Review – Jamie’s Italian
Jamie’s Italian is the brainchild of famous school-dinner botherer Jamie Oliver. Being a fan of the Naked Chef, I was excited to go try out the Brighton branch of his now successful worldwide chain. Situated in the bustling hub of Black Lion Street, the restaurant has a lot of competition from other fine, affordable nearby eateries such as Food For Friends, Curry Leaf Cafe and Pho, to name but a few.
Upon entering the main restaurant you can’t help but notice the modern yet rustic feel. Everything feels thrown together, relaxed and not at all intimidating, making it perfect for all kinds of diners, children included. It’s also great seeing their pasta machine churning out fresh pasta in full view of customers.
The menu is a typically Italian affair. To be honest I was expecting more flair from a top celebrity chef, but all the standard semi-Italian fare was present: carbonara, lasagne, Bolognese etc.
To start, we opted for one of the restaurant’s ‘planks’: a sharing platter served on a wooden board perched on cans of tomatoes. We opted for the meat option (£6.95 per person) which included fennel salami, pistachio mortadella, prosciutto and schiacciata piccante, buffalo mozzarella with chilli and mint, pecorino and chilli jam, green chillies, green olives, Gaeta olives, caper berries, shaved carrot and beetroots with lemon and mint. This was a beautiful start to our meal with everything tasting fresh and bursting with flavour. We just wished there was more of it as it was so tasty.
For mains we went for two smaller pasta dishes. To be honest, where a menu boasts a dish as being ‘famous’, ‘signature’ and ‘must-try’, we felt we had to oblige. So first up was the Famous Prawn Linguine – beautiful homemade pasta in a prawn and fennel sauce (£7.75). The dish was very wholesome but I did feel that the quantities of prawn and chilli were slightly on the small side, which overall made for a lacklustre finish to what could have been an enjoyable plate of pasta.
Next up was the ‘must-try’ Gnudi – six ricotta dumplings in a sage, lemon and parsley butter (£6.25). These little morsels were light and packed full of flavour, the deep-fried sage on top giving the dish a delicious crunch. Although small, they were very filling so we were glad we had half a portion.
Finally, we tried the Signature Porchetta – rolled portion of pork belly stuffed with garlic and herbs, served with wild mushrooms and crispy fennel crackling (£13.75). Before tucking in, we had to admire the beauty of the dish – the pork looked like a delicious Swiss roll in the centre of plate.
It’s a shame this didn’t taste as good as it looked – the belly meat was delicious and tender, but the stuffing seemed to overpower everything and had the texture and flavour of Paxo – cheap, nasty and of a low quality. The wild mushrooms around the side were overcooked and looked pitiful. The biggest crime was that the crackling wasn’t really crackling at all, and didn’t taste of the promised fennel. For such a appetising-looking dish, it really didn’t deliver.
For dessert we tried the Orange tiramisu and Chocolate and raspberry pavlova, (£5.25). Both dishes are classics and therefore completely foolproof, surely?
Tiramisu is one of my favourite desserts, so I did have very high hopes for this one. Unfortunately it didn’t deliver. It looked terrible. It had been spooned out akin to a school dinner and tasted like one. There was no hint of the usual delicious chocolate or alcohol flavour and, except for the accompanying orange cream, it was terribly bland.
The pavlova was slightly better with the homemade meringue having a satisfying marshmallow texture. Again, it lacked the other flavours promised, such as the chocolate sauce and the raspberries. But comparatively it was much better than the tiramisu.
Overall Jamie’s Italian was an okay evening out with the more traditional and basic dishes, such as the bread selection and simpler pasta, shining through. It was mildly refreshing to go to a ‘celebrity’ restaurant that was so warm and inviting as well as being so family friendly. One of the better Italian restaurants in Brighton but by no way the best.
Words by Rob Ling
Rob’s meal was provided courtesy of Jamie’s Italian
Jamie’s Italian, 11 Black Lion Street, Brighton. Visit the website here.