Lunch at Jamie’s Italian – Canberra*

6 Nov

In the Spring/Summer season in Canberra, it seems like every week there’s a ‘big new thing’. This week it’s the opening of Jamie’s Italian Canberra  Having just opened for full service yesterday following a few soft launches over the past week, I and some other media are invited to attend a special lunch.

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I’ve never been to a Jamie’s Italian (even though there are, with Canberra’s arrival, now 42 worldwide) and arrive early; it seems a little quiet in the outdoor seating area, which takes me by surprise.

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The lights are very pretty and even look good on during the day, but I do wonder about the environment!

The lights are very pretty and even look good on during the day, but I do wonder about the environment!

However, the quiet exterior belies a very busy interior – and a very long line to get in.

Jamie’s Italian Canberra is available for bookings online here but we’re later told that the restaurant is never fully booked out to allow for walk-ins. As I stand in line, some people have bookings, some people don’t have bookings and are allowed in, and others are turned away, told to come back in 10 minutes.

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Seating outside is wooden chairs and cushioned benches; inside are more solid wooden chairs and pink metal seats

The Jamie Oliver motif is EVERYWHERE and in all its forms

The Jamie Oliver motif is EVERYWHERE and in all its forms

The activity inside is hive-like. There are a lot of staff. There are staff to greet diners at the door, staff manning the long bar on one side of the room, staff working the pasta machine (made fresh onsite – not groundbreaking but a nice touch), staff cutting up bread at a station in the dining area, staff in a fresh meat and cheese section, staff in the kitchen, and staff delivering drinks, menus and meals.

Looking towards the long bar on entry

Looking towards the long bar on entry

Looking back towards the front door (spot the line?)

Looking back towards the front door (spot the line?)

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The fresh meats and cheese station at the back of the restaurant

The fresh meats and cheese station at the back of the restaurant

Fresh pasta being made in the corner of the room

Fresh pasta being made in the corner of the room

The kitchen (I didn't want to get too close to the action lest I get run over!)

The kitchen (I didn’t want to get too close to the action lest I get run over!)

Our table is on the far right hand side of the restaurant as we come in, situated in front of the long kitchen and facing outside. There are big floor to ceiling windows letting in a lot of light. I genuinely enjoy the feel of the place: there’s a lot of wood and warm lights. As fellow dining companion Richard remarks, the wood probably soaks up a lot of the noise of the restaurant which sits 170 persons inside. We can hear what people around us say quite easily, but it’s a little more difficult to hear from one end of the table to the other.

There's quite a lot of attention to detail, including a huge chandelier in the middle of the restaurant

There’s quite a lot of attention to detail, including a huge chandelier in the middle of the restaurant

Our table - the cans seemed strange to me, but are used to sit the very long and large serving platters of the appetisers

Our table – the cans seemed strange to me, but are used to sit the very long and large serving platters of the appetisers

The menus in front of us are exactly the same as the other Jamie’s Italian in Australia. The Australian Jamie’s Italian General Manager, Karen, sits with us to explain some of the finer details. We’ve also got a smaller companion dining with us, and her menu is presented on a ViewMaster (childhood memories, anyone?).

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There's a happy ambience to the place

There’s a happy ambience to the place

Karen orders us a ‘few’ starters to share (!).

Beetroot cured salmon, olives, mussels

Fish Plank ($12.50 per person): Beetroot cured salmon, olives, mussels, smoked mackerel pate, fritto misto with yuzu mayonnaise

Meats Plank ($13.50 per person): Olives, prosciutto, mortadella, bresaola, mozarella, pickles, crunchy salad

Meats Plank ($13.50 per person): Olives, prosciutto, mortadella, bresaola, mozarella, pickles, crunchy salad

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Basked mushrooms ($14.50)

Basked mushrooms ($14.50)

Tomato and mozzarella arancini ball with pickled red chilli (plate of four is $10.50)

Tomato and mozzarella arancini ball with pickled red chilli (plate of four is $10.50)

Speaking as objectively as I can, I think the arancini balls are the best value for money. They’re really tasty, the chilli packs a punch, and the textures are spot on. The mushroom dish looks beautiful and is a great dish if you’re vego or just really love mushrooms, but I think there are better offerings. Of the planks, there’s a lot of food on both. The meat plank would be lovely on its own, but it isn’t my pick to start a meal. The fish plank is a little more ‘interesting’. The mackerel pate is moreish – salty without being overpowering. I really, really like the beetroot cured salmon – it’s pretty, fresh and light and hasn’t sacrificed flavour for the presentation. However, the fried fish bites are a little dry and uninspiring, even when paired with the mayonnaise.

