“ Address: 24-26 George Street / Oxford / OX1 2AE / „
(Please note, client name has been changed to protect privacy)
Over the last twelve years - I feel I've been 'force fed' Jamie Oliver. Not only is he an excessively salivated mouthed celebrity chef but an author of culinary bodge jobs, he has also an array of food orientated TV shows that goes beyond the ridiculous. He irritatingly descended on schools, dictating to sour-faced dinner ladies, on the disease of childhood obesity. Most of the dinner ladies on the show were morbidly obese since being a kidult - hence, why they're in the catering business in the first place. Oliver's discrimination was vile; all for a TV show? He even lectured the children food minister on the problems of obesity wanting the governance at the time to go head-long into regulating school food nutrition. He asked school-children what vegetables he was holding. Meanwhile he was idiotically trying to get them excited about the wonders of stringy celery by the over use of the word 'pukka'; an 'Oliverism'. Now if Oliver lived in the day of Dick Turpin, (preferably called Dick Turnip) he'll be hijacking carriages and shoving soiled carrots in the strawberry and cream complexions of eloquent ladies - Shouting in a gardener's vocal: "Smell the freshness of my carrot!" - "Go on, take a good sniff!"
Overdose is not a word I refer to when it comes to food, but Oliver takes the biscuit. Therefore, you can appreciate my delight when a client divulged his 'awesome' interest in trying out Jamie's Italian establishment in Oxford's restaurant populated George Street. I winced and made a clicking noise with my tongue against the roof of my palate. Down the phone it sounded as if I smacked my lips in agreement. Naturally, I didn't want to disappoint and booked a reservation. Prior to the meal I did loiter outside the premises gazing at the window paraphernalia of rustic styled exterior and I peered at the Jamie signage and made a mental note it wouldn't look out of place as a corporate ID of a sheet metal plant. The corporate image stipulated a raw metallic vision - not what an eatery should emulate, surely. A queue suddenly emerged as if Jamie had rented a queue from his Penthouse for half hour stints. No real Italian's were spotted - going by the scraggly attire and Boris Johnson hair products. If I was to box Jamie's clientele I suppose I could say they looked like Jamie Oliver imitators, accessorized with a wafer thin brown bobbed companion who again could be semi variations of Jules's (Jamie's wife). They were lined up in foursomes - I found myself looking conspicuous; too overdressed in a dark smoking jacket and beige flannels. I did eventually queue after finding another sloppy mouthed individual gazing haplessly at the plastic fruit window display - a sign for things to come methinks! At least there was no evidence of plastic rotting, or a re-spray required, so perhaps I was being unfair.
Rustic Rosemary waiting to get picked up
I was shown to a window seat by a Jamie staff member who'd barely made eye contact in my direction through-out the well oiled process. No need to hold that observation against the staff member who was far too oiled mechanically to venture into anything remotely human. Smiling is time consuming and basically, I didn't smile at the staff member so we were two well oiled mechanisms dealing with a process, which could be deemed as professional. I waited for my client; Theobald Holmes-Bertram. When he appeared, he too had decided to opt for an Oliver dress-code. It matched the chequered table-cloth. We exchanged niceties and got onto the business of choosing rustic breads laced with Rosemary - the quaint little balsamic jug accompanied the appetiser. Portion control on the balsamic vinegar - now what a rarity! Eventually when eye contact was made (well, when I say eye contact made, the Jamie staff member's antennae appeared to respond to the creaking of my vertebrae as I stretched my neck to seek assistance) An order chip was inserted and his slick mechanisms worked a treat, eyes' directed downwards at all times, even when he planted a napkin onto our laps. That was as much human interaction a Jamie staff member provides throughout the dining process. He was as accomplished at planting napkins on laps as a professional prostitute was at slipping on a sheath.
