Not much of a celebrity chef groupie (not that Jamie Oliver is ever physically at this restaurant), I thought I was going to wait this out one. I mean, who really has the time to wait an hour and a half for a table?
Well, I was wrong. The queues to Jamie's Italian in Sydney, which by the way, already has over 25 replicas overseas, has been CRAZY. And so I got roped into waiting. My sister was adamant we dine there.
It turns out that if you go on a Monday night, it's not too bad afterall. We were seated within 30 minutes. Woohoo!
If you've ever been to Industrie Bar, you'll be impressed by the transformation. Gone is the sophisticated decor. Instead, there's now a warm rustic vibe complete with distressed wooden panels and exposed brick walls, boxes of freshly made pastas, a charcuterie station with lots of hanging garlic, tomatoes and peppers; and a wide open kitchen.
The metal chairs clearly aren't there for comfort. If anything, Jamie's Italian has been designed as a quick dine in experience. That is, once you get a table.
From there, everything flows rather smoothly. The service is knowledgable, thoughtful and rather impeccable.
Bread is complimentary. There's ciabatta, focaccia and grissini with some sort of fresh herb pesto and balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping.
There's four of us so we decide to share three starters. The menu descriptions are overly descriptive but nonetheless helps facilitate our decision making. What's there not to like about Italian Nachos ($7 - pictured above, top-right) "Crispy fried four-cheese ravioli with angry arrabiatta sauce"?
Unfortunately, much of the cheese is dried out so the ravioli barely tastes cheesy, although anything deep-fried is always tasty. The sauce has a tiny kick of spicyness which brings the dish alive.
We also try the smoky scamorza arancini ($9.50 - pictured above, top-left) which are crispy rice balls stuffed with smoked mozzarella and porcini mushrooms. They're hot and crisp on the outside and creamy and rich on the inside. It doesn't really need the sauce.
Since we already have two deep-fried starters, we continue the pattern with another. The mushroom fritti ($9 - pictured above, bottom-left) are breaded mushroom slices served with aioli, or as they call it "garlicky mayo". The serving size looks deceptively generous as I later discover that the mushrooms were stacked on top of some scrunched paper. With that said, the mushrooms were my favourite of the three starters.
Onto main course - we again decide to share. It's what Jamie would do right?
The 10oz rib-eye Wagga Wagga steak ($38 - pictured below) is cooked to a blushing medium as requested. It is cooked "al mattone" under a hot brick, an ancient technique used in Tuscany. It's clearly a good steak but how the brick enhances the taste, I don't know.
Next is the bucatini carbonara ($19 - pictured below). Tubes of al dente pasta with smoked pancetta and leek, tossed with free-range eggs and parmesan. There's no saucy cream in this carborana, it gets straight down to the good stuff. The bucatini is the perfect pasta for this dish as it grips onto every flavour and texture. I can't get enough of the smoky pancetta which adds a certain depth to the pasta.
The Ligurian fish stew ($27 - pictured above, top-left) is like a bouillabaisse with plenty of mussels, fish, prawns and fennel. It is served with two slices of crusty crostini, perfect for mopping up all the juices.
The crab and squid ink risotto ($26.50) is beautiful and delicate in flavour. It's a black creamy rice with hand-picked spanner crab topped with breadcrumbs.
We also share two side dishes - flash cooked greens ($7) and funky chips ($5.50). The greens are a seasonal mix consisting of Swiss chard, cabbage and zucchini. They're tossed with chilli and garlic - nothing special but delicious. The chips are crunchy and moreish and feature even more garlic and parsley.
With just enough room for dessert, we share the Italian bakewell tart ($9) and the brioche con gelato ($9.50).
The tart isn't the prettiest of desserts but it does satisfy.
Meanwhile, I find the 'icecream burgers' irresistible. They're as delectable as they are adorable. Buttery brioche buns, filled with a scoop of gelato, a smear of marmalade and some crushed pistachios. They're a mess to tackle but it's absolutely worth having melted gelato run down your arm for!
There's not a single aspect of Jamie's Italian that goes by without his name stamped on it, and this includes the napkins! I suppose it's no surprise that when you're given the bill, you're also given a list of souveniers available for sale.
At least the meal lived up to the affordable Italian branding. Our bill came to almost $175 (food only) which is just over $40 per person.
Will I dine here again?
Yes, maybe when the hype dies down.
Jamie's Italian, Sydney
107 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW
Phone: (02) 8240 9000