A couple of years after I left Cancer Research, they moved to this huge, shiny, posh, soulless building just opposite Angel station. A new branch of Jamie’s Italian has recently taken half of the ground floor of the same building – so new that the website actually still says ‘Coming Soon in Summer 2011′ as they haven’t officially launched yet.
As part of the soft launch and to help train the staff, they have been offering 50% off food deals to the staff in the same building, so I went along last week with one of my best mates and four others. I have never been to a Jamie’s Italian (or any other Jamie Oliver restaurant come to think of it) so wasn’t at all sure what to expect.
We met up with another couple of my ex-colleagues for a quick drink beforehand as half of the area is set aside as ‘Jamie’s Bar’. This sis definitely NOT somewhere I would go again. There are a vast array of pubs and bars in Islington, and some of them are fantastic! This however wasn’t. This is a very new building and the ceiling is really high. there was an industrial theme to the space and it meant that everything was hard surfaces. The background noise was terrible!! When we first arrived, there couldn’t have been more than 10 people in the pretty large bar area, and yet I could barely hear what the person next to me was saying…when more people arrived, we had to break into smaller groups to talk as it was impossible to hold a group conversation. It also cost me well over a tenner for two vodka and diet cokes!!!!!! Shocking from such a bland environment!
Anyway, we were shown to our table, and the actual restaurant area is a far nicer space (although did get VERY dark later on). It was still quite hard to hear what was being said the other side of the table, but we fell into part-shouting and listening VERY closely, so it got easier over time.
The menu actually reads really nicely, with nibbles, antipasti, pasta (available as small or main course) and mains. There were quite a few dishes that I would have been very happy to order. We ordered some breads to nibble on, and they were really nice – all diferent types of artisan breads that I believe are baked on the premises.
I plumped for the Risotto Milanese. I have never had bone marrow before, so thought I’d give it a bash. (Excuse the dark photo – didn’t realise the flash didn’t work, and as I said, it was VERY dark in there!)
It wasn’t too bad I guess. I couldn’t really taste the saffron very much, and I couldn’t spot the gremolata to be honest. The fried leaves I was expecting to be crispy, but they were rubbery, and I wasn’t altogether sure I was supposed to be eating them. The bone marrow was disappointing – it was grainy and didn’t have much flavour…and there wasn’t a lot of it. However, I have never had it before, so I wasn’t sure if this was to be expected! I was definitely expecting more herbs though – they seemed non-existent. However, the risotto itself was very creamy and it was a good sized portion. I had also ordered a rocket and raddichio salad as a side – and this was absolutely gorgeous – fresh, crisp, large and very well dressed!
I took pics of everyone else’s food, so might as well show them (as the flash worked too!).
Everyone seemed to enjoy what they had – and they were all decent sized portions.
When it came to dessert, two of were disappointed as they had run out of tiramisu. An Italian that has run out of tiramisu? That was outrageous! (Although I wasn’t altogether sure that the orange mascarpone and the coffee would go together, but was willing to give it a try!) So, I instead went for the Amalfi lemon curd with toasted pistachios and English raspberries, which was quite nice – but not as sharp as I had thought it might be.
Between 4 of us (one wasn’t drinking) we got through a bottle of passable Prosecco and two bottles of decent enough white wine (I am so spoiled by my gorgeous Naked Wines that it feels like a decent bottle to me costs a fortune in restaurants these days!) and including service, we paid £23 each (between the drinkers). So I certainly can’t grumble! For that price, it was a pretty outstanding meal – however, I think I may have felt a little cheated at full price.
It was nice enough food, of good enough quality, cooked pretty well, but I would in no way think of it as ‘a destination’. Somewhere to pop in to catch up with a friend perhaps, but nothing very special.
On Thursday night, I was looking to see if I could find out when Adam & Joe are due to start back on Saturday mornings at 6Music, and happened to come across the fact that Adam Buxton was headlining ‘Live at the chapel‘ at Union Chapel in Islington last night. I was rather shocked to see that there were still tickets, so I ‘secured’ childmiding duties from The Man and booked a couple of tickets straight away for me and my mate.
It was brilliant!
Now, I’ve seen her on Mock The Week and Live At The Apollo or something like that, and always thought she was funny – but she was even better live…perhaps a little more close to the mark than she usually is on the telly, I guess.
Next up was Isy Suttie (Dobby of Peep Show fame), who was only actually on for about 10 minutes, and was sweet and chuckle-worthy, although not laugh out loud, tears running down the face funny.
Short break and then on to Tim Key (poet) – often seen on Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe, and on We Need Answers with Mark Watson (if anyone other than us ever watched it!). He was VERY funny in a very surreal “What the fuck was that?” kind of way. Especially amusing was the ad he had made for ‘Woodland Rain’ shampoo.
And then finally, on to the headling act, the wonderfully funny little man that IS Adam Buxton. Now, he did a turn at 6Fest last year, so we had seen some of his material, but that did not in any way at all stop us from laughing until we could hardly breathe. His take on the comments of the YouTube community are absolutely hysterical.
One thing that I have now seen him perform live twice, which is very amusing is his ‘family friendly’ version of NWA’s infamous “Fuck the police”. If you haven’t seen him do it before, do watch the video – it’s very non-sweary
So, all in all, it was a brilliant night – even better that I’d just told my mate to met me at the station without telling him what we were doing, and as there were no posters or anything, it wasn’t until Isy Suttie said at the end of her set “And you still have Tim Key & Adam Buxton to look forward to!” that he had any idea who was on!
Of course, I have mentioned before that if you get teh chance to see anything at all at Union Chapel, you should go at least once as it’s such a unique venue! Absolutely beautiful.
Now – in the words of NWA (not) ‘Help The Police!’
On Saturday, two of my friends took me out as a birthday treat to the restaurant of my choice. Someone had recommended Le Mercury in Islington to me recently, and I knew the prices were really decent, so didn’t feel too bad about taking them up on the offer!
I am SO glad that we went. It’s somewhere that I have walked past many times and is always crammed full – and I didn’t even realise that there are three floors – I believe all of them were full on Saturday night!
Le Mercury is (obviously) French and is apparently used to being so busy – my only negative comment about the whole experience is that they seemed to have a ‘sitting change’ at a set time. The only time my friend had been able to book was 9.15pm – a little later than we would have liked – but we just made sure we had late lunches! When we got there, it took about 15 minutes or so for everyone to come in or leave. We were on the ground floor, which made it rather annoying to start with as there was a steady stream of people wandering past us and opening the door…however, it all settled down quickly enough.
The prices on the menu are set – £3.95 for starters, £6.95 for mains and £2.95 for desserts with side orders at £1.95 – great prices aye? Bottles of wine were £11.45 to £36.95, which were also great value. There was a specials menu that was slightly more expensive, including bellinis and rossinis (which were gorgeous) but we all chose from the standard menu.
We were surprised at the portion sizes which seemed very generous, and the quality of the food was fantastic!
For starters, we had crayfish & lobster ravioli on spinach with a shellfish foam, foie gras and duck ballotine with poached dates and toast and beef carpaccio with capers and red pepper relish and salad.
Mains we had sea bass with crushed new potatoes and minted pesto (twice) and saddle of lumb on garlic mash, grilled courgettes and rosemary jus. We shared a couple of sides of veg which were really yummy too!!
Desserts were poached pear with sugar glaze and cinammon ice cream and dark chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream.
Everything was scrummy! Everything was flavourful and great quality. It was a brilliant night, with great service that was completely unrushed and I loved every minute of it. I definitely recommend it. the atmosphere was great – and next time I’m definitely going to try the steak – it looked delicious on everyone’s plates!!