Theobald and I opted for differing dishes - not because we were to share each others taste experiences - but it was due to the fact I find you cannot go wrong with Salmon or sweet beetroot on a fennel fragrant yoghurt sauce - that had a fresh chilli kick. Theobald stuck out his chest with pride when his feast greeted his eye. Sweet lamb on a bed of crunch Italian beans, salad and another drizzle of balsamic vinegar displayed as a drip painting by Pollock. A strong scent of mint lofted into the air which cajoled into my jet stream. Not that I was complaining, I did feel Oliver excelled in culinary textures in my case; the North of the border Salmon surpassed my expectation and the crunch combination of the fresh beetroot and fennel brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion. Theobald, pointed out to me with knife that I was indeed experiencing the 'Oliver chilli effect' - Theobald on each mouthful slightly moaned as his minted lamb seemed to be seductively caressing his oesophagus like no other lamb I've tasted before. Apparently it repeats on Theobald for hours afterwards and he tells me he relives the experience again and again. Theobald proceeds to state: "You only get that with fresh mint, not the dried mint you get from a jar from Sainsbury". I refrained from saying; 'don't you let Jamie hear you say that!' (Especially, in one of his restaurants); instead I nodded and dealt a fascinating statement which always seems to happen with Jamie's Italian restaurants. 'In all of Jamie's thirty Italian restaurants, the initial media bonanza of a location launch brings great enthusiasm, food, and service in the first year or so, and then it wilts somewhat'.
There was a joke about it in one of Jamie's latest Italian ventures in Manchester (early 2012) whereby, the establishment joked that consumers should pop along within the first year before Jamie's Italian wilts into a banal Italian restaurant. I wondered at what stage Jamie's Italian at Oxford was at. Partly, because there have been no reported cases of poor hygiene etc in Oxford, not unlike Jamie's London based Italian - which seemed to also lead to unhygienic practices in local areas surrounding the capital. All is quiet on the hygiene front at present as the Jamie brand embarks on a fresher outlook and that means better produce. I refused the complimentary glass of 'Prosecco' and plonked for the bottle of 'Campania' instead, because the non citric fruity aftertaste was more appealing on the palate after the Scottish Salmon. Italian wines notably engage in acidic flavours, this drowns out other flavours and as a rule the wine should compliment a meal rather than empower it. The price tag closed in at 70.00 GBP for two. A surcharge was inclusive and quite rightly so. We were not hurried and Jamie's staffs were programmed well enough to be seen as professional. No over elongated conversations, or niceties were necessary - and in return the courses arrived in a good timeframe. I wasn't aware of the décor, or whether the ambience was at a reasonable level, I therefore did not take any pictures of my meal or how much wine I consumed - nor did I notice what the Jamie Oliver imitators had to eat on the next table - considering they were still alive when I and Theobald left Jamie's establishment - I take it all went well.
However, what annoyed me was, I actually couldn't fault the meal or service; although, my disdain for Oliver continues - I had the greatest of pleasure in finding out my weight had ballooned several pounds and that was without having a Jamie chocolate brownie for a dessert. For a healthier nation stop eating at Jamie's Italian outlets. That was a public health warning!
An annual event - no more.
In the light of the recession meals out have become somewhat of a rarity, so we saved up for our half term trip out and were really looking forward to a meal at Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant in Oxford.
Bookings are only accepted for parties of 6 or more so we figured getting there early was a good option, which it was, but not through lack of available tables, from what we could gather the service was slower for the later arrivals.
The restaurant itself is very large but not so much so that it is impersonal, hubby felt that everyone was a bit crammed in and on top of each other but I was fine. But of course everything is definitely completely immersed in the Oliver Brand, Jamie books and Magazines forming the majority of the décor, with Italian wine and dried pasta displays completing it, even down to the table napkins which are white and blue with Jamie's name emblazoned across the blue stripe. I'm sure the books must also be available to buy, but we didn't ask.
The service from our point of view was exceptional, a very well oiled machine whereby we were met at the door and shown to our table, with menu's we were offered childs menu's which as both of my girls are now teenagers were slightly unnecessary but interesting to read they followed the same fresh food idea of the rest of the menu which is a welcome change to the usual fish fingers and beans, but the waiter did say they were very small portions. Our waiter arrived very quickly and the drinks were quickly ordered and delivered.
