Venues

Jamie’s Italian

Jamie’s Italian
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Cost
R100 - R140 avg main meal
Ambience
Comfy & casual, Contemporary cool
Food
Italian, Modern
Payment
Amex, Diners Club, Mastercard, Visa

Critic's review

Marie-Lais Emond

Excitement reached fever pitch when we first heard news that Jamie Oliver was planning on opening a branch of his Italian restaurant in SA. The first Jamie’s Italian has now fully opened in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, after a short trial period, and the word is that at least two more Jamie’s Italians are planned for South Africa. At the moment the franchise chain consists of 60 Jamie’s Italians outside of the UK – although news broke last week that six Jamie’s Italian branches in the UK are to close.

The company has the offering down to a fine art, with much of the menu commonplace and then a few differences in certain dishes, styles and flavourings. Jamie Oliver has done very well with his television shows and restaurants, introducing nutrition to couch potatoes, and with this franchise focuses on sustainability. But what is the food like?

Food
It’s easy to see that the restaurant is likely to be a success, not just for its initial novelty popularity, but because it offers accessibly good food. Dishes are easy to recognise and have Jamie Oliver’s twists built into their recipes.

Of the Antipasti & Nibbles selection, the crispy squid is a fantastic marriage of tastes and textures, with crunch, velvety aioli and complementary parsley-garlic combo. The slightly tomatoey addition to Jamie’s black olive tapenade cleverly sorts out that funny-tooth feeling of normal tapenade (part of the ‘World’s Best Olives’ starter). The risotto balls are generously portioned. The tomato bruschetta is not the Spanish rubbed toast but a pleasantly munchy starter. A classic meat plank for sharing is balanced at nose height on two Italian tomato-pulp cans. It features the classics, San Daniela ham and mortadella, but also a phenomenally creamy, fresh buffalo mozzarella.

Ingredients are all carefully, sustainably sourced. Before suppliers of meat are approved, the head office requests videos and pictures of the live animals. Local sustainability is key and, as is constantly proven, the more sustainable and chemical-free the ingredients, the better they taste. Here, of course, the best preparation methods for each main ingredient also factor into the great taste.

The sausage pappardelle is a flavourful, rustic and satisfying stew. The linguine with prawns has the pasta already sauce-coated in the pan and the prawns retain their direct firmness without an overbearing sea taste. The funghi misti pizza is a surprising success, the base the artisanal type and the topping a mix of flavourful roasted mushrooms creamed with mozzarella and chervil.

For mains, the burger already just looks delicious arriving at the table: a giant stack of grass-fed beef, melted gruyere and lots of pickles and chilli sauce. A saner main is the chicken Mattone, consisting of creamy mushrooms, crunchy toast, parmesan and a lemon-spiked herby salad. The Italian steak and fries is a sticking point: some don’t find the thin flank meat rare enough, but it might be just right for many others, and does come with good string fries and a nicely spicy tomato sauce. Differently flavoured chips are an option for a side – some cheesey-truffly and others garlic-rosemary. Side salads include a rather sweet but still very tasty soft purple slaw and a huge superfood salad of beetroot, broccoli, avo, pomegranate rubies, healthy seeds and cheese.

Desserts include ice cream from Paul’s Homemade Ice Creams; there will probably be a different supplier at the Cape Town Jamie's Italian. Already divine, the ice creams are taken one step further with Jamie’s toppings – smashed honeycomb being one delight. The epic chocolate brownie lives up to its name in terms of size and is nice enough but not outstandingly yummy. The real winners are an unsweetened wobbly panna cotta with sweetened berries – a nice contrast, like having real clotted cream with strawberry jam – and the Amalfi lemon cheesecake with extra-lemony sweetness and the inclusion of plump little currants.

Vegetarians and gluten-free eaters are well catered for, especially with some added info from the very knowledgeable staff.

Drinks
Jamie’s Italian has its own soft drinks in cans and the menu cocktails are rather interesting. Some are even for dessert – witness a Passionata in a glass full of Galliano, with passion fruit and cream. There are a few proseccos on the sparkling wine list and can be had just in a glass or with Bellini peach purée, in a strawberry version or as an Aperol spritz.

For those with sustainability concerns, we could only find a Reynecke white, though South Africa has many very good organic wines. The wines include some Italian ones mainly from the Friuli and Veneto areas. As for the South African bottles, the list ranges from chummy Fat Bastard and Klein Zalze to the respected Iona class. The coffee is quite delicious, though sourced from South America.

