Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Jamie's Italian, Wynyard

Having heard good things about Jamie's Italian, I finally decided to brave the queues and pay a lunch visit. Since it opens at 11.30am, we were sure that there would be a line when we decided to arrive around noon but were pleasantly surprised to find that the lunch crowd did not hit the restaurant until around 1pm.

Bar on lower ground
 The name "Jamie's Italian" boasts two obvious things:

1. Jamie Oliver's name:

Known for his cooking shows and generosity with herbs, it isn't surprising that he expanded his reach to Sydney. Despite his noted absence from the premises, the decor consists of shelves of Jamie Oliver books, clusters of dried chilli, and garlands of garlic.

Bar on upper floor
2. Italian food:

Unfortunately, the adjective 'rustic' is thrown around so glibly that some restaurants claiming to produce such seem to force it, charging fine dining prices for countryside inspired cooking. Jamie's Italian is more affordable than that, but  my experience makes me question whether the quality of the fare justifies the prices.

Hand-made pasta
Jamie's Italian has a system where patrons are greeted at the front and asked to wait until another member of staff can take them to their table. It was slightly awkward but we didn't have to wait for too long, as the restaurant was only about 1/3 full at the time, and the staff are pretty friendly.

We were seated at the top, which gave us a pretty nice view of what was going on below. From my vantage point, I could observe yet another showcase of cookbooks. The bread made everything feel a lot cosier though!

View from the top
We were allowed to take our time ordering and when we did, the waiter served us with a complimentary bucket of bread, consisting of thin slices of turkish pide, a bit of bread stick, a thin crispy 'music' bread, and some sort of white bread (which I couldn't specifically identify). It was accompanied by balsamic vinegar and olive oil, which is just the way I like my bread!

Balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Next came the polenta chips, crunchy on the outside and squishy inside, with a bit of cheese and herbs sprinkled on top. As is usually the case with polenta, it quickly gives you a 'full' carby feeling, and after a while it seemed to taste quite bland. There was quite a lot of polenta as well - too much for two people to stomach.

Polenta chips ($8.50)
Our second antipasti dish was the baked mushrooms - Swiss brown mushrooms with smoked buffalo mozzarella. I was expecting to receive a whole baked mushroom with cheese on top, but a dish resembling a pie came to us. The bottom of the dish was lined with flat music bread that emerged over the sides. Sliced mushrooms were laid over the top with dry melted cheese binding them together. Though it looks and sounds tasty, everything (including the mushroom and cheese) was very dry. This limited the flavours that could have been extracted by the palate and I was pretty disappointed.

Baked mushrooms ($14.50)
We also ordered two entree sized pasta dishes to share. The wait in between the entrees and the pasta was quite long - more than half an hour. We asked one of the waiters to check on our order and he said it would only be a few minutes more (leading us to suspect that they had forgotten about us).

 The first pasta dish I tried was the black angel spaghetti, consisting of squid ink pasta and scallops. The menu also says that it includes garlic, chilli, anchovies, wine and capers. I probably detected garlic, but all else eluded me (I certainly didn't taste any chilli!). The scallops were done pretty well - moist, not too dry. The pasta, however, was undercooked - part of it was very doughy, while the rest of the time, it was hard and crunchy. The accompanying sauce was strangely very sour - I'm not sure if it was the wine or if they added lemon juice.

Black angel spaghetti ($14.00)

I had a similar experience with the second pasta dish - buffalo ricotta ravioli with creamed ricotta, lemon, parmesan and mint - in that the ravioli was hard and chewy around the edges. The flavours were more faithful to the ingredients listed in the menu - and yes, the sauce was sour.

Buffalo ricotta ravioli ($14.00)
Moving on, I ordered a flat white, having heard that their Musetti coffee is superb. The flat white had a very thick layer of foam (an amount closer to a cappuccino) - correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought flat whites were supposed to have less foam?

Flat white ($4.35)
For dessert, I had the peach and almond tart - a frangipane tart with preserved peaches, whipped cream and honey, which was not bad, although a little heavy. There was a strong almond meal flavour and they were generous with the amount of strawberries in the cream. It would have been nicer if the whipped cream was chilled more (it felt like it was sitting at room temperature).

Peach and almond tart ($9.00)

I also sampled my friend's tiramisu. It had a strong coffee flavour, which I quite liked, but it contained more cream than cake.

Tiramisu ($9.00)
Overall, I think Jamie's Italian is overrated. The food is interesting but a bit of a let down, and for the price, you're better off eating elsewhere.

Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon

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