So now to the real reason behind our visit - the food.
We chose the starter from the specials board which was a rustic soup. The broth itself was very tasty with lots of veg in it, but being a soup the veg was a little overcooked and it was a bit disappointing, not as good as my home made ones.
The menu is very well laid out, starting with the breads, we had a selection of Italian fresh baked breads and they were beautiful, very rustic served with a mixture of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. There was a distinctive taste of rosemary throughout. It was quite a small basket of bread but probably worth the £3.75 price tag and infinitely nicer than the garlic bread that you'd get in any other Italian chain restaurant.
It then moves on to the antipasti section which we didn't test out but the lady behind us had a very large plate of cold meats served with a salad in the middle and it looked lovely.
The next section is the Pasta, from this section we tasted the prawn linguine and spaghetti bolognaise. Now Jamie does like his use of chilli, I think that often he uses too much and the prawn Linguine was testament to this, but was still very tasty, I did notice however that my husband topped his water glass up more than usual while he was eating it.
From the mains section, which included steaks and fish I chose the lamb chops with an artichoke sauce, which was lovely but the lamb was a little overcooked and honestly it was too dry, it definitely needed a gravy or some form of wet sauce and again I'm not one for great big slices of chilli but they were easy enough to pick out.
If you chose one of the mains it is enough for a meal in itself but you would probably want to have one of the side orders with it. I chose funky chips, which were served with garlic and parsley, and were tasty but a little too salty. Other sides available were vegetables and salads.
There is also a whole section of burgers which aren't mentioned on the internet menu they looked like very large towers.
The puddings however were amazing, my girls both had chocolate brownie served with amaretto and raspberry and they were literally picking every last bit of the plate (well board, I don't think they had plates)
All in all for a lunchtime meal for 4 with at least 2 of us having a starter and a pud it came to £82 this was with one round of soft drinks and a carafe of water, which I think was not unfair for what we had.
The food was tasty and as with anything with the Jamie brand, it does what it says on the tin, fine dining it's not and it certainly doesn't rate top of any meal out I've ever had. It's rustic, Italian inspired food (but not a pizza to be seen)
I'm glad we went, my kids thoroughly enjoyed it and it certainly had its highlights, but I'm not convinced I was a little disappointed, I don't think we'll be going back.
Thank you for reading.
also published on Ciao under the alias Digbycat
I've been to Jamie's a couple of times now and I have to say, it's a pretty decent place to eat. Much as I'd love to be able to criticise the place, being able to say "it's just the name that makes people go there", I really don't think I can - people go there because it's got a nice atmosphere, great food and is pretty good value for money.
Firstly, it's worth noting that Jamie's in Oxford is a fair bit larger than it appears from the street - you look in the window and see a dozen or so tables and you're inevitably stood in a queue to get in. You think to yourself "I'm going to be queuing for hours before one of those becomes available - look, that bloke's not even onto his starter yet!" - but thankfully there's a lot of tables downstairs, so the actual capacity is pretty large and the queue moves along quickly.
Given the large capacity, it's remarkable to get such good service - the staff are attentive and the food is delivered promptly, even when dining with large parties (it's worth noting that it's possible to reserve a table if there's 8 or more of you).
I really feel the food is a cut above the standard chain food...the "planks" of antipasti are particularly good- highlighting the quality of the raw ingredients. They're served on large, rustic planks balanced on tins of tomatoes, or cans of olive oil - good fun. The warm breads you can start with are also particularly nice and taste fresh and homely.
As I said, I've eaten at Jamie's several times and have yet to taste anything that wasn't lovely - always well presented, well seasoned, strong, simple flavours...and the pasta is perfectly cooked.
Jamie's gone for a "chatteria" atmosphere, so it's lively and relatively casual - a great place to catch up with friends, or take the other half out for a treat - but probably isn't formal enough for a romantic meal out or a really special occasion.
