Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Naked Chef's Truffles - Jamie's Italian

Last Saturday I made my first foray into the world of celebrity chef dining, not that I intend to make it a habit you understand, but in the British celebrity culture where chefs have carved quite a niche for themselves in the past few years it's hard not to notice the buzz when one of them decides to open a group of authentic restaurants dedicated to being affordable and accessible to everyone. And it's especially hard not to notice the buzz when one of them is located in the small town you currently reside in.

I wish I had more photos, but I was too busy eating!

Atmosphere and setting were lovely and what I'd describe as contemporary rustic. Cheeses and hams were hung from the ceilings above the antipasti kitchen and bar, tins of tomatoes were gathered in and around corners, large sacks of flour decorated steps and there was even a pasta-making machine quietly churning out fresh pasta where we had been enjoying our drinks. This was all dimly lit with the warm glow of low-hanging exposed lightbulbs and lamps, and scattered tealights to create a genuinely welcoming and relaxing ambience.

So what about the food? Well I am no expert on Italian food but I am an expert on what pleases my taste buds and they were for the most part pleased. Having perused the menu I decided on a pasta dish which is a very rare occurrence for me - the pasta machine sitting amongst the bar tables had obviously worked its charm. Cynicism aside, I should say I had arrived with the intention of ordering pasta the reason being I had not eaten fresh premise-made pasta before, only fresh out of a supermarket fridge. And on a roll for trying new things I went for the truffle tagliatelle which I decided to accompany with pan cooked garlicky green beans with tomatoes. I was going all vegetarian, another first. The boyfriend decided otherwise and opted for good old grilled steak with a side of skinny potato chips with rosemary salt. Good choice.

I also should not forget to give a special mention to Jamie's tomato ketchup which was presented in its own rustic glass bottle. It was tastily tomatoey and Jamie may want to cane me for saying this but as it touched my tongue I found myself reminiscing of my childhood when I loved to eat what all children loved to eat: fish fingers with Heinz tinned spaghetti. Sorry Jamie but believe me when I say this is a good thing. Your ketchup is like a grown up version of the tomato sauce I enjoyed as a child which is something Heinz themselves have not been able to bottle.

And of course despite feeling quite full I could not have a meal out without rounding it off nicely with dessert. The boyfriend was swayed by the idea of a bowl of Italian ice creams of the day which disappointingly had already started to melt when they arrived. We played a game of guess the flavour and concluded with vanilla (easy), rhubarb (I got that one) and what I think was toffee, he thought was cookie, then it all melted together so what it was will always remain a mystery. I ordered Gennaro's amalfi orange tart because I love citrus-based baked goodies and this one, which was of a sizeable portion, fulfilled my expectations. As we enjoyed these the chef approached us to say hello and asked if everything was ok. Another happy first for me. and I couldn't end without saying that the service from everyone who served us from the moment we joined the queue to when we left was faultless and friendly.

For the quality of food and dining experience prices were reasonable and quite competitive compared to other high end high street restaurants. Whatever your budget I recommend it to those who want to enjoy good simple food within a laid back but well executed setting. It seems reviews have been mixed but I can only go on my own experience which was on the whole positive.

Jamie's Italian
10 Milsom Place
Phone: 01225 510051

9th November 2008:
Since making this entry I have realised I lied! I only just remembered that in June this year I had some cracking fish and chips at Rick Stein's fish and chip shop in Padstow therefore when I said my visit to Jamie's was my first foray into celebrity chef dining I may have inadvertently told a fib. That said, my views of the old fuddy-duddy Stein's 'celebrity' status remain very dubious anyway although my brother would challenge me to the ground for saying that. I best be on my guard, he - my brother, not Stein - knows martial arts, and he may have Chalky on his side!


kristin said...

Hi C+J,
Your blog is very nice. I feel you with the cold weather munchies! Yikes! The snow is already on the ground here and I just feel like hibernating with a cup of tea and some good chocolate all winter.
If you can find the Milk Oolong I would highly reccomend it, it's divine! Masala Chai is such a nice wintery brew. I've also been drinking a Roiboos Chai, lovely before bed.
All the best!

Anonymous said...

We happened to be in Bath the weekend after the restaurant opened and had lunch there with some friends. We all really enjoyed it, despite the wait. The pasta was particularly good I thought, like you I'm not much of a fresh pasta fan normally.