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Restaurant review: Jamie’s Italian

Jonathan Schofield checks out the charming man's charming chain

Written by . Published on October 4th 2010.

Restaurant review: Jamie’s Italian

“So which is the busier?” I asked the funny young waiter. “This place or San Carlo?”“Difficult to say,” he grinned. “I’d say we’re more popular. But I would, wouldn’t I? I’ve heard bad things about San Carlo.”

The whole afternoon at Jamie’s watching the people come and go was totally engaging. The mix of ages, the variety of people, the banter from the staff and those olives, the mains and wine, made for a winning combination

He paused. “But then again I’ve heard bad things about us,” he said, moving off with a laugh.

The lad could have been a scouse Jamie Oliver. A charmer.

Let’s consider a moment the cult of personality.

For some it’s the Pope, for some it’s Kim Jong-Il, for others it may even be Kerry Katona (who apparently is in Iceland now, as I am), but for many a foodie lover it’s the boy Jamie Oliver.

Jamie is a diamond geezer. If he has a cult it’s based on being decent, on having a naturally “nice” face, and an approachable character. He could do loan-sharking and he’d still be a diamond geezer. He could even go to America and make right dick of himself and get away with it. Or maybe endorse Sainsbury’s products and we’d still love him.

I recall a visit of some Swedish journalists when The Naked Chef was being broadcast over there a few years back.

“You know, Jonathan,” said a good-looking fortysomething, “I’ve told my husband that if Jamie offered himself I would definitely say yes. My husband understands.”

Chef with ham for head

Jamie’s a diamond geezer and Jamie’s Italian on Paradise Street is a diamond caterer.

If you want to spread your name far and wide with a chain restaurant, this is a model. All the customers know that the rustic wooden fittings, the hams hanging from the bar and the fresh pasta-making man were dreamt up in a concept marketing meeting, but it’s all carried through with such verve you forgive it.

The food has verve too. Especially the savoury part.

Let me sing a song for the mozzarella del bufala with pesto (£4.55), or write an ode to those juicy babes, the self-declared “World’s best olives on ice” (£3.55) - which might one day be the weirdest reality TV show ever conceived.

The world's best olives... bloody good indeed

The olives came with an equally fetching caper and anchovy tapenade. Oh and also with some “music bread” which I’ve never heard of before and don’t want to research because I don’t want to spoil the mystery of their strange silence.

A specials board main of sole (£12.95) came with salsa verde and a load of salad including sliced fennel. It was perfect. Just bloody perfect. A simple fish not messed about with – all the delicate flavours brought out by the lemon and a gracious salsa verde.

Simple sole food

Shanks reigns

The other main – and another special – brought slow cooked (15 hours) lamb shanks (£12.95), with polenta and roasted root vegetables. This was a hearty feast of a dish with gorgeous flesh and great veg which left a residual bowl of meaty juice just right for slurping with a spoon.

(I could do with that dish right now dear reader, as a Force 8 gale bangs in off the Atlantic here in Iceland. Where’s Kerry for a cuddle when you need her?)Tira-miss-oo

Sadly the imperial crown of Jamie Oliver’s empire slipped over the desserts.

I got a special tiramisu (£4.95) that was terrible: no mascarpone to speak of, no definition, as interesting as staring at the pavement. Meanwhile an “Amalfi lemon curd” (£4.95) with toasted pistachios and English raspberries was equally taste free. The pistachios were so dominant and made everything so gritty it felt like the dessert had been quarried not cooked.

Quarried Curd

As for drinks, I was dining with the Liverpool Confidential editor, Angie, chatting about world domination and we managed to kill a couple of bottles of a lovely red – the Salice Salentino Masseria at £18.40 a go. It was rich in aroma, smooth and heavyweight in flavour and, unfortunately, 14.5%: an alcoholic strength that makes the tongue swell and the motion sluggish.

Yet despite the poor desserts the whole afternoon at Jamie’s watching the people come and go was totally engaging. The mix of ages, the variety of people, the banter from the staff and those olives, the mains and wine, made for a winning combination.

Waitress gives advice

Of course, as with all chains, there’s a big engine of administration and marketing pumping away somewhere. The thing is with Jamie’s Italian, as with a Rolls-Royce engine, you just can’t hear it.

Instead Jamie’s evident love of Italian food, the good service, and the food make it feel more individual than a concept or a theme. For once a mid-market Italian chain seems worth its organic, tickled, caressed and massaged sea salt.

Outside it's a bit drab, inside it's busy, busy, busy

Breakdown:7.5/10 food
3.5/5 service
4/5 ambience
Address:Jamie's Italian, Liverpool
45 Paradise Street
Liverpool 1
L1 3DN
0151 559 9830

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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Pizza'd off with pastaOctober 1st 2010.

Sounds great, but why this total oral fixation with "Italian'. In Formby, for example, you can't move for Italian restaurants - all of them average, when someone with a bit of nouse could open up a 'destination' restaurant.

laz-y-boyOctober 1st 2010.

We ate at Jamie's on a Sunday lunchtime - it was v busy, with lots of young families (including us) enjoying the atmosphere.
There was a mix-up with our order, so we waited 30 mins for our mains - it was delicious, and we had no complaints. Anyway the manager came to our table afterwards, apologised for the wait, and knocked our food off the bill. ..which gets my vote for customer service.

always hungry.....October 1st 2010.

I visited Jamies twice the other week. Once with a friend, once with hubby. FANTASTIC. both times! loved it. Everything about it.The food was sooo tasty, the staff excellent, Claudia (met us at the door) bubbly. As for the sweets. God man. I had some sort of choccy pudding - oh my!!!! ...nuf said...

BigToeNovember 19th 2010.

Visited Saturday 13th Nov 5pm - ordered '15hr slow-cooked lamb in sage and thyme on a bed of freshly made rigatoni'from the Specials board - what I received was a bowl of pasta in a lamb flavoured sauce - absolutely NO LAMB WHATSOEVER. I sent the dish back and was told after 5 mins that a new dish was being prepared. When this arrived it contained about 3 or 4 very small pieces of lamb hidden away under a bowl of undercooked rigatoni - for £11.90. As my wife had eaten her meal ten mins earlier I ate it. The 'manager' apologised and I pointed out that what was on the Specials board was not what was being served. We had three courses including wine £63.85. ABSOLUTE WASTE OF MONEY - no offer to refund/knock anything off. I e-mailed head office cust.services on Sat 14th. Still awaiting a reply !! Never set foot in the place again. You have been warned.

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