This past weekend, Sam and I went to dinner amidst a torrential downpour at Jamie’s Italian Stratford. I had been looking forward to it all day. Seriously. I have this bad habit of always scoping out a menu earlier in the day if I know I am going somewhere specific in the evening. I pick out what I’m going to have before noon. All day I dreamt of Jamie’s Gnudi and arancini.
Alas, it was my misfortune that they were out of both things when we arrived. (Making Sam’s warning for me not to pick things out ahead of time very apropos) . The disappointment was short-lived and it didn’t prevent me from diving back into the menu to enthusiastically pick out more food.
We started with drinks: beer for Sam, an Aperol spritz (Aperol, soda and Prosecco) for me. For starters we split the caprese salad and the artisan Italian bread selection. (Did you actually think that I’d pass up any sort of bread selection? Fat chance.) The caprese salad featured roasted tomatoes and the buffalo mozzarella was creamy, melt-in-you-mouth perfection. The bread selection consisted of rosemary focaccia, sourdough, music bread, grissini with olive oil and balsamic. Both Sam and I agreed the focaccia as our favourite. It was light and you could clearly taste all the delicious olive oil soaked up during the baking process. Sam stuck to beer, but I switched to white wine.
For our mains, I had the penne carbonara and Sam had the squid and mussel spaghetti . We also split a rocket and parmesan salad and an order of polenta chips. My penne was good, but it wasn’t as creamy as I had expected it to be. (Especially because we frequently cook Jamie’s Sausage Carbonara at home.) I’m not sure what dressing was on the salad, but it was lovely- it became so much more than just rocket and parmesan. Sam’s pasta consisted of fried squid, mussels, octopus, capers and white wine. Since I don’t eat seafood, I didn’t get to taste it for myself so you’ll just have to take Sam’s word that it was excellent. In fact, he scarfed it quite gleefully. In his words, “It was truly delicious and enough to fill a man.” Having not eaten grits in years, I knew I was going to order anything with polenta in it. And let me tell you, french fries made of polenta? A triumph.
And then came dessert. Nothing immediately jumped out at me and we settled for splitting a old classic – tiramisu. It was good, but wasn’t anything to write home about. If I were to do this meal all over again (or just next time), I’d rather have another starter or side than order dessert.
The best thing about Jamie’s Italian is that it’s the kind of restaurant that you could go to for pretty much any kind of outing. You’d feel as comfortable there for a family dinner as you would cocktails with friends, or a date for two. What I’d most like to commend Jamie’s Italian on is their excellent service. The staff was wonderful. Even in the face of a very difficult to please couple sitting next to us, they were graceful and accommodating.
Squid and Mussel Pasta
Rocket and Parmesan Salad
Being the owners of some of Jamie Oliver’s books already we knew we wouldn’t be disappointed. We were guests of Jamie’s Italian, but all my many, many opinions are forever my own.
Have you been to a Jamie Oliver restaurant before? Do you own any of his cookbooks? What’s your favourite one?