In case you haven’t notice, Jamie Oliver is kind of a big deal. My mother in law is quite possibly his number one fan and would buy anything and everything he puts his name to. With this star power and his advocacy for healthier eating through his food revolution this household name has undoubtedly built an empire. Some time back I visited Sydney and was taken to Jamie’s Italian Sydney, my very first visit to any Jamie Oliver associated restaurant. The experience was all well and good. A couple of years later it was Adelaide’s turn, taking residence in the iconic old bank building on King William Street. Two years on I write my first post about Jamie’s Italian, my experience over three visits.
The decor is stunning and grand, a very large space with ample seating yet often fully packed with a waiting line. A time when I asked myself, is the food really that good or is it because of Jamie. It has retained the charm of a historic building and you must visit the toilets where remnants of the old vault can still be seen. Quite cleverly done. The restaurant experience is a little different, though stylish it didn’t feel warm or intimate, it was more like a big dining hall. On one of the occasions we sat at the antipasto counter. It was really rather tempting to just run off with a whole garland of chillies and some salami.
There are two things we order every time. One is the Italian Bread Selection which is a great accompaniment and something to nibble on while waiting for your meal. For just $1.50 we got homemade rosemary focaccia, Italian grissini, music bread and ciabatta served with olive oil and aged balsamic. Sadly I think this option has been replaced by the $4.50 Artisan Breads though you do get tapenade with it. The other is their Polenta Chips. Bang on every time we’ve had it and genuinely delicious. It’s lovely and crispy on the outside with fragrant rosemary and shaved parmesan for extra flavour while soft and creamy on the inside. Looking good so far right?
We always love nibbles so the planks are a good option for us. The one pictured is a serve for one with a mix of Angus besaola, salami, artisanal mortadella and prosciutto with mini buffalo mozzarella, aged pecorino and chilli jam. It also comes with olives, pickles and rainbow slaw to break things up a bit. As you can imagine we enjoyed starting with the mixed selection of bread and a meat plank. The plank is raised on two tomato tins to create space and also for a little something different I imagine.
We had high expectations for the pasta here being a star feature in all their restaurants as you can watch fresh pasta being made everyday. Tagliatelle Bolognese features the original pork and beef Bolognese sauce slow cooked and served with grated parmesan and herby breadcrumbs. It was in fact quite fragrant. It was ok though nothing outstanding. Some noodles of pasta were under-cooked and chewy. I have also tried a dish named ‘Jools’ Favourite Tuna Fusilli which was unfortunately unsatisfactory. Having an English husband I know how tangy and sour things can get with their immense love for vinegar and lemons. I do however have to say this sour tomato based sauce is really too far gone. Almost tasting like a bad jar of home brand pasta sauce. It did come with some herbed breadcrumbs which gave it a nice crunch but really, the tuna was dry, the pasta was chewy and seemed under-cooked. I really don’t mean any harsh insult though when your $23 dinner tastes like a packet meal, it really is disappointing.
As far as service goes, it was great the first visit, not so good after that with waiters not knowing what’s going on, meals sent to the wrong table, waiting forever to be served and getting extra charges from other tables on our bill. I was not impressed. A little birdy told me they hire British backpackers which might explain some things but alas I married one, I’m not here for the accent, I’m here for good food and service. I didn’t come in expecting the best nor local, only that it would be delicious and satisfying. I got this feeling maybe 50% of the time and that isn’t quite enough. I should add that the Epic Brownie is indeed delicious, especially the amaretti popcorn. Somehow I didn’t photograph it.
I am all for local producers, restaurants and businesses but always first and foremost, I am for good food, better food. I understand how Jamie’s Italian is so popular yet in all honesty, I could get a better meal at a number of other places around Adelaide with consistently good service and no lines.