by Mei Leong
Expecting that a queue should correlate to great food may apply in other cities but it definitely does not here, a city that’s slavishly driven by the new. Perth does get wound up by too much hype, and restaurants with a lot of publicity, like Jamie’s Italian, can fall victim to high expectations and judgement.
The restaurant is what it is. It serves food that’s in the vein of Jamie Oliver – simple and casual – and for the price, it’s good value. I’ve been twice and the food was consistent. It’s not mind blowing but more than suitable for a long and languid post shopping lunch. The service each time has been lovely (and even cute). It’s a great option for a casual meal and if you take it as that, without the hype, it’s very likeable.
Honeycomb cannelloni 3 ways. $19.00
These chips were deliciously chunky and cheesy, but the truffle oil was barely detectable. Posh chips, $6.50.
Maybe first impressions do count, because the first meal, lunch, was fabulous. The rather oily on-the-house bread and the noise of surrounding tables were drowned out by our main-turned-starter of honeycomb cannelloni.
Turn on their heads, the cannelloni tubes stood upright, their tri-coloured fillings oozing out through the crusty white sauce. The pumpkin was a quick favourite, a bright orange puree that was a little spicy and sweet. We spooned our way through the network of pasta, revealing the ricotta and spinach filling that was rich and melt in the mouth. The third filling, the aubergine and sun dried tomato, was basically a hit a saltiness. Overall, the dish was a hit.
Game meatball, $22.
Being a sucker for names, I went straight for the giant game meatball. (Though I’m still not sure what’s game about the meatball.) The size of two fists, the meatball was as good (or as average) as a meatball gets. Tender and herbaceous, whatever thunder it had was stolen by the polenta and the ragù. Buttery, sticky and thick, the polenta was smooth with just enough graininess to remind you it was indeed polenta, not just a slop of cheesy goodness. I stirred in the garlicky tomato sauce and scraped that plate clean. The cavolo nero (black cabbage) being slightly bitter, balanced out the dish.
The extremely addictive, gooey polenta.
The fish plank. From the left: mini fritto misto, yuzu mayonnaise, roasted mussels and clams, beetroot cured salmon, shaved carrots and beetroot, smoked mackerel pate with Sicilian olives, pickled chillies and caperberries. There are also two thin slices of pecorino, just out of the shot. Fish plank, $12.50 per person.
Our second visit was a dinner booked 2 months in advance. And boy, was I glad to have a booking because that Friday night queue (to leave a phone number, not for a table!) was just crazy, crazy long. I decided to make this booking worth its while by stuffing myself silly. The whole hog, three course gambit, yeah baby.
The plank is where value for money at Jamie’s really comes into play. At $12.50 each, the seafood plank is definitely worth ordering. There’s also a smallgoods focussed meat plank and a vegetarian version too.
Let’s start with the fried fish. The four pieces of whiting and herring (I think) were overcooked. They were crumbed which is a little misleading, because fritto misto is usually battered, no? Loved the in-house cured beetroot salmon, which was tender with the right amount of salt and tang from the cure.
The favourite little dish by far was the smoked mackerel brandade. Each slice of baguette smeared with the creamed, ferrous mackerel was topped with big, fat Sicilian olives, a juicy caperberry and vinegar pickled chillies for huge punches of flavour. The rest of the plank was good – the roasted clams and mussels were fresh and lightly seasoned, while the beetroot and carrot coleslaw provided some lemony acid.
Rounding off the plank were two slices of aged pecorino (sorry it got chopped off in the photo). The pecorino was bitey, made even more interesting with what was essentially, sweet chilli sauce.
Prawn linguine that was better than average. Main portion $26.50.
Blue swimmer crab risotto. Entree-sized portion, $16.
Good for the most part, the blue swimmer crab risotto’s high points lay in the sweet, picked crab meat and its spot on viscous texture. It was really creamy and spoonable. However the dish also came with a spoonful of fried seasoned breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs were overly salty and added a dry texture to the risotto. If I had my time again, I’d hold the breadcrumbs and enjoy the risotto as it is
There’s quite a bit of English heritage on the menu and perhaps none more so than the bakewell tart. With a soft layer of jam, the pudding was fragrant with clementine and really tart from the fruit. In fact if you don’t like sour desserts don’t order this; however I thought it was heavenly with the thickened cream, just melting over the warm frangipane. I’m not sure where else for $8 you’d get such a satisfyingly stodgy dessert.
Which is what Jamie’s really is: a crowd pleasing, average to above average Italian restaurant, that by Perth standards is pretty good value. Forget the hype and expectations, it’s probably better to go in, ignore the Oliver name (quite hard when there’s merchandise crawling all over the restaurant) and see it as Italian food with a British twist. It’s nothing fancy, it won’t knock your socks off, but I think it’s a really good dining option right in the centre of the city.
A satisfyingly tart, tart. Sour cherry bakewell, $8.
140 William Street, Perth WA 6000
T: +61 8 9363 8600
Mon – Sun 11am – 10:30pm
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