Service
It is what makes this restaurant exciting. Especially welcoming, the floor staff are experienced and spent a month getting to know these foods and drinks, even doing a practical week. They are a great asset and do tend to sell the menu, but in a fun way. They seem to be a bit territorial between themselves, but that can only work in a customer’s favour.

Ambience
The atmosphere is a foregone conclusion because these Jamie’s Italians all look very similar. It’s quite a strong, clean look with dark woods and leather. However, there are lovely retro wall tiles in the bathrooms and downstairs too, sourced in South Africa, and they give the place a fun vibe. The long kitchen is sort-of visible and designed to show action through the shelf gaps and across the service counter. The cured hams and meats hanging down are a wonderful Jamie-ish feature. The ambience is buzzy and busy, especially in the evening; loud but not terrifying.

And…
The kids’ menu is especially inventive and sounds delicious. It’s a pity there don’t seem to be many little ones in Melrose Arch.

(December 2016)

Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay their own way. Read our full editorial policy here

 

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User reviews

  • Jamie Italian, located in the heart of Melrose Arch. A restaurant I’ve waited two years to experience and undeniably a night I can say “I’ve eaten at one of the best Italian restaurants in Johannesburg”. A rustic yet contemporary style, with meticulously placed decor coupled with its impeccable design – it feels like you’re in a Wes Anderson production. Freshly made pastas, flavour-punching pizzas and succulent meats – I whole-heartedly recommend starting with the starters. Exceptional wine menu that’s pairs well with your Antipasti, Pizza & Second and end the night with the timeless tradition of Don Julio’s shots. The most unsatisfying part of a satisfying night was the inevitable opening the doors and leaving the restaurant with my friends. A surreal night I’m honored to have had and even more so shared with good friends.
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  • The ambience of the restaurant is amazing, and once seated you are sure in for a real treat! The hostesses however are exceptionally stuck up unless you are a celebrity and can leave you with the feeling that you would rather go eat somewhere else. The quality, presentation, variety and overall food experience is without a doubt world class.
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  • We have been looking forward to dining at this restaurant since they opened and made our booking in January, to celebrate an important birthday. We sent them a mail 3 weeks ago to request a change in the time of our booking, which was confirmed by Jamie's via mail but then not carried through to their books - The booking was still in their books for the dinner seating instead of the late lunch time we requested. When the confirmation sms was sent and we phoned to refer them to the mails sent, they were already fully booked and could not correct the unfortunate miscommunication and wrong booking. This was very frustrating and dissapointing as half of our guests then couldn't enjoy the dinner with us. But seeing that they are booked so far in advance we decided to still go and at least try out their desserts, as we had to make alternate lunch plans for the birthday celebrations. Our waiter Sipho was very friendly and did his best to make it as pleasurable an experience as possible, while still giving us space to enjoy each others' company and the food. He served us with a smile on his face and a kind-hearted spirit... even offered to take a photo for us! We had the italian nachos as a starter which was amazing in every way - crispy, crunch, fragrant tomato dipping sauce and generous amount of parmesan cheese! We ordered 3 desserts - the praline chocolate cake with salted caramel ice cream, the tiramiso and the lemon meringue cheesecake... all three a great sensory taste experience but without a doubt the stand out was the cheesecake! Well balanced when you have all the different elements together with subtle flavours of lemon and decadent cream. Definitely a must-try. Our food as well as the orders of our surrounding tables, arrived quickly and steaming hot off the pass. The vibe is energetic with rustic interior elements and soft lighting. The lack of background music though gave it a sense of rushedness and at times overwhelming auditory input. Overall a good taste experience. Just a pity the first impression was negatively influenced by the booking mess up beforehand. Would have liked a personal check in or apology from management side. Will recommend Jamie's to friends for the eating experience though.
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  • An utter disappointment. From bad service to a hit and miss food experience, I was completely underwhelmed. Even more disappointed that I had booked so far in advance for my husband's special birthday dinner! Burnt chicken, no garlic bread in stock (??!) we had to physically go to the bar for our dinner cocktails because the service was so slow, a drink was spilt at our table and we wiped the table and floor ourselves while a waiter walked passed is. Such a massive disapppintment all round (food and service). Over priced, over rated.
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  • We ate on a Sunday evening. There were items on bot the food menu and drinks menu that were not available. In addition their phone number only operates from Monday's to Friday's and we were unable to communicate with them to confirm the booking. Won't be going back.
