My boyfriend is over at the moment and today we went to Canary Wharf because I wanted to try Jamie Oliver's "Jamie's Italian" restaurant there. I don't think it'a a big secret that I'm a big Jamie fan even though I found out the chefs at school think what he does is "for kids", to quote them. Well, thing is when they talk about so-called celebrity chefs they mean people like Alain Ducasse with his 9 Michelin stars but I mean people like Jamie. Funnily enough they do respect Gordon Ramsay though who I personally don't think much of to be honest. Particularly since he goes to other people's restaurants, curses at them and then mice dumplings and other wonderful treats were found at his own ridiculously expensive, fine dining restaurants.
Obviously Alain Ducasse is amazing, no doubt about it and all the other Haute Cuisine geniuses but they're not necessarily well-known outside the hospitality industry, right? Okay, so Jamie doesn't have any Michelin stars or whatever but hey, he's got charme and mass appeal, he's cute, adorable and his food is absolutely delicious. You can say what you want, I love him. His dishes are some of my favourite foods and I think all the things he does, all his different projects aswell as his books are amazing. There you go, I love Jamie O.
I had wanted to go to his restaurant Fifteen for a while, you know, the one run by his apprentices. Remember, there was a tv show about it, too. Anyway, I heard from several people that his own, new Jamie's Italian would be even nicer and as it's also cheaper and sounded scrumptious we decided to give it a go. It's located in the very modern business district at Canary Wharf with its high-rise buildings and cool architecture. There will be another one opening in Covent Garden in the summer and I think that location will be even nicer.
The restaurant is a nice open space with a modern feel but still comfortable. At the entrance you're greeted by a shelf of freshly made pasta next to pasta machines where you can access the outside terrace when it's warm enough for an alfresco dinner. There are lots of Jamie books on the wall and it has a bar, another counter with fresh produce where antipasti are prepared and a half open kitchen.
It's not a massive menu but there were still a good few things I wanted to try and so I had to talk my boyfriend into agreeing to share certain things. We usually never share food because it somehow doesn't seem to work for the two of us... unfortunately. It can be so much fun to get lots of different dishes and then share them but I guess as Joey from Friends would put it: "Joey doesn't share food!!!" ;-) Somehow we still managed though. I more or less decided we should get antipasti and a pasta "primi" for starters:
Seasonal Meat Antipasti Plank
Seasonal cured meat, Tuscan fennel salami, pistachio mortadella, San Daniele prosciutto and Schiacciata piccante
Italian cheeses, buffalo mozzarella, pecorino with amazing chilli jam
Pickles, curly green chillies, green and black olives
Salad, Italian coleslaw with lemon and mint
This selection of different antipasti was very nice and all the different components worked well together. I especially liked the chili jam on the pecorino and the Italian coleslaw was an interesting interpretation of the dish.
Roasted Pumpkin Risotto
Seasonal pumpkins roasted with chilli and thyme, creamy Arborio rice with parmesan and crunchy herby amaretto breadcrumbs.
This was really delicious. I just love risotto and it's such a homey, feel-good comfort food. Pumpkin is a vegetable I'm quite fond of so I knew I had to try this dish. Admittedly I can't say I tasted any amaretto flavour in this but I don't even think that's a bad thing. As we ordered this as a starter ( you can also have it as a main course ) and then shared it wasn't much for each of us, more like a teaser, really. I could have literally eaten a whole bath tub filled with this creamy goodness!
Fish In A Bag
The freshest sea bass fillet from Brixham market, Cornish mussels and clams steamed in their own juices with smashed fennel, heritage potatoes, capers, arrabiatta sauce and zesty Amalfi lemon.
This was a tasty, light, summery and healthy dish. The fish was tender, the sauce was fragrant and all the flavours and juices worked together beautifully. I love fennel and the potatoes were just the way I like them, small and golden. There could have been a few more mussels and clams but then again there were green beans in it which weren't cited on the menu. There were several sides I would have liked to try but we settled on the 2 I wanted to try the most:
Crispy Polenta Chips with rosemary salt and parmesan
Golden, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside nuggets sprinkled with grated parmesan of which I asked for more and fresh rosemary. These were yummy and a great alternative to your usual side of chips or potatoes. I would definitely go for these again and will make them at home instead od chips sometime - great idea!
Posh Truffle Chips, Insanely good with truffle oil and parmesan, proper posh!
These chips were also yummy. I believe most things are made even better with parmesan on top! I was glad the truffle oil wasn't as pungent as it sometimes tends to be but rather a faint aroma, a hint of truffle. Hmm.
My boyfriend couldn't resist and went for steak instead after contemplating the Fish in a bag for a while, too and not being able to bring himself to order any of the "cooked under a brick" dishes. Too unconventional for an Irishman I suppose... And I had thought he had made such great progress, haha. Naah, I actually didn't mind.
Good Old Grilled Steak, 8oz Sirloin
Fantastic British steak (dry aged for 21 days) chargrilled and served pink with grilled flat mushrooms, dressed watercress and flat parsley
Can you see what looks like grilled strips of meat on top of the steak? Well, my darling boyfriend believed them to be fat as in cut up and grilled rind of steak that gives all the juicy flavour. Hence he refused to eat them. Me, never one to let any food go to waste... went for them, if not at least to try them. Guess what? I realized these strips of fat were actually the grilled mushrooms, d'uh! Ah hahaha. I couldn't stop making fun of my boyfriend, what a low-brow! Guess this goes to show he still has a good bit of culinary ground to cover!
Just reading the menu again there I noticed I completely forgot to order another side I would have loved to eat, Slow-Cooked Balsamic Chickpeas. Balsamic and chickpeas? Sounds like a match made in heaven to me! As we already had the roasted pumpkin risotto I refrained from also ordering
Gennaro's Winter Salad: Radicchio, roasted pumpkin, sweet red onions, sultanas and pine nuts because this dish can also easily be re-created at home - not that I'd have the time... or would need anymore food for that matter!
Just like all of Jamie's food this dinner was a yummy one. Nothing overly fancy but good, yummy, feel-good Italian food that leaves you satisfied but not full and is fresh and healthy. I also thought it was refreshing that there wasn't a single pizza to be found on the menu! Coinidentally I found our friendly waitress looked like Jamie's wife Jools as a young girl and I would not have minded to keep on eating or enjoy bigger portions. Unfortunately it wasn't until my boyfriend had already picked up the bill (thanks, baby!) that I read about today's specials of which the deep-fried risotto balls filled with mushrooms, parmesan and Italian meats particularly caught my eye... Ooohhh. I'm sure I would have thoroughly enjoyed them!
Ah well, there's always a next time. This is a nice place to go to on a first date, for lunch or take the family out to on a Sunday. Make sure to order plenty of different food and sides and enjoy a scrumptious meal in a relaxed athmosphere. Maybe you'll even bump into Jamie - now wouldn't that be a fun treat?!