I’ve been eating at Jamie’s Italian a long time. Jamie’s Italian provides contemporary twists and variations on classic and beloved Italian recipes, whilst coming up with odd ones of his own. Since the branch of famous chef Jamie Oliver’s Italian chain restaurant opened in my home town in around 2008, I must have visited different branches around the UK at least a dozen times. Jamie Oliver provides contemporary twists and variations on classic and beloved Italian recipes, whilst coming up with odd ones of his own.
So I’m going to try and paint as clear a picture of the restaurant as possible. In some ways, this proves to be difficult. Over time, the portion sizes and flavours vary both between branches and within them. I’ll explain more a little further down. But to start with the simple things I can say across the board: their service has been great in every single branch I’ve visited (as is the characteristic décor). When not satisfied, the staff has always attempted to rectify any grievances and I’ve never begrudged the tip at the end of the meal.
The branch I’m most familiar with I’ve eaten in for at least six or seven years. In that time, the menu has rotated and changed seasonally. Certain staples have remained – I’ve never not seen crispy squid or prawn linguine on the menu – but some get interchanged in favour of other new recipes (as a devastated younger me discovered when she was bereft of bucatini carbonara). This menu rotation occurs in all branches, and unless you have a specific favourite dish you’re afraid to lose, it’s never a problem. However, between branches, I have found that the taste of the same dish can sometimes vary. To be fair, this is not overly unusual, and something I can accept.
However, this yo-yoing of flavour is arguably a bigger problem if within one branch. I’ve found between even the same dish can taste different within the space of a few months. This is only a recent phenomenon, as it was not something noticeable until the past two years or so. It’s this, in fact, which keeps me from ranking Jamie’s Italian amongst the top restaurants I’ve ever been to. It’s one thing to surprise your guests with flavour surprises, but another to make them feel like they’re tasting a different dish.
But I keep returning, despite this fairly significant criticism. Why? I still think Jamie’s Italian do some of the best dishes from any Italian chain restaurant. I’ve tasted more carbonara than you would probably believe. I still believe Jamie’s does one of the best, and I won’t eat carbonara anywhere else. Their brownies are brilliant, the salted caramel ice cream divine. I order the italian nachos and crispy squid every single time. I’m still waiting for the day another restaurant beats Jamie’s at doing those two starters.
So my final verdict? If you’ve never tried it before, or are on the fence, I’d heartily recommend it. When Jamie’s get’s dishes right, they really do get it right, and the prices are more than reasonable. Furthermore, with their small pasta plate options, you can easily pop over for a lighter dinner or lunch. It’s clear the chain isn’t perfect and I’d be reconvinced by it when taste consistency is straightened at least within branches. But I have a Gold Club card there for a reason – they’re still one of the most unique Italian restaurants on the market.