The hoopla surrounding the arrival of Jamie’s Italian is the gastronomic equivalent of The Beatles landing in the city of churches (or Culture Club’s Rundle Mall appearance), but this Taste Test proves why Jamie’s Italian is such a global phenomenon.
The hoopla surrounding the arrival of Jamie’s Italian is the gastronomic equivalent of The Beatles landing in the city of churches (or Culture Club’s Rundle Mall appearance), but this Taste Test proves why Jamie’s Italian is such a global phenomenon. The press descended on 2 King William St for the opening of Jamie’s Italian’s last week like Heston Blumenthal was personally in town to relocate The Fat Duck to Adelaide. It’s just a chain, people. Or is it? Jamie’s Italian isn’t an everyday outlet. It’s not Krispy Kreme – which admittedly also had Adelaide in a fix when its drive-through opened recently – as Jamie Oliver is probably the most famous cooking identity on the planet and in six short years, Jamie’s Italian has spread from a sole outlet in Oxford to a restaurant juggernaut with 35 locations in the UK alone. It now has 11 restaurants outside the UK, including four in Australia, with Adelaide the latest and another to open in Brisbane soon. Jamie’s Italian is the brainchild of The Naked Chef and his mentor Gennaro Contaldo (one-half of The Two Greedy Italians). The pair bonded over their love of Italian food and years later Jamie’s Italian was born. And the results for the local incarnation are impressive. It finally opened its Adelaide doors last week with the press coverage tantamount to a royal visit (and, yes, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian did dine there last week), including a bizarre beat up over the lack of SA wine. For the record, there are SA wines on offer including the 2013 Beach Road Fiano and the 2006 Casa Freschi ‘La Signora’ Nebbiolo. The Adelaide Review was contacted about a story on a local winery’s partnership with Jamie’s Italian some months ago (which will likely be covered in a future print issue) and there will be many local Italian varietals coming soon. Located in the historic old Westpac building, the vast space seats 175 people and is a massively impressive room with a hive of activity including the antipasto island bar – a brilliant touch, adding to the rustic charm of Jamie’s Italian. Popular music from the last 30 years blasts from the speakers (everything from Oasis to Bronski Beat – or was it The Communards? – to Muse) while the huge waiting staff runs around and the noise of chatter, waiting staff and sounds from the kitchen combine for a symphony of dining busyness and excitement. If you’re looking for a quiet Italian feast in a dark corner, Jamie’s Italian isn’t for you. As part of a media lunch (this isn’t a review but a first impressions look at the new place since it was on Jamie’s dime. A review will appear at a later date from food reviewer Paul Wood), a range of antipasti options are displayed in front of us after a ginger mojito – where the ginger is a perfect virgin substitute for rum – kick starting the long lunch. The highlights of the starter options include the deliciously smoky Baked Mushrooms ($15.50) with Swiss mushrooms, crispy ‘music bread’ and smoked buffalo mozzarella, as well as the delightful Fried Three-Cheese Gnocchi ($10) – the dish of the day. A recommended starter is the Fish Plank ($13.50pp) that includes beetroot-cured salmon, roasted shellfish, smoked mackerel pate, as well as aged pecorino, salad and a selection of pickles. For the main, I chose the Vongole Tagliolini ($15.50/$26), a personal favourite pasta dish and an ideal taste test. It passes with flying colours. With a creamy white wine sauce, a nice balance of steamed sweet cockles and a fresh zing from the chilli, Jamie’s is one of the best vongole dishes I’ve tasted outside of Italy. Dessert-wise, the tall Tutti Frutti Lemon Meringue Pie ($10.50) is the show-stopper. Appearing like a high-rise of dessert goodness, the lemon meringue is the sweet option of choice. If you’re not a meringue fan then the popular JI Epic Brownie ($10) is the go-to if you’re looking for a chocolate fudge finish (the amaretto ice cream and caramelised popcorn are nice touches to the brownie). While the hype surrounding Jamie’s Italian has verged on embarrassing, it is the perfect rustic and casual outing for a family (Jamie’s Italian includes a children’s menu) or a large group. It is an impressive, mid-priced eatery to rival similarly-priced quality Italian old favourites such as Amalfi and Enzo’s. *The writer was a guest of Jamie’s Italian. jamieoliver.com/italian/australia/restaurants/adelaide