose, but this one is neither affordable nor reliable enough to serve even that basic function.