Along with most of Canberra, I headed to Jamie’s Italian when it opened to the general public on Wednesday night. We didn’t have a booking. The website claims that online bookings are being accepted but it’s either a really bad booking system or most tables had been allocated, as I couldn’t book for any night this month! Hmm nothing more frustrating than a booking system that doesn’t work.
My friends and I headed in early, around 5.30pm to queue up. Luckily we didn’t need to and got a table inside straight away. The restaurant is massive with a huge outdoor area as well.
I love the use of wooden decor throughout the whole restaurant, and the colourful furniture and tiles that pop up everywhere. The charcuterie counter is most impressive with an assortment of meats and chillies hanging down.
Towards the main entrance is the bar. At 5.30pm, I noticed the great number of wait/kitchen/bar staff. There are so many of them!
Seating indoors is a mixture of booths with green leather padded seats in the middle of the restaurant, separated by small glass panels for some privacy (I love the cute business-like desk lamps placed alongside the booths), tables of 2 and 4 along the walls with mahogany leather padded seats lining the wall, a larger communal-looking table in front of the charcuterie counter, and many wooden tables and colourful chairs dotted throughout the place. There are all kinds of lighting used inside with a quirky chandelier, bronze metallic hanging lamps, lights along the wall and more. The big windows allowing in the sunshine also adds to making this a bright cheerful place to sit, eat and people watch. There are so many tables available! And yet, by 7pm a queue had begun.
Pleased to see non-alcoholic beverages besides water and juice on the drinks menu. I ordered a virgin ginger mojito ($6.50). This was refreshing and tasty – couldn’t taste much ginger ale though.
While waiting for our last dining companion to arrive, our friendly waitress asked if we’d like a bread tin ($1.50) to start off with (yes it’s not a typo $1.50!). Yes please! This consisted of 4 types of Italian bread – homemade rosemary focaccia, grissini (breadstick), music bread (big pappadum-like bread) and ciabatta. All were herby, slightly oily and tasted of rosemary and salt. Nice presentation and yum! The box it came in was dripping in oil and left a bit of a mess on the table.
We ordered once our group of 4 was complete. Then we waited…and waited…and waited. 50 minutes later and still nothing. A nice waiter came over to us and apologised for what was known as a ‘Phantom Cheque’. The order was put through the computer system, then the system shut down, and our order was lost. I just hope they can fix that system before the weekend when it will undoubtedly get a lot busier.
About 15 minutes later, our entrees finally arrived. I couldn’t go past the crispy tomato and mozzarella arancini balls ($10.50). These were beautifully presented and tasted just as good. True to its name, the outside was nice and crispy and the inside soft and delicious with some cheesy goodness. The spicy arrabbiata sauce it sat on gave it some kick along with the pickled red chillies (which I didn’t bother trying). The sauce provided just enough spice for me. Full of flavour and tasty!
My friend ordered the ‘World’s best olives on ice’ ($6.50) – large green olives, black olive tapenade and music bread, all sitting on a metal chalice filled with ice. Again, kudos on presentation.
A complimentary side of polenta chips (usually $8.50) were provided for the computer system glitch. Too bad my two gluten-intolerant friends couldn’t enjoy it. I love polenta chips and these were fantastic. Crispy on the outside so they provided a nice crunch when you bite into it. The grated parmesan on top and rosemary went really well with it too. Mmm great flavours!
Our mains arrived half an hour later. The great thing about the pasta dishes on the menu is that there are two sizes you can choose from. The normal main size and a half size/entree size. Because I wanted to try dessert (as always), I decided on the entree size mortadella and ricotta panzerotti ($12.50). The panzerotti is stuffed with chicken and mortadella mince – not bad and quite plain on its own. It was smothered in a wonderfully creamy blue cheese sauce which meant you didn’t really need parmesan on top. It was lightly covered with a smattering of toasted pistachios and walnuts which provided another element to the dish. On top of that, apples were cut out in thin zig-zag slices providing a tiny sour note to the dish – loved it! Dried and crispy slices of mortadella were also sprinkled on top, giving some pop-out colour. Happy with this dish and all of the elements and textures.