Beetroot cured smoked salmon

Beetroot cured smoked salmon

We don’t order our mains until we’ve finished these starters, so I can’t comment accurately on the wait times. The service is enthusiastic and aims to please – they both look genuinely happy to be there and nervous (but maybe that’s because they’re also serving their boss?). There’s one too few water jugs on the table and the water glasses remain unfilled. The wine glasses are topped up, but inconsistently: some are refilled, some are left. At one point something smells faintly like it’s burning, but it’s not pervasive and doesn’t last (a credit to whoever fixes the issue!). But, given they’ve been trained in just two weeks and this is their second ‘real’ day (and busiest), it’s hardly unforgiveable.

Most of us have ordered pasta as our main. Karen tells us that the prawn linguine is the most popular dish in Jamie’s Italian – worldwide. Karen orders humble green salads ($7 each) and apple slaw ($7.50 each) for the table to take the edge off the richness of the pastas.

The mains are all delivered within a few moments of each other.

Humble green salad (quite elegantly presented, despite the name)

Humble green salad (quite elegantly presented, despite the name)

Jamie's Italian burger ($19.50)

Jamie’s Italian burger ($19.50)

And again

And again

Can you tell we are bloggers?

Can you tell we are bloggers?

Prawn linguine

Prawn linguine

Not quite sure what this was (apple slaw in background)

Not quite sure what this was (apple slaw in background)

I’ve opted for the wild truffle risotto ($25 as a main serving). As I’ve written elsewhere, I find the truffle taste quite hard to distinguish sometimes, so this is a bit of a test to see if Jamie’s Italian can make me taste it. And, it is there, but could be a little stronger. It certainly smells great. It promises to be melt in my mouth but the promise isn’t quite fulfilled. The flavours are full and tasty, but there’s a floury aftertaste, and some of the rice is a little crunchier or chewier than I would normally expect. All that said, it’s still easy to eat and I almost finish the dish (and the serving size is HUGE!).

Wild truffle risotto

Wild truffle risotto

Karen is right to order us the salads. The humble green salad looks like it’s just going to be lettuce to me, but it’s got flavours running through it. It’s very fresh and packs a big punch; a really good complement to the richness of my dish. I wouldn’t normally order a salad, but if I have a pasta at Jamie’s Italian, I will.

I leave before dessert is served, but I have enjoyed my time. The company is marvellous (why wouldn’t it be when it’s fellow bloggers?) and it’s been a good opportunity to understand the menu a little better. I can tell Karen is very proud of the restaurant, which is always a good sign. The prices are reasonable and the main servings are generous. I don’t think I’d opt for the risotto again, but there are plenty of other options I’m curious to try.

Like I said, the motif is everywhere!

Like I said, the motif is everywhere!

* I was invited to lunch at Jamie’s Italian as a guest and did not pay for my meal. You can read more about my policy on offers and inducements here.

Date: Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Cost: n/a (see above)

Where: 125 Bunda St, Civic (where Kingsley’s Steak and Crabhouse used to be; essentially at the bottom of Dendy)

Food creativity: 3 (out of a possible 10) – there’s some style and flair but what you see is essentially what you get

Ability to take photos without a flash: 5 (out of a possible 10) – it’s day time after all, and the big windows help

Canberra region wines on wine list: I don’t think there are any at this stage but I did not check

Waitstaff pretentiousness: None

Worthwhile factor: Worthwhile

Want more? Jamie’s Italian is booked out for bigger tables over the next few days, but can fit smaller groups in (tables of 2 or 3). You can book online here or visit the website here. The menu is here. Check out fellow blogger Rachi’s review of the experience here and Richard Tuffin’s pics here.

Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon

17 Responses to “Lunch at Jamie’s Italian – Canberra*”

  1. Gary Lum November 6, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    I’m looking forward to going there with Bron and trying it out. Great review.

    • inthetaratory November 6, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

      I hope you both enjoy – can’t wait to hear what you think.

  2. yvette adams November 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Thanks for the review! I’m hoping to go next week and had been wanting to see some pics of the food – so thank you!

    • inthetaratory November 7, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

      You’re very welcome – thanks for dropping by!

  3. lizzygoodthingsLizzy November 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    Great post, Tara, wish I was well enough to have enjoyed the event with you all!

  4. LadyxBec November 14, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    Great review – I had dinner there last night based on it & wasn’t disappointed

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