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  • We didn't have a booking and were put on the wait list, we were luckily placed at a table outside not too long afterwards. The staff were friendly and well informed, we asked for explanations of things we didn't understand on the menu and for a wine recommendation. I love the idea that you can order smaller portions of the main meals so you can try more than one especially if you're sharing! We ordered a mushroom pasta and the 'world famous' prawn pasta dish. Both impressed! I enjoyed my experience at Jamie's italian :)
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  • Jamie Oliver recently opened his Italian themed restaurant at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg. As I was in Johannesburg for the weekend, I thought that a visit was a good idea, just to see whether his restaurant would live up to his reputation as a chef. So with an open mind I went along with a friend to try the food. Initially it took a while to be served and we eventually managed to order a bottle of wine. The wine list was not bad, but I thought, “when in Rome”, and wished that Jamie only had all South African wines on the list, instead of about half local and half from Italy with some very expensive French Champagne at R5500 a bottle!. We decided on 2 starters to share, the Arancini Margherita served with a Herby Fonduta and the Deep Fried Ravioli. We had to ask how many arancini were in a portion, as there was no indication on the menu. The waiter said there were 3 in a portion. The Arancini were tasteless, and we had to grind a lot of salt on top to make them taste like anything. They were crispy as the menu promised, but what about the Herby Fonduta?? Instead of a lovely thick, cheesy sauce, it was a very thin, watery, tasteless sauce, which again had to be showered with salt. The Deep Fried Ravioli I thought were a great idea, and were actually very nice and crispy, although my ravioli were empty, and did not contain the promised mozzarella, ricotta and parmesan. The Spicy Sicilian Tomato Sauce served with the Ravioli, was again so tasteless that only the addition of another large amount of salt, and the chopped up whole chilli garnish, gave it any flavour. Oh dear, so with a poor start to the meal, we soldiered on with the mains. We ordered the Porcini Fettuccini and the Vegetarian Platter. The waiter came to the table and just plonked down 2 tins and walked away. We looked at the tins in amazement, they were tins of peeled whole tomatoes! Why on earth did he put them down on the table we wondered? The secret was revealed when he served my Vegetarian Platter on top of the tins. The platter was now too high for me to see the food properly, so I removed it from the tins, also scared that it may slip off onto the table. While the platter looked good, again it was tasteless, with 2 tiny mozzarella balls, half a bruchetta with tomato and ricotta, some tasteless (green) hummus, a seed cracker with a slice of hard cheese and a blob of sweet chilli sauce, and a very oily tiny bowl of grilled vegetables with 1 olive and 1 caper berry. I don’t know where the promised pickles and olives were, maybe the chef forgot to put them on the plate. The Fettuccini was so revolting that my friend couldn’t eat it. They had obviously taken dried Porcini and soaked them for a minute, then minced them. The sauce was a thick blob of absolutely revolting tasteless and chewy mush that didn’t contain the promised, mascarpone, garlic, chilli, white wine, Parmesan and Pangrattato. Garlic? Chilli? White wine? We didn’t know what the Pangrattato was, but it turned out to be breadcrumbs, which certainly did not add to the dish or complement it in any way. The saving grace of the evening was the Lemon Meringue Cheesecake. While it wasn’t served with the promised blackcurrants, it was served with a delicious thick berry coulis. My Chocolate Brownie looked like it had been sliced off a loaf of brownie, and was topped with a half melted Amaretto Icecream. The brownie was not anything special, and I’ve really eaten much nicer ones. The waiter then really put the cherry on top of the disappointing food. We paid cash for the meal, and he disappeared and did not bring back the change. He had obviously assumed that the change was meant for him as a tip, even though we had not said anything when he took the money. By this stage, I was definitely not in the mood to tip, so when he walked past the table again, I asked for the change. Will I visit Jamie’s again? No, I won’t. I can go to a lot of other Italian restaurants in Johannesburg or anywhere else for that matter, and have a far better meal. Would I recommend it to others? No, I won’t. Strangely, no management staff came to our table to ask if we were enjoying the food, they checked on a couple of other tables only. One manager was sitting at a table with his mates for most of the evening, in fact I thought he was a guest, until he got up and checked on a table nearby. I really wish that these well known chefs wouldn’t put their names to restaurants and then walk away. Diners go to these chef’s restaurants hoping to eat some of the wonderful dishes they see demonstrated on TV, only to leave disappointed. I see that Jamie is set to close 6 of his restaurants in the UK. I wonder why…..
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Menu

Set menu - Available on website

Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Booking required
  • Dinner
  • Food
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food
  • Smoking

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