In the world of celebrity chefs, creating a restaurant that balances their expertise and signature approach to dining, with an approachability that doesn’t exclude families and the more casual diner hasn’t really featured at all. Jamie’s Italian changed that, with its splicing of simple Italian recipes made with premium, carefully sourced ingredients, a thoroughly welcoming, informal setting, and prices that don’t leave you feeling gouged.
Passing by the Bank of England, making my way further into the City, I was wondering how this careful balance would be maintained at a Jamie’s Italian in one of the world’s most financial hubs. Arriving on Threadneedle Street and entering into the restaurant, it was clear that this was a very special addition to Jamie Oliver’s eateries. Formally a Royal Bank of Scotland, the space has been lovingly preserved to keep the grand chandeliers, the high ceilings, and a general air of old school prestige. This was not some stuffy, elitist retreat though, as the hanging dried meats along the bar and energetic murmur of diners was every bit reminiscent of a much smaller eatery somewhere in Italy. I haven’t seen such a stark contrast in styles working together as well anywhere else in London.
Meat and vegetable planks
Upon receiving the menu, we were reassured to see that the tired Italian recipes found in so many restaurants didn’t feature, and instead could see some real gourmet flair had gone into what replaced them. It didn’t take us long to hone straight in on Jamie’s signature ‘planks’ – think starters that are the embodiment of the Mediterranean vision of sharing what is on the table. Placing down two food tins, the waiter then brought over an expansive wooden board, crammed with every conceivable artisan flavour. On the right, salami laced with fennel, beautifully tender prosciutto, and a schiacciata piccante that left just the right amount of warmth. With these selection of meats on the board, coupled with the display of them hanging on display at the bar area, it felt like we were truly in a restaurant that cares about the quality of even the smallest parts of the menu.
To the left of the plank, the variety of the selection opened up even more. The buffalo mozzarella had just the subtlest of salty finishes (and went perfectly with the bite of the green chillies), while the aged pecorino was lifted with a touch of chilli jam. The roasted seasonal vegetables lightly doused in olive oil had been marinated in herbs to give them more of a depth, and combining them with the olives is a must. Part of the enjoyment of one of these planks is the rapid fire recommendations that result from sharing them – there were quite a few combos we discovered that we had to pass on to each other.
Saddleback Sausage bucatini
With such a success at brining together all of these simple Italian staples like this, we had to see how Jamie had taken on the minefield of pasta. All too often we hear of Italian restaurants dropping the ball with it, despite it being such a foundation of the cuisine. We went for Saddleback Sausage bucatini, which features the signature Jimmy’s Farm sausage, San Marzano tomatoes, Gaeta olives, garlic and basil cress. Beautifully presented, with the pasta itself wound into an impressive mound, we couldn’t even go about decontructing it because of how deep and rich the sausage sauce around it looked. Through the moist mince of the sausage, the sauce had a collection of herbs cutting through the tomato that we just couldn’t figure out. The garlic was in no way overpowering, and when adding in the almost smoky taste of the olives, the pasta had here a true, and not simply something to bulk out the dish. When we unfurled the pasta, it was delightfully firm, and had a satisfying weight to it, leaving it and the sauce to not just meld into one, but maintain their own distinct presence in the dish.
Pan-roasted rose veal milanese
Our eyes couldn’t help but be caught by the sight of the pan-roasted rose veal milanese. Our waiter couldn’t recommend it highly enough, and as soon as it arrived at the table, we saw why. With San Daniele prosciutto and fontina, topped with a Burford Brown fried egg & black truffle, the sight alone was irresistible. The veal itself was fantastically tender and juicy, while the egg and truffle were a combination that was simply perfectly matched. Not only this, but the size of the veal itself was impressive too.
Homemade brownie with salted caramel ice-cream and caramelised amaretti popcorn
Such were the generous portions throughout the meal, that when it came time to order dessert, we decided to share. With Jamie Oliver known for his creative takes in classic dishes, we decided to see how to handled the chocolate brownie. When it comes to it, I’ve always been immensely disappointed by chocolate brownies, virtually everywhere. In so many restaurants, they seem to be treated as a required ‘safe’ option that owners know people will order, so that certainty leaves them sidelined and generally not a dessert to get excited about. Result = dry, coarse, and forgettable. The moment I put my fork into the brownie at Jamie’s though, I knew this one was different. In place of the dry and overly crumbly brownies elsewhere, this one was wonderfully thick, with a consistency almost like chilled fondant. In place of over-sweetness, this one had a rich, deep taste, where clearly the cocoa was of an extremely high quality. Pairing it with salted ice cream was a brilliant move, while the golden caramelised amaretti popcorn’s chewiness was reminiscent of eating a meringue and finding that elusive chewy pocket just beneath the shell. I may have hogged the brownie a little bit, but it was impossible not to. It’s always reassuring when a restaurant takes just as much effort in every section of the menu, with nothing left as an afterthought.
In its City setting, Jamie’s Italian Threadneedle Street maintains the group’s reputation as being a runaway success for its carefully thought out and brilliantly creative take on traditional dishes. In this location though, not only do you get the fantastic signature dishes, but also the absolutely stunning setting of the former bank that it occupies. Going over two floors, with a real change in feel between them all, the restaurant manages to create diversity with it feeling forced at all. While many people may associate the City as a financial hub, when it holds restaurants that genuinely feel special as this, it may be time to explore it far more often.
Jamie’s Italian – Threadneedle St
38 Threadneedle Street, London, EC2R 8AY