Newest Review: ... cold in the restaurant i had to borrow my husbands jacket, the seats are metal and also very cold to sit on... maybe with the... more
Jamie serves up a mixed bag
Jamie's Italian Restaurant (Portsmouth)
Member Name: frangliz
Jamie's Italian Restaurant (Portsmouth)
Advantages: Excellent pasta made on the premises; very good fish
Disadvantages: Terrible acoustics, very long waits, awful lamb dish, tiny scoops of ice cream
I was in Gunwharf soon after 1pm and went to ask at the restaurant if it would be possible to have a table for five at 2pm. The response was the same, however, as on the website: no bookings for fewer than eight people. By 1.45pm my son and his partner had arrived, so we decided to go in and have a drink while waiting for my brother and his wife. We were told that there would be a wait of forty to fifty minutes and were given a pager that would vibrate when our table was ready. We ordered drinks at the bar; my son and his partner decided on non-alcoholic cocktails (£3.25 each) and I had a glass of organic house red (£4.45). It took ages for the bartender to prepare the cocktails, but we think he made a mistake with one of them and had to start again.
My brother and his wife arrived at 2pm, and I could tell that my brother wasn't happy about having to wait for a table. I suggested he went off for a while and came back, which he did after getting an orange juice for my sister-in-law. When he came back he said he wasn't happy about the way his change at the bar had been given to him in a pot, as if the implication was that he should leave it as a tip - he had given a ten-pound note for a drink that cost around £3. I was surprised, as I had paid for the other drinks and had been given my change in my hand.
We were all taken aback by the décor of the restaurant. Most people would either love or hate it; words we used to describe it were prison, factory, cages, or old-fashioned hospital. I did feel that most of the details had been well co-ordinated, but I wasn't convinced by the plastic chairs. What we all felt was the biggest failing, however, was the acoustics. There was so much glass, metal and bare wooden flooring that the place was horribly noisy. There wasn't much point to the music being played as it was impossible to hear it properly.
At 2.30pm our pager vibrated and we were shown to a table. A waiter was still cleaning it, and when I commented that one of the chairs was covered with crumbs, he said he didn't know why we had been sent over so soon. After we sat down I noticed that the table still wasn't clean and had to ask our waitress to have another go at it. I still had my glass of wine and just asked for some tap water, while the others ordered either fruit juice or sparkling water. The waitress handed out menus and explained what the day's specials were.
The menu begins with Nibbles, which include Marinated Sardines (£3.75), an Italian Bread Selection (£3.75) and Bruschetta topped with Devonshire crab (£8.95). Pre-dinner drinks, all based on Prosecco, are also listed here: Bellini, for example, is Prosecco with Peach Puree (£5.50).
The next section is Antipasti; some of these are served on planks and others on plates. You can choose between a Meat Plank or a Vegetable Plank, both £6.85 a head, or an Artisan Meat Board of either English wild boar salami, Truffle salami or Levonetto tondo (£4.45 each). Plated starters range from Mushroom Fritti (£3.95) to Creamy Burrata with chilli and mint salad (£6.25).
Then comes the Pasta section. Here there is a choice of ten pasta dishes and also three risottos. Monachelle Puttanesca is one of four vegetarian pasta options at £6.25 or £9.85. At the other end of the scale is Scallop and Squid Ink Spaghetti with chilli, anchovies, parsley, wine and capers (£8.20/£13.90). The Wild Truffle Risotto (£6.75/£11.50) is described as 'a real treat'.
'Secondi' are split into two sections, one for dishes cooked under a hot brick, the other simply entitled 'Mains'. If you like the idea of the hot brick, you have six choices including Tuscan Wild Boar Sausages with minty lentil salad and salsa rossa piccante (£11.45) and an 8oz Angus Sirloin Steak with grilled mushrooms and dressed peppery watercress (£18.95). In the mains there are five choices, ranging from Prosciutto, Pear and Pecorino, a salad with rocket and toasted pine nuts (£10.95) to roasted Anglesey Sea Bass served with crunchy sweet and sour vegetables (£15.95).
Side dishes consist of five salads and five other choices. The Crunchy Salad with root veg, chilli, lemon and mint is just £2.25, or you can splash out on the Creamy Burrata with chilli and mint at £6.25. The other sides include Posh Chips with 'insanely' good truffle oil and Parmesan (£3.25) and Rainbow Chard with chilli, garlic and 'fantastic' young spinach (£3.60).
We decided to order the Italian Bread Selection (£3.75) with extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic along with the World's Best Olives on Ice (£3.75) between us for starters. The olives are large green ones served with black olive tapenade and crispy "music bread". I have no idea why the bread is given this name; it is wafer thin and three pieces are served standing on end in the tapenade. There were eight olives, very large ones, and they did taste good. We could have done with a saucer to put the stones in, however.
