CIAO FAC­TOR

Jamie’s Ital­ian has an awe­some lo­ca­tion. But what would the kitchen su­per­star think if he called in for a bowl of pasta?

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - COVER STORY -

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.

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