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.