Jamie Oliver’s latest dining spot in Brisbane has Tiana Templeman feeling a little lukewarm.
There is no denying Jamie’s Italian is the hottest restaurant in town. One of Brisbane’s hippest nightclubs used to occupy this site in the ’80s and getting a table for a ‘lovely jubbly’ dinner proves even more challenging than getting past the pastel-clad Rosie’s doorman on a Friday night. The best option, a 4:45pm sitting on a Monday, offers another blast from the past. I haven’t eaten this early since I was five.
Our dining experience has more ups and downs than a classic 1980s rom-com but two things really impress. The cool Italian-farmhouse-meets-hipster fit-out and the charming staff who are young, enthusiastic, and eager to please.
Both bring a funky, energetic vibe to the restaurant as does the soundtrack, which doesn’t appear to have changed much since my last foray here in 1989. This isn’t a criticism. It’s fun, upbeat and works surprisingly well. However, the rest of what’s on offer is somewhat less successful.
First our drinks fail to materialise and we have to chase them down. Twice. They eventually arrive after the food which offers an appealing mix of modern Italian appetisers, antipasti, house-made pasta and Italian-inspired mains.
We’ve skipped the signature wooden planks, which come loaded with cured meats, fish or vegetables, in favour of a selection of other dishes. Everything arrives together – entrees, mains, sides, the lot – so it seems strange when the waitress asks if we’d like share plates given we need them almost by default.
Some dishes hit the mark, others not so much. Prawns wrapped in crispy angel hair pasta are visually appealing enough to justify the $14.50 price tag (just) but lack any sort of kick from the tomato and chilli sauce. This dish is the last to be finished.
An entrée of lamb and ricotta tortellini is more appealing although the flavoursome broth is much needed to moisten the filling which is rather dry, as are the tops of the tortellini. Tiny daubs of ricotta lack the generosity we have come to expect from Italian cuisine.
Fortunately these disappointing dishes are redeemed by the daily special: half a chicken flat-roasted with a dash of Italian spice and served on a bed of broadbeans, capers and zucchini. It is perfectly cooked and the zesty accompaniments are the ideal foil for this rustic dish. A crunchy side of rainbow slaw dressed with mint and yoghurt is equally good.
Desserts are fine but just like a typical ’80s romantic comedy, there are complications. The delicately flavoured (and excellent) amaretto ice-cream served with the chocolate brownie is overpowered by an overly rich chocolate sauce.
We rescue the accompanying chewy caramelised amaretti popcorn from the encroaching brown tide just in time. Tutti frutti lemon meringue pie looks impressive, topped with a mountain of meringue and a sprinkle of pistachio brittle, but a lack of lemon filling makes this dessert almost impossibly sweet.
The bill for two comes to just over $100, which isn’t exactly cheap, especially given the patchy quality of our dining experience. As we leave to the dulcet tones of a young Michael Hutchence singing ‘This is what you need…’ I am not entirely sure I agree with him when it comes to this latest addition to Brisbane’s dining scene.
The details: Jamie’s italian 237 Edward Street, Brisbane, Queensland
The verdict: Keep your expectations low and you won’t be disappointed.
The score: 12/20; satisfactory
We rated: The friendly service, funky fit-out and retro soundtrack.
We hated: The poor execution of dishes.
Notes: Jamie’s Italian does take walk-ins but the wait can be up to two hours.
Contact: 07 3144 3000; jamieoliver.com
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