Monday, August 31, 2009
My friend Mark is an enthusiastic foodie both by inclination and profession, so as he was visiting London recently a meal at Jamie’s Italian was essential. A party of us went to the Kingston branch.
Due to Jamie Oliver's celebrity the restaurant has been reviewed widely, but the reviews I read were mixed. Mark’s passion for all things new and foody in London meant we had a look at Jamie’s other new culinary project, Recipease. Although I cannot fault the quality of products in this shop or their presentation, I have my doubts about the basic mercantile premise. To me it feels too much like a pre-crash conceit; it’s not right for straitened times now.
So I approached Jamie’s Italian with low expectations, not at all alleviated by the massive queue outside at 8pm. No booking is accepted, one has to wait and queue. We were told it was going to be an hour’s wait before we got inside. It turned out to be 40 minutes. And I have to say no-one left that queue - in an area where there are other restaurants very readily available nearby.
They sent out a lady with a tray of tasty treats for us as we waited - a very nice touch. And once inside, we were given a table very quickly. The girls in our party spotted a better table apparently free (in fact, the best table in the whole restaurant) and upon asking we were immediately led to it - no trouble at all.
The staff’s attitude was perfectly pitched - friendly, efficient, helpful and knowledgeable, but not in your face the whole time. They’re around when you need them.
Jamie’s Italian offers classic Italian dishes - spaghetti bolognese is offered, for instance - interspersed with some interesting unusual things such as chickpea “popcorn” and “the best olives in the world” - peppery and meaty, almost neon-green giants served with crisp flat breads and a black olive tapenade. You’ll find it hard to select from the menu - there are so many tempting things available!
We opted for a spread of starters - the olives, bruschette with four different toppings, a sensational broad bean salad, the chickpea popcorn (gently spicy and indeed, with a slight popcorn texture - very moreish), and polenta chips. I’m not a fan of polenta but these had a light open texture and a cheesy finish which went down very well.
I struggled to choose between crab pasta and a steak for my main course, eventually opting for the steak. It was superb. Perfect thick chips accompanied it. Tracey had grilled chicken -if possible, this was even better. I always feel it is the mark of a good restaurant to do something seemingly simple dazzlingly well.
Our meal came to under £30 a head - not all of us had pudding (pannacotta, ice-cream scoops), but some had cocktails to start and we had wine and water. Jamie’s offers really superlative service and food in a wonderfully buzzy atmosphere at a very affordable price. It feels right now. I can't wait to go back.
Jamie's Italian, Kingston
19-23 High Street
Kingston KT1 1LL
Tel: 0208 912 0110
Fax: 0208 912 0111