|pic from google|
Followers of my humble little blog will know that I love Italian. Like, properly love it. There's something just so satisfying about a massive bowl of saucy pasta dredged with Parmesan or a creamy spoonful of rich tiramisu. You can't beat it food-wise, in my opinion.
A while back I posted a 'review' (I call it a review, but still maintain I'm far too young to be passing judgement on food cooked by professionals) of a tiny little Italian, Cafe Citta, in Cardiff. I mentioned in that how much I'd always wanted to visit Jamie's Italian, and my initial disappointment that we went somewhere else for a family meal. Cafe Citta turned out to be absoloutely lovely, a true hidden jem, and I'd advise anyone that can get there to get a table asap. But. Although my craving for Italian love and food was satisfied, I was still intrigued by Jamie's. Which is why, when I caught up with a great friend over Christmas, and we arranged to go out for a meal, I slyly suggested we go there. Dylan, having been there before, and a fellow Italian-enthusiast, was game for this, and a table was booked the next day.
Situated on the outside of a busy shopping centre, Jamie's Cardiff is surrounded by posh shops (Vivian Westwood, no less) so going there really feels like a proper occasion, even though I was just catching up with a friend. Incidently, Cardiff is amazing for shopping, you should visit. Heaters blaze in the outside seating area, giving a very rustic, but still formal atmosphere. The first thing you see when you walk through the doors is a massive bar in the very centre of the restaurant, where custom cocktails are prepared. Loaves of sliced artisan bread spill lazily across the counter tops, and strings of garlic and chillis decorate the rustic wooden structure, which once again creates a relaxed formal atmosphere. Also the huge chandelier hangs grandly over the restaurant, oozing class. Jamie's is posh, but effortlessly so. You can tell that I loved it already, can't you?
We were shown to our table right next to the kitchen by a very polite and helpful waitress. Some people wouldn't think this was the best seating, but both being into cooking, Dylan and I didn't mind this at all. We were also right next to the bar area, and so could see cocktails and other fancy things being prepared and served, which was interesting.
|photo from jamieoliver.com|
Choosing from the extensive menu was hard (menus vary from restaurant to restaurant, I gather). I was tempted to try the rabbit ragu pasta, but bottled out for fear of not liking it. I'm sure it would have been delicious, though. I went for a safe fennel sausage ragu with papardelle (£10.95) instead, with 'posh chips' (£3.25). Both were amazing. But I wouldn't have expected anything less. The chips were a particular triumph - rustic (I'm going to use that word a lot this post!) and thick, drizzled in truffle oil and sprinkled with Parmesan, and a good portion of them too. Dylan went for a burger (I forget which one, I think it might have been called the 'Italian Burger'), which, as I was informed many times, was delicious also (£10.95). He chose polenta chips to go with this (£2.50) - exactly what they sound like - fried cubes of polenta with sea salt and Parmesan. Ingenious. Soft and fluffy on the inside, but super crunchy on the outside. Neither dish of chips was greasy, and they were great value I thought. Main meals range from about £9-£15, but steaks can cost up to around £20. For the quality of the food and the dining experience in general, I would say that these were very competitive.
Of course, we had to go for a dessert as well. We both chose the 'Epic Brownie', a warm, fudgy (and fairly large!) chocolate square topped with ameretti ice cream, chocolate sauce, and caremelised popcorn. Yeah. You can imagine how good that was. Don't need to say anything else. Again, the desserts were reasonably priced at around £5 each.
We decided to splash out and get cocktails to end our meal, which tipped our bill into what some might have considered 'too much' to pay for a meal for two people. They were the most expensive part (for what they were, that is), but were a treat, and made us feel extra fancy. I ordered a peach Bellini - peach puree topped up with Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine, and Dylan went for a 'Frangelico Sour', whatever that is. Anyway, it was nice. At £6 something for one tiny glass, it wasn't the best value for money, but, as I say, we were splurging.
Two courses each and a cocktail brought our bill to the £50 ish mark, which we were okay with, since it was a 'special occasion'. As I said, it was the cocktails that tipped it into such high figures, the mains and desserts were hardly wildly overpriced.
I loved the whole experience at Jamie's. The decor is to die for, modern yet (you guessed it) rustic, and there's plenty to look at. The staff were friendly and attentive, and I loved the not so subtle displays of all of Jamie's cookbooks available to buy. Obviously, being a chain, you didn't quite get the same personal cooked-just-for-you feel as some other places, but it was one of the nicest chains I've been to, for sure. Ranked maybe slightly lower than Rick Steins, but that would be properly hard to beat. The meal was thoroughly enjoyed by us both, and I'd love to go back, maybe even brave that rabbit ragu, but there are other places I'll be suggesting we try out next time as well. Jamie's Italian met my high expectations and hopes, but didn't exceed them. I loved it, but wasn't bowled over.