Food porn of my friend’s dishes – the entree sized wild rabbit tagliolini ($14.50).
The entree sized wild truffle risotto ($14.50)
Gluten-free meals are not marked on the menu, so you will need to ask your waiter/waitress for what can be made. Our waitress was very friendly but didn’t know what could be made gluten-free. She had to go ask her manager a few times (still in training which is fine). They did have gluten-free pasta but only certain dishes could be made without gluten.
Gluten-free friend #1 chose the main sized spaghetti alla norma ($18.50), with the spaghetti substituted for gluten-free penne.
Gluten-free friend #2 chose the main sized bolognaise, also replaced with gluten-free penne ($19.50).
Everyone was happy with their meals. One of my friend’s ordered the non-alcoholic ‘Refresher’ drink – a mix of cranberry juice, elderflower cordial and lemonade.
There are a few different dessert options available priced between $7 – $11. You don’t see many desserts around that price these days so I was suitably impressed.
I’d already decided what I wanted for dessert – the chocolate and vin santo pot ($9.50). This consisted of a very rich chocolate mousse filled in a cup with a thin layer of cream on top and dusted with cocoa powder. The dessert was served with a scoop of zabaglione ice cream (usually made of egg yolk, sugar and sweet wine) – this was absolutely divine and provided a luscious sweetness with the chocolate. Perfection. I wanted more ice cream! The hazelnut biscotti was average and I think it was meant to help tie in the ice cream with the mousse. It looked good but it didn’t increase my eating pleasure. The biscuit crumbs on top provided some crunchiness and overall, made the dessert look better.
Now I love chocolate. The Koko Black dessert degustation night was heaven for me. However, I found the chocolate in this dessert, though wonderfully smooth, had really sharp notes to it. It tasted like there was a higher cocoa content that most other chocolate mousses. I thought there was also a hint of fruitiness that was distracting (to me at least), and a slightly sour aftertaste. Vin Santo is an Italian dessert wine made of grapes so this is the fruitiness I picked up. I can usually easily polish off dessert but I only managed to eat half of this. Another reason for this is that my palate prefers (and is used to) milk chocolate and not the bolder bittersweet chocolates. One of my friends ordered this and managed to finish off the entire thing and was scraping down the sides so it really depends on what kind of chocolate you prefer.
Food porn of my friends’ desserts – the tutti frutti lemon meringue pie ($9.50)
The wobbly creamy panna cotta with a compote of seasonal fruits ($8.50)
The price of food at Jamie’s is cheap and reasonable especially when you compare with other restaurants nearby. Besides the computer system hiccup and our wait time, I enjoyed eating here. The food is quite simple, there’s no real ‘wow factor’ but there is a focus on fresh food at great value.
One minor concern is the bread station. We noticed that all wait staff would head to the bread station to slice the assortment of breads for their diners. However, they weren’t wearing gloves nor were there any tea towels or paper towels used when handling the assortment of breads. With the number of wait staff working, and the number of times the bread is touched, you’d think a more hygienic way of handling bread would be put in place. This is a minor concern but still a worry if anyone were to get sick.
Service was good. Our waitress was still in training but we appreciated her asking the manager about gluten-free meals and constantly checking on us to see if we needed more drinks. Two different wait staff also came out to talk to my friends about their gluten-free options.
Around the 8.30pm mark, the many wait staff we noticed when we first sat down were now rushing around flat out on their feet. There was a huge queue outside and we realised the restaurant had gotten steadily noisier. With the 4 of us, I had to raise my voice to talk to my friends. For groups of more than 4, I’d say you’d have to shout quite loudly to hear someone at the other end of the table. One thing big groups should be wary of is tables of 12 people or more are hit with an 8% gratuity fee.
Couldn’t resist taking a photo of the funky bathrooms. And I wasn’t the only one!
For the value, I’d definitely go back to Jamie’s and try out more dishes. And I hope they can sort out their online booking system soon.