Multiple birthdays within the space of two weeks for our team at work meant a celebratory lunch last Friday, and a chance, finally, to sample the much-talked about Jamie’s Italian for the first time. After reading both positive and negative reviews from other diners, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – but our meal was equally as hit and miss…
The restaurant occupies part of the Blackwells bookshop site, and spans numerous floors. They’ve gone for the casual dining feel with the decor, and exposed pipes and brickwork lend a certain charm to the place. Fresh fish on the first floor and charcuterie on the lower floor give diners a more visual idea of certain dishes than they’d have simply from looking at the menu. The kitchen is semi-open plan, and everything is computerised: orders are sent through to the kitchen electronically, chefs use a computer system to say which dishes they are working on, and when orders are ready, the waiting staff are made aware via electronic boards.
According to Jamie himself, “the Jamie’s Italian menu is driven by what you’d find ordinary people eating over in Italy”. Bizarrely, however, it doesn’t appear to be driven by the recipes featured in his Jamie’s Italy book, which surprised me somewhat. The prices are also incongruous with what you’d expect to find in local Italian restaurants: you’re looking at around £10-£14 for a pasta dish and £11-£17 for mains.
Our meal began with bread baskets to share: beautifully presented mini metal buckets featuring a selection of breads, including focaccia, sourdough and a Sicilian-style music bread, served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
We all decided to go for a main and dessert, with me choosing the bucatini carbonara (£6.55 small, £10.25 as a main). The pasta was cooked al dente, the way I like it, with beautifully crispy smoked pancetta, no cream (traditional)…and the addition of leeks and thyme, which actually worked pretty well. The only thing I objected to was the cringeworthy addition of the word “beautiful” to the dish on the menu (and there’s no way I would have ordered the “funky chips”!)
Particular praise also for the pumpkin panzerotti from two of my dining companions – half moon pasta filled with roasted pumpkin, ricotta and Parmesan, and served with a creamy chilli, rosemary butter sauce and crushed Amaretti – much-enjoyed, but spicier than expected.
For my dessert, I opted for one of my favourite Italian classics: tiramisu. While the other desserts ordered by our group were beautifully presented, I was slightly disturbed by the way the three portions of tiramisu that had been ordered appeared when they were placed on the table…
Not the most appealing-looking plate of food, I’m sure you’ll agree! While it tasted good, it certainly wasn’t the same recipe used in his Jamie’s Italy book, copies of which adorn shelves in the restaurant should customers wish to buy one – rather than a layer of sponge topped with cream and chocolate shavings, this was a very soggy multi-layered tiramisu with a rather thick layer of cocoa powder. A bit of a let down.
In all honesty, I don’t know if I’d rush back to Jamie’s Italian. I think the hype surrounding the launch (plus obviously the celebrity name behind the place) have probably led to expectations being higher than they should be. There are plenty of decent Italians in Bristol at a fraction of the price, and there was a lot of self-promotion in the restaurant in terms of displays of his book, which didn’t really do much for me.
A great location for an informal group lunch or a business meeting, maybe, but I’m not 100% convinced…
Address: 87/89 Park Street, Bristol, BS1 5PW
Telephone: 01173 700 265