For main courses, my son ordered the Monachelle Puttanesca (£8.95), seashell pasta with tomato sauce, capers, chilli, anchovies, black olives and herby breadcrumbs. His partner decided on Spaghetti Bolognese (£10.25) made with beef, pork, herbs, Chianti and Parmesan with crunchy herby breadcrumbs. They knew that the pasta is made on the premises and thought it would be worth trying. My brother and his wife both chose Best of British Lamb Spiedini (£13.95), marinated and grilled leg, shoulder, heart, liver and kidney served on smashed jersey royals with minty chilli and yoghurt dressing. I went for one of the day's specials, 'line caught Devon coast grey mullet with wild rocket and crunchy fennel salad and a dollop of basil pesto' (£10.95). The previous weekend I'd had grey mullet at the Belle Isle in Southsea for £7.95 and had enjoyed it, so I wanted to see how Jamie's would compare.
There was quite a wait before our mains were served. The two pasta dishes looked very good and did not disappoint. The lamb was served on large oval plates, and my sister-in-law was surprised that it was on a skewer as this was not clear in the menu. She took all the bits and pieces off and was not impressed to find only two pieces of lamb, the rest being kidney, liver and so on. Later on she discovered that there was actually only one piece of actual meat, and this was fatty. Everyone seemed shocked when my mullet was brought, as on a large plate there were just two pieces of fish garnished with pesto, and a serving of rocket. Almost anyone else would have wanted an extra side dish with this, but I didn't mind as I thought it would be a good excuse to have a dessert. What did bother me was that there was no sign of any fennel; I hunted beneath the rocket and found a couple of tiny pieces.
After a few minutes the waitress came to ask if everything was all right. My sister-in-law commented that there was very little actual lamb in her dish. I asked about the fennel, and the waitress said it was in the pesto. I pointed to the board which gave details of the dish, which clearly said 'wild rocket and fennel salad'. The waitress zoomed off and came back after a couple of minutes with a good helping of sliced fennel on a small plate. It made a welcome addition to the rocket, and the grey mullet was better than the cheaper version I had had the week before. Nothing more was said or done about the lamb, however. My sister-in-law used to be in the catering business and was clearly not pleased. She felt that either her main course should have been taken back to the kitchen, or she could have been offered a dessert on the house. She didn't even enjoy the jersey royals or their dressing.
After a very mixed bag of main courses, we all wanted to look at the Dolci, or desserts. Ice Creams and Sorbets are £4.50. You can have three scoops of ice cream with two toppings chosen from smashed honeycomb, crushed nuts and seeds, seasonal fruits and butterscotch sauce. There are seven other desserts, all priced just under £5. My brother and my son's partner both chose to have three scoops of ice cream with toppings. My sister-in-law decided on Amalfi lemon curd with toasted pistachios and English raspberries, while my son and I both gave in to the temptation of Tuscan Eat & Mess. We made the best choice. The three scoops of ice cream were ridiculously small; luckily for my brother, my sister-in-law couldn't finish her dessert so he polished it off. As the waitress put my Eat & Mess down on the table, the top half collapsed on the plate, but it still tasted wonderful: raspberries, juice, cream and crisp meringue. We contemplated the idea of coffee but decided against it and asked for the bill. It came to just over £101, and that was without the drinks we'd had at the bar. £20 a head seemed reasonable, but I'm afraid we didn't leave a very generous tip because of the various problems.
The prison-theme décor is carried over into the toilets too. These are easily accessible for the disabled. The first time I went to the ladies there was no toilet tissue. When I said to my sister-in-law that they should have left a spare roll there, she quipped that you can't do that in Portsmouth because someone would walk off with it! I went again before leaving, found that toilet paper was in good supply, but was suddenly left in pitch black and knew what it must be like to be blind. As soon as I opened the door the light miraculously came back on.
I'm giving Jamie's Italian three stars as I enjoyed the food and wine, but my sister-in-law said she would only give it one and my brother's rating dropped from three stars to two when he saw the size of the ice cream scoops. I think my son and his partner would agree with my three stars as they were very impressed by the pasta. None of us, however, felt that we would want to go back there, and I think a lot of that had to do with the wait for the table and the level of noise. My brother said he could remember having an awful meal at Loch Fyne when it first opened and it improved immensely after that, but at Jamie's the food was not the only problem. I can't honestly recommend this place unless you are a huge fan of noise, long waits and industrial settings. If you do go, I suggest playing it safe and trying a pasta dish. Don't waste your money on the ice cream, but maybe leave room for some scrumptious Eat & Mess.
Monday - Saturday 11.30am - 11pm
Sunday 11.30am - 10.30pm
S92 - S93 Market Square
Tel. 023 9200 0595
Summary: Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant doesn't live up to expectations.