The UK is plagued with chain Italian restaurants which all profess to offer fresh and authentic Italian dishes but sadly never quite seem to live up to the hype. Most completely lack atmosphere and – if we are honest – are little better than a microwave meal. Thankfully leading UK chef Jamie Oliver decided to challenge that culture and shake things up a bit by opening his own chain of Italian restaurants; Jamie’s Italian….
As a chef who has a passion for fresh ingredients, meals that are accessible to all (no matter your budget) and who has helped challenge poor diets and school dinners, it comes as no surprise that Jamie’s restaurant chain has a menu which is “rooted in authenticity and driven by what you would find people eating all over Italy.” Each restaurant has a unique menu and an interior which is carefully designed to capture the spirit of the building and city in which it finds itself.
I visited Jamie’s Italian in Leeds this Valentines Day with my partner after being very kindly being invited in to review the restaurant. I was already aware that the restaurant can get quite busy so we pre-booked a few weeks in advance to avoid disappointment. Upon arrival we were warmly welcomed at the door, before then being shown to our table upstairs and guided through the specials menu by our host Cipriano.
So what did we order?
I am a massive seafood fan so ordered the Crispy Squid which came with a wedge of fresh lemon and house aioli for dipping and was literally to die for!
My partner ordered the Cured Meats Arancini from the specials menu, a classic Italian dish which consists of small balls of rice stuffed with savoury filling, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. It came on a bed of tomato based sauce and whilst it didn’t necessarily look like it was going to be anything too exciting, the flavour really was amazing. £5.95
For main course…
No surprises here, with me having seafood again… I ordered the British Crab Spaghetti, which as you
can see from my photographs came in a tomato and chilli based sauce which was seasoned with fennel,
capers, white wine and garlic. It was quite fiery, and if I’m honest the flavour of the sauce did overpower the delicate flavour of the crab, but I still really enjoyed it.
My partner (in true caveman style!) ordered the Porkie Pizza which was freshly prepared and topped with pepperoni, pancetta, salami, Westcombe Jacks cheese and oregano. As someone who is usually quite a fussy eater and difficult to please, I am pleased to say that he was very impressed with his pizza and loved every bite.
It seemed wrong for us to visit Jamie’s Italian and ignore the delicious desert menu, so to satisfy both of our sweet tooth’s we decided to order a different desert each and share them both (and because we just couldn’t settle on one choice!)
We had the Indulgent White Chocolate Cheesecake which comes with smashed amaretti biscuits,
pomegranate and clementine curd. It was really creamy and fresh with citrus flavour, so the perfect ending to my fish menu. The amaretti biscuits and pomegranate helped to give it a little bit of crunch and I personally would have liked a little more of the clementine curd for flavour. But otherwise it really was lush.
Chocolate brownies and anything salted caramel are literally my partner’s two favourite things, so we couldn’t not order the Epic Chocolate Brownie which comes with chocolate sauce, salted caramel ice cream and caramelised popcorn. I thought that the popcorn may be an odd accompaniment and that the salted caramel ice cream may make the dish too rich and sickly but they really did make it. I understand that this is one of Jamie’s Italian’s most popular dishes and often sold out, so if you do ever get chance to try it you really must!
… and the cost?
Our total bill including drinks came to £66.65 and was broken down as follows:
Crispy Squid – £6.75
Cured Meats Arancini – £5.95
Crab Spaghetti – £13.75
The Porkie Pizza – £12.95
Cheesecake – £5.75
Epic Brownie – £5.75
Large bottle of still water – £3.95
250ml Pinot Grigio – £9.15
Coca Cola – £2.65
For a three course meal for two people, including drinks I really don’t think this was too bad. The only thing I felt was a little on the expensive side was the wine, which at £9.15 for a large glass seemed a little disproportionate compared to the food pricing. For a chain restaurant the food really was delicious and you honestly would never have known.
Overall I was really impressed with both the food and the service we personally received in Jamie’s Italian and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a visit to others. My only very minor criticisms were the pricing of the wine as detailed above, and also that we unfortunately witnessed a member of staff (who was working extremely hard) being told off for not working fast enough. I can only assume that the lady who spoke to her was a Supervisor or Line Manager, however as someone who has worked in Hospitality and is responsible for staff myself, I personally felt the manner in which she was spoken to was not appropriate and that the conversation certainly should not have taken place in front of the general public and paying customers. To the young lady in question (if you are reading this) I thought that you were doing a fabulous job and were a credit to the restaurant!
All that remains is for me to say a HUGE thank you to Jamie’s Italian for having us, we had a truly lovely Valentine’s Day and throughly enjoyed our food.
Special thanks has to go to Cipriano too for his faultless customer service and hosting. Jamie – he is a real credit to you.
If you are thinking of visiting Jamie’s Italian, the Leeds restaurant is on Park Row and to book a table you simply need to call 0113 322 5400. Here’s a sneaky peak at the interior before you do….
For further details (including the current Jamie’s Italian menu, restaurant ethos and various restaurant locations) please visit the Jamie’s Italian Website.
Have you visited Jamie’s Italian? If so please do let me know what y0u ordered and what you thought….
I may need to work my way through the menu!
Jessica KG ♡