If you're anything like me, you've been waiting impatiently for Perth's edition of Jamie's Italian to open since it was announced last year. I'm a huge Jamie Oliver fan (to the point of a little obsessed) and love his style of generous, homestyle cooking which I often try to adapt at home.
So when the restaurant opened this week, it didn't take Jeremy and I long to join the masses queuing patiently outside, awaiting for the chance to eat at this family friendly, funky establishment. Our first attempt for dinner on Good Friday ended up being a failure with the place at capacity and not accepting anymore diners when we arrived. So we decided since we were both quite keen to try it and craving pasta, that we would go for lunch the following day. Skipping breakfast we did a bit of grocery shopping nearby at the Re Store in Leederville before heading over to Jamie's at 11am for when it opened.
Jamie's Italian: Saturday 30th March 2013
Unsurprisingly, there was already a decent line. But we were committed today and joined the queue, our eyes greedily taking in every detail around us as I snapped away with my camera.
The wait is about 15 minutes which is not so bad in my books at all. Especially considering the fact that some people apparently have waited a couple hours to get into here. That feels pretty extreme even for me when I'm determined to try a place! My hunger would inevitably force me somewhere else.
As we're waiting, I'm pleased to see a staff member come out with a plank of meats, olives and bread for the crowd to sample. It's such a nice touch which demonstrated to us that they are customer service focussed here. And that piece of fennel seed salami - well that just made our stomachs wake up and start wishing for food soon. It was so delicious!
When we make it inside, we note that about a third of the tables are actually empty though our greeter tells us a table isn't ready yet and we should wait at the bar for about five minutes. While some people might find this irritating or even curious, Jeremy and I sat and observed the setup then and throughout our lunch. They seem to stagger the diners entering to ensure that the service staff are able to look after their customers to the best of their ability. It's actually quite smart and you can really see it in the service you receive.
The decor of Jamie's Italian is pretty amazing. It definitely looks completely different to other places in town - there's a heavy use of metal combined with timbers and organic looking wooden surfaces. There's an urban warehouse kind of feel to it and with the open kitchen, pasta station and bar, you feel like you're in some fantastic alternate reality where food is the central point.
For those who do not like loud venues, you probably won't enjoy it here. But I loved it - especially since we were sitting close to the kitchen and could hear the other chefs yelling out to the chef standing at the pass coordinating the orders. It's strange but you really do feel included, like you're part of the action.
Italian bread selection
We're shown to our table a couple minutes later, our eyes still excitedly drinking in our beautiful surroundings. As we're presented with our menus, we each order a freshly squeezed juice ($4.50) to start off our first meal of the day. Orange for me and pineapple for Jeremy. Both amazing and vibrant. This is especially appreciated by us as we love our juice.
The menu is quite elaborate in selection and the prices almost ridiculously reasonable which shows how overpriced other restaurants in Perth are these days. There's a variety of planks available, which is like your charcuterie type boards - something Jamie Oliver is supposed to be quite famous for. There's also some starter plates such as salads, crispy squid, nachos etc and breads and bruschetta. Then there's the epic pasta section which has each dish in both entree and main size. There's also a great selection of mains that include the likes of whole fish, a burger, veal saltimbocca - and then finally a section for sides. Very comprehensive and it does take a long time to decide because everything sounds amazing!
We decide on the Meat Plank ($13.50 per person) to start off with between us with a serving of the Italian Bread Selection (on the house).
The Meat Plank is presented to us balancing on two tomato cans which our waitress tells us are for presentation, not to eat. So I'm guessing someone has opened one once, which Jeremy and I find hilarious. But the plank itself is nothing to find amusing. This is a must have here in my opinion and it seems the other diners thought so too since everyone around us is ordering this or the Seafood Plank (I need to try this one next time I come here).
The plank is made up of meat, cheeses, pickles and salad. Our lovely waitress walks us through it very helpfully. There's four different cured meats for us to try - san daniele prosciutto, wagyu bresaola, finocchio and capocollo. On top is a scattering of curly green chillies, green & gaeta olives and caper berries. Then there's a dish holding two beautiful buffalo mozzarella balls and a salad nearby of shaved root vegetables with chilli, lemon and mint. Then finally there's the wheat bread crisps with slices of pecorino cheese and what the menu describes as amazing chilli jam.
We're recommended to eat our way along the board and use the salad as a palate cleanser in between meats so we can get the full impact of the cured meat flavour. So we start off with the prosciutto and it is melt in your mouth amazing. Since we've just bought some parma prosciutto at the Re Store this morning, it's just an added bonus that we get a different type right now. It disappears very quickly and I miss the taste the minute I swallow it down.
The salad is nice - the beetroot in particular works well with the dressing. It's sweet and definitely does cleanse my mouth in preparation for each next bite. The other meats as we make our way through them are phenomenal, in particular the wagyu bresaola which we're both huge fans of thanks to the introduction of it at Cumulus Inc in Melbourne last year.