Price wise, I think Jamie's is very competitive - the meals, on their own, are roughly the same price as they'd be at Bella Italia or Pizza Express, but there's a little "gotcha" with charging for salads and the like - and you tend to have a couple more "bits and pieces" when you go to Jamie's - so the overall bill is often a little more - but I always feel it's a couple of quid extra well spent.
The only downside to Jamie's is that it can, at times, feel a little like a theme park. The waiters often give you little titbits of information when seating you and so on "last time Jamie was here, he brought these pictures to put up on the wall...and he told the funniest joke!" - I guess it's designed to reassure you that Jamie is actually involved in the place in more than name, but I find it distracting and it robs the place of an "authentic" feel.
Overall, then, I'd highly recommend Jamie's for a meal out - it's tasty, reasonably priced and homely - with very good service.
Jamie's Italian is one of my favourite restaurants in Oxford and is owned by the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. This restaurant was the first Jamie's Italian to be opened in the UK. It has a real Italian rustic feel inside and is much larger than it appears from the outside. All of the food is freshly prepared with the pasta being made on-site which brings a little 'theatre' to the restaurant.
The restaurant operates a walk in policy so you can only book a table for parties of six or more. If you don't want to wait for a table it is best to get to the restaurant early to avoid disappointment, especially on weekends. If you don't mind waiting then there is a small bar area where you can soak up the ambience over an ice cold Peroni or large glass of Valpolicella.
The restaurant is conveniently located next to the New Theatre and just down the road from the Odeon cinema. This provides a great opportunity to grab a bite to eat before or after a show.
There are a number of major chain Italian restaurants along the same stretch of road including both ASK and ZiZi. The food and service always seem a little over manufactured in these restaurants whereas at Jamie's, the service staff are just as individual as the food and form an integral part of the dining experience.
As you would expect, the menu is also very rustic and consists of a variety of Italian favourites and features breads with oils through to veal parmigiana and lemon ricotta cheesecake for dessert.
If you are looking for a cheaper dish I would recommend the sausage papardelle, which is a combination of slow cooked Italian sausage, tomatoes, red wine and parmesan with crunchy herby breadcrumbs. This dish is delicious and only costs £6.65 for the small portion which is perfectly adequate after munching on some of the warm bread selection to start with.
I would definitely recommend a meal at Jamie's Italian and have included the contact details below:
24-26 George Street,
Tel: 01865 83 83 83
12:00 - 23:00 Monday - Friday
10:00 - 23:00 Saturdays
10:00 - 22:30 Sunday
OTHER JAMIE'S ITALIAN RESTAURANTS:
Jamie Oliver has opened another six restaurants located in Bath, Kingston, Brighton, Canary Wharf, Guildford and Cardiff. Jamie has used his unique creativity when individually styling each restaurant to compliment the overall design of the building. Although the restaurants are part of a chain, this way each restaurant retains an individual character of its own.
Thank you for taking the time to read my review.
I was in law school in Oxford when Jamie's Italian opened, and I remember the hubbub surrounding it well - for months, the store-front (which used to be a low-end pub, if I remember) was covered in brown paper and tantalising messages on the windows - 'Jamie's coming...' and other nonsense like that. But the hype worked, and for the first couple of months, you knew when the doors had opened as the line of faithful, hungry students snaked down George Street. I'm sure the Gourmet Burger Kitchen across the road must have noticed a rise in their own profits, as every time we ventured towards Jamie's for dinner and were met with the line, we ended up having dinner at GBK instead.
We would have made reservations like sensible people, but unfortunately, at the time (and possibly, still now) Jamie's Italian doesn't take reservations, as their philosophy dictated that you shouldn't plan your evening around your meal - you should come and go as you please. Well, that's nice in theory, but in reality it meant you had to plan an extra 30-45 minutes of waiting in line into your night! Nice try, Oliver, but let's re-think that.
One night, I had a friend visiting from out of town who had heard about Jamie's Italian in Oxford, as it was the first ever of the chain. That night we resolved to go, and spent about 20 minutes in line outside - and then another 15 minutes at the bar, waiting for our table. We excitedly poured over the menu, pointedly ignoring the Oliver-isms (gorge, delish, splooge, etc.). 'Oh boy', we said to each other, 'this is going to be great - definitely worth the wait!'.
