Jamie’s Italian has an awesome location. But what would the kitchen superstar think if he called in for a bowl of pasta?
We’ve been on a firstname basis with Jamie for a long time now. Remember when we met him first, the fresh-faced lad herbing around London on his scooter, whacking together a feast for his chums, flirting with the mammas and nonnas on his first Italian venture? He made cooking look so easy and, well, cool.
That was before the campaigns, the endorsements, the supermarket deals, the restaurants. Jamie the brand.
Now Adelaide has its own piece of Jamie, newly opened in an old banking chamber in the primest of city locations. And while the launch of Jamie’s Italian hasn’t generated the traffic jams and fisticuffs of a certain doughnut maker, it’s certainly this year’s other big food story.
No one, of course, expects Jamie himself to be rattling pans in the kitchen or to have any direct say in its operation, beyond the template he helped create and his name above the door.
But if he did happen to pop by, looking for a bevvie, what would he think?
I reckon he’d get a blast from the daring of a project that has seen a piece of local history restored. He’d love the scale of the room, the way the sun plays through those towering windows, the inspired design that blurs the polished brass, marble and original art deco features with the functional furnishings of a contemporary restaurant. He’d take pictures of those light fittings. And the loos downstairs in the old vaults – what a laugh.
Jamie wouldn’t need a booking, a good thing if the gremlins in the online system haven’t been fixed. Hopefully, he’d get one of the tables around the perimeter of the room, or a stool at the bar, not be squeezed in the middle where passing posteriors are too close for comfort.
He’d warm to our French waiter, on loan from one of the interstate operations, particularly the way he charms the kids as they pick their meals from the slides on a View-Master (genius that). And as he sips a glass of very pretty Venetian white, he might wonder what all the fuss with the wine list has been about. At least the bottled water is Australian.
He’d know what to order, too, having nutted out most of the recipes. The prawn linguine would be up there, for sure, with its garlic-chilli one-two punch and the tender pasta that has rolled out of the big machine by the kitchen earlier in the day. But he might not be ready for the ripping flavour of our king prawns in that sweet tomato sugo puddle. No wonder they are now being used around the country.
He’d also be chuffed with the fish stew, a terrific, messy pile of perfectly cooked tiles of fish (including local hero mullet), mussels and the unexpected bonus of a single jumbo prawn. Crunchy crostini slices are wedged on the side, topped with a healthy dollop of aioli that’s a bit harsh on its own. Honest and unfussed, it’s a dish that keeps on giving.
At other times, the generosity slips and the cooking feels more calculated. I’m sure Jamie wouldn’t turn out a “fish plank” with such meagre portions of the beetroot cured salmon that is listed first. Mussels (one unopened, the others OK) and clams (shrivelled, tight) are crammed in a small dish. The bulk, however, is made up by pieces of heavily crumbed anonymous white fish which have more in common with fish fingers than a “mini fritto misto” as they are described.
The bean counters also do few favours in a special of tagliatelle prima vera. Despite a forensic search, only one and a half broad beans, two small asparagus spears, a scattering of wooden-tasting peas and strips of zucchini can be found in this pasta that is supposed to be a celebration of spring vegetables. Not very Jamie at all.
Dessert, however, might put a smile back on his face, particularly that mega wedge of lemon meringue pie, and the way all that glossy, fairy-floss-sweet whipped egg white can be balanced by a thin layer of curd.
With the bill comes two surprises: a service charge applicable to all credit cards and a final invitation to “take home a piece of Jamie” in the form of merchandise. Goodness knows what he’d make of that. MUST EAT Prawn linguine; Fish stew with crunchy crostini ALSO CONSIDER Borsa Pasta Cucina, city; Vino Ristorante, Unley
Now for d’Arenberg 2010 The Ironstone Pressings, a grenache/ shiraz/mourvedre blend that’s the most accessible of all three at the moment. Even though it’s impressively ripped in here of violets, lavenders and raspberry licorice, with gorgeous, sticky crimson tannins that slow down the slippery
Given yesterday was International Grenache Day, this is a heroic South Aussie to celebrate the variety at its very best. Drink it with a rabbit or wild boar braise.