Noble Savage (he says):
Everyone knows Jamie Oliver. Love him or hate him, no one can argue that his recipes are always simple, straight-forward feel-good food. More often than not, when I’ve got some ingredient and I’m not sure what to do with it, I end up using one of his recipes as my guide. So I was quite excited to hear that he decided to open a restaurant in Joburg (and not Cape Town!). And even more so when we were invited to a media launch event!
Let me first get my utter disappointment out of the way: the kids’ menu is on a View Master, while adults have to sit with a regular printed menu. Unfair! At least the “regular” menu is nice and colourful, so there’s some consolation.
As part of the event, we were offered a variety of dishes form the menu. We started with their platters; basically charcuterie and cheese (mostly imported).
They then gave us a selection of pizzas. As I relegated myslef to the end of the table, I only had a few slices of the Julietta (Margarita).And I’m glad I didn’t have any others, because this one was awesome! A crispy base, homemade tomato sauce with basil, and buffalo mozzarella. Very simple, very tasty.
As a main meal, we were asked to order on of the pasta dishes. I decided on the Mussel Linguini – mussels, white wine, tomatoes, and garlic and chilli. Again, like the pizza, the dish is not an overload of flavours, and it brings out the best of the mussels. That being said, I did expect something a bit more “Wow!”, but I guess that’s the problem with the hype around any of this type of place. (I’m not going to comment on the portion size – I already had a lot to eat, so to me the portion was massive!)
The décor of the restaurant is not really my taste. The table settings are nice and simple, but the light fittings border on kitsch and over-done. In my mind, Italian should be simple and welcoming. Jamie’s doesn’t quite get this right, and it feels too much like a simple restaurant trying to be fine dining.
Now for the elephant in the room: Jamie’s is pretty pricey. The pasta dish I had is on the menu for R130, which is not that unreasonable, but the dish doesn’t quite justify the price. The pizza