Famous last words. It wasn't. We each ordered a starter and then our group of 4 alternated between pasta and proper mains. No one was particularly impressed by any of their dishes. Our Italian in Oxford is Mario's on Cowley Road, and if you stripped Jamie's plates of their ponce and circumstance and, to use Jamie's own phrase, 'slapped' them on to Mario's plain china, you would think that Mario was having an off day. I had the carbonara and remember it distinctly as flavourless, and the garlic bread as just OK. I can't recall what exactly everyone else had, but we all agreed that in no way was the experience worth the time spent - upon receiving the bill, we agreed that it wasn't worth the money spent, either! It was easily 2x the price of what we'd expect to pay at Mario's.
I haven't been back but I am aware that in my new London neighbourhood, Jamie's Italian has just opened in Canary Wharf. The lines never disappeared from George Street, but I stopped wondering what all the hype was about.
Jamie's Italian are a set of more affordable restaurants opened by the famous chef whilst still providing high quality & fresh food. The first of these to open was in Oxford in 2008 & I recently decided to head down to see what all the fuss was about.
The first thing I've noticed is that although the restaurant has been open over a year now, there's always a fairly large queue outside. This is due to the fact that you can't book a table unless there is a group of six or more of you. When I went down with a mate, early on a Saturday evening we had to queue for about 25 minutes before getting a table.
The menu itself features a range of traditional italian dishes as well as a selection of specialist meat, fish & vegetarian dishes. The food does taste very nice & fresh and you can tell that the ingriedients used as of the highest quality. I had some lamb chops whilst my mate had a spaghetti dish & we were both very impressed with our meals.
There are loads of staff so the service is very good & meal arrive in a timely manner. As well as a main, we also had a starer & a desert and all this set us back around £65. Just over £30 per person for a three course meal isn't bad value at all for what you get.
If you've got one of these recently open near you, I'd highly recommend giving it a true, you won't be disappointed.
My partner treated me to dinner at Jamie's for my last birthday, and with the exception of a couple of minor gripes, I was very impressed.
The good; the food is excellent. We had a basket of breads to start, all of which tasted fresh and different; most bread-based starters tend to lack variety, but this wasn't the case with Jamie's. For the main, I had the lasagne, and felt that it was just right; not too much pasta, and not too much filling. My partner had the prawn linguini and I was assured that "that's the best prawn linguini I've had in ages". The service was also good, and surprisingly prompt for a restaurant of such a size.
The bad; unless you go at lunch time, and even then, not at peak lunch time, you will invariably have to queue for a table; when we went, they didn't take bookings, although I'm not sure if that's still the case. The prices are high, but that can hardly be cited as a disadvantage since they were justified. The strongest complaint I have is that the portion sizes were perhaps a little on the small side. I left feeling less than full, which is not good having just spent £50 on a meal for two.
In sum, a great restaurant producing good, authentic food, at reasonable (ish) prices and with good service; shame about the portion size.
Amazing fresh bread in the bread basket, gorgeous deep fried squid and amazing caramel pasta (sounds weird but tastes delish). The freshly squeezed orange juice was divine - I had two glasses along with a bellini cocktail. And panacotta for dessert which was just perfect.
It was all so nice, lovely ambience with italian themed decor there were cured meats hanging up and italian style tea towels monogrammed 'Jamie's italian', a live kitchen so you could see everything being prepared and even Jamie's special recipe olive oil and balsamic vinegar which was very nice to dip my bread in.
In terms of price, for a bread basket, three courses and three drinks and my partner much the same, our bill of 50 was surprisingly small. The staff were very friendly and efficient, the only thing that could of made my dining experience more enjoyable would've been a visit from Jamie himself, and his friendly little messages in the menu were enough for me! I would definitely eat there again.
Thank-you for reading
Great italian food in a relaxed environment.