“ Address: 100 King Street / Manchester / M2 4WU „
I visited Jamies Italian in Manchester in July for lunch with my boyfriend. I had heard mixed reviews regarding the restaurant and no-one I had spoken to said it was worthwhile but I wanted to see for myself and was curious so booked a table.
The restaurant is located in the heart of Manchester City Centre of King Street which is a relatively upmarket area containing mainly good restaurants and designer stores. Because of its location in the city centre there is no on-site parking for the restaurant but there are obviously plenty of carparks in and around Manchester to choose from.
I made a reservation online and the website was easy to use and also gave loads of information regarding menus/location etc. The booking system worked well and I immediately received a free text on my mobile to tell me the booking was made and a reservation number.
The building is absolutely beautiful, I had no idea it was in such a nice building so it was a lovely surprise. It is an old bank and the original brickwork etc remains giving it a really unique look. The place is enormous and very spacious, yet the designers have resisted the urge to cram in too many tables meaning there was plenty of free space and allowance for a large bar area. There is a ground level large seating area which is next to the open kitchen, and also two small balcony areas on either side which look down onto everything (we were seated on one of the balconies)
The toilets are located downstairs in the basement and were individual numbered cubicles which run off a corridor. Again they are very traditional looking but obviously newly furbished, giving the place a really unique vintage feel. On the basement level there is also "The Vault" which is an original vault with a huge metal door and metal walls with the original safe deposit boxes lining the walls. This area has been turned into a private dining experience where up to 16 people can book the room and have private waiter service. Its ideal for hen parties or special occasions.
The bar is the first part of the building that you walk into and is a huge space with several tables. We were asked to get a drink from the bar and wait to be seated. Because it was lunchtime we only ordered a Coke & Still Water which came to a reasonable price of £4.40. We did have a glance at the drinks menu while we waited and there were various cocktails to choose from at a reasonable price of £6-7 and also a choice of wines starting at £15 a bottle which again is a fair price. The bar area was quiet so we were served immediately and payment was required upfront which seemed fair as the bar was a bar in its own right and allows customers for drinks who aren't dining inside, therefore it makes sense that they take payment upfront to keep control.
There are several starters available which are priced between £4-5. These are mainly fish, cheese and vegetable based. We were attracted straight to the starter 'planks' though and ended up ordering the Meat Antipasti Plank for 2. It costs £6.85 per person and you can get it for 1 person or as many as required. Before the starter arrived the waiter came over and placed two huge traditional looking Italian tins of tomatoes on the table. The plank was then balanced on the tins meaning it was elevated which was an interesting idea and meant we got a better view of the food. The waiter then went through exactly what each element of the starter was, going into detail about the flavours of the meat etc which was a really nice touch and not something that happens very often.
The starter consisted of salami, mortadella, prosciutto and piccante which made up the meat portion of the starter. But there was also mozzarella with mint, a slice of pecorini with chilli sauce, several olive & capers and shaved carrot & beetroot soaked in lemon and mint. All elements of the starter were excellent and it was clear a lot of thought had put in. Everything was seasoned wonderfully and we thoroughly enjoyed it. My favourite thing about it was the fact that there were so many different elements and lots of different things to try. It also made a nice light starter because there wasn't too much of anything so it wasn't too filling.
For our mains we were both tempted by the Steaks but decided to go with pasta dishes because it was lunchtime so steak may have been a bit too much. I ordered the Ravioli Primavera which is Ravioli stuffed with mashed peas, mint & ricotta and served in an asparagus, mascarpone and lemon sauce. It was £6.50 for a small portion and £10.95 for the large portion so I went with the large one.
I often order ravioli dishes that are very similar to this and always really enjoy them, but this time I was very disappointed. The first thing I noticed was how small the potion was, I only got about 10 pieces of Ravioli, but despite this there was plenty of sauce which helped a little. But the sauce was very bland, considering it was seasoned with lemon and mint it just tasted like a blank asparagus soup. I found myself adding more and more salt & pepper to help the taste which isnt something I would usually do. The ravioli itself was good, it was well cooked and the filling was tasty but the bland sauce really spoiled the whole dish. I was also disappointed not to be offered any parmesan cheese, this is something I always have on my pasta dishes at home and always expect to be offered in restaurants. And this was one of the first times I haven't been offered it. I'm not sure if the waiter forgot or if they just don't do parmesan as standard, but either way it was disappointing.
My boyfriend ordered the Black Angel spaghetti which uses squid ink spaghetti which is literally black and it contained scallops, anchovies, wine, parsley, capers and garlic. His first reaction was how small the portion was, he had also chosen the larger portion which cost £13.90 but there just wasn't much there. The portion sizes weren't as much of a problem for us because we visited at lunchtime so didn't eat as much as we might have done at dinner, but if one was to dine there at dinner I think the portion sizes would be more of an issue. My boyfriend did enjoy the dish though and said it was well seasoned and cooked well.
The waiter we had was very polite and efficient. I felt the main problems with our experience were related to the food and we were actually really pleased with the service, however it couldn't redeem the entire experience for us. The waiter seemed well trained and experienced and was confident. When he told us about the specials he went to great trouble describing the flavours in each dish, and we knew if required he would have elaborated on any of the dishes on the menu. When speaking about the food he seemed to have a genuine understanding and appreciation of food. This set the service above that which we normally receive in other restaurants.
The waiting time was always reasonable, we were given exactly the right amount of time to decide what to order and the dishes were spaced out well leaving enough time to become hungry again but not so long that we were starving! I think the service and speed was also helped by the fact that we had a dedicated waiter for our area which was nice as you knew he would always be there to help with anything. The staff bringing the food up from the kitchen and taking plates back down were separate and appeared to be younger, therefore it seems they put the more experience staff on table/waiter service and less experienced staff carry things up and down. This seemed a wise move and appeared to work well.
Overall the staff appeared well organised and there was a definite structure in place meaning things ran smoothly. I would imagine this would benefit the restaurant well during busy periods or when there are large groups dining.
The bill for the food only came to £43.00 which is quite expensive considering that was just for 2 starters and 2 mains. If the food had been special or even if had just been a bit better seasoned and bigger portions I would have been happy paying this amount but I felt disappointed and over-charged considering the quality of my dish. We are not keen on complaining so I can't comment on how they might react to complaints, so we did pay the bill and also left a tip which was more directed at the waiter.
This is an amazing unique building and one of the best surroundings I have ever dined in and with excellent service, however this just didn't make up for the blandness of my main dish and size of the portions. If it were a cheap restaurant I may have forgiven it, however because it is fairly pricey I wont be returning and spending that amount on food like that again, nor would I recommend the place. It's a great shame as it has huge potential and seems a waste of a nice building and staff. I may have been unlucky with my main, but from what I have heard from others they had a similar experience and found the food slightly disappointing, so I don't think I'll be giving it another chance.