The cheeses are also amazing. The mozzarella is just absolutely creamy and heavenly; and the pecorino is sharp and works well with the crisp bread underneath. I love love love the chilli jam on top - it's just enough to spark my tastebuds, but not enough to take away from the taste of the cheese. Very nice stuff.
The Italian Bread Selection that comes out is made up of homemade rosemary foccacia, Italian grissini, crispy 'music bread' and ciabatta. All are baked on site daily and they come with a serving of Rylstone extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic.
Since I hardly ever eat bread, I am in heaven. Especially from the rosemary foccacia which is salty and oily and works so well with the balsamic and oil dip. That balsamic is a really great quality and it shines with every bite. I'm tempted to find out what brand it is because I'd love to have this at home!
After our plates are cleared for our entrees, a decent amount of time passes before our mains come out. I like this because it gives us a chance to food spy on the other diners (always a fun time passer) and digest a bit. I'm a little nervous about how big the serving is for the pasta after seeing a couple dishes go by and the fact that the tables beside us who always started with a plank, have gone for entree sized mains.
When they come out, I realise that we have probably been a bit greedy today. But since it's our first outting here, we dig in with gusto.
Jeremy's chosen the Sausage Pappardelle ($18) which is a slow-braised fennel sausage ragu with red wine, parmesan and crunchy, herby breadcrumbs. Considering the size and amazing depth of flavour this dish has, I cannot believe it's associated price tag.
A couple bites in and he looks up completely pleased. It's declared the best pasta dish he's ever had - and as big pasta fans, that's a pretty big call. The sauce is so packed full of flavour and there's more sausage meat than pasta nearly - it's laden with topping in every bite. I love the curly sides of the papparedelle - it helps with trapping sauce in each bite and also showcases the al dente nature of the pasta. It's really delicious, and this isn't the kind of dish I would normally gravitate to.
Blue swimmer crab risotto
For my main, I choose the Blue Swimmer Crab Risotto ($26.50) which is pictured at the start of this blog. It's creamy risotto made with acquerello rice and topped with lemony crab, samphire and chilli. As a risotto lover, I have to agree. It's the best I've ever had. The rice is al dente; the sauce slightly creamy and with a real chilli kick that punches me square in the jaw. The crab is succulent and sweet; scattered over the top of the dish. There's so much meat and tucked in the corner is a heaped spoonful of toasted breadcrumbs to scatter over the top. I do so and they taste great, adding some texture and crunch to each bite. Every now and then I find myself chomping on a small caper which normally I'm not a huge fan of due to their brineyness, but these taste fresh and subtle. Lovely!
We share a side (rather unnecessarily but when in Rome...) of Polenta Chips ($8.50) which are crispy fried with rosemary and parmesan. They come out as big cubes of polenta; salty and slightly cheesy. The outside is crunchy and inside slightly doughy which is great when eaten in conjunction with pasta as you can dunk it in the sauce or enjoy it on it's own.
Finally we finish our giant mains; our mouths grinning but our stomachs protesting. I think at that point I could have easily gone to sleep, but then our waitress asks us a one worded question. Dessert?
We should have said no, but since we'd already devoted ourselves to this feast of epic proportions we said why not and took the dive.
I choose the Tutti Frutti Lemon Meringue Pie and Jeremy opts for a more traditional Italian dessert, the Tiramisu.
Lemon meringue pie
My lemon meringue pie comes out on a beautifully thin and crumbly pastry base; the lemon curd inside a glorious tart concoction that is mounted by a sky high piling of meringue. I love the addition of the pistachio brittle scattered on top which is sweet and crunchy - the pistachios offering a slight saltiness. Though I am so full, I have to say this is a really great dessert.
Jeremy's Tiramisu is made with Fiori coffee, orange and marscapone. I love the presentation, which has deviated from the standard glass dessert and instead is like a cake slice instead. The orange flavour used is subtle and refreshing; it cuts through the coffee taste and works well with the use of the scoop of marscapone. It's a nice way to finish off our meal at Jamie's Italian - even though we are well and truly full to the brim!
I have to say, though it's still in it's early days, I loved Jamie's Italian. The service is sublime - our waitress was so friendly and on the ball and the other servers that came to clear our table were efficient but still took the time to talk to you about the food. I loved every bite here and I am already choosing the items on the menu I'll be ordering next time I come back.
It's not fancy food here. But it's friendly food. Clever use of ingredients and great creation of flavours. It's homely but so different to anything you eat at home. I'll be raving about this for weeks. Months probably.
Do yourself a favour and go. Whether its now during the lining craze or later when the hype dies down, I am sure the flavours will continue to shine. What a great and filling day. And the best part - we ate so much, and our total bill was $107. Now that, is pricing I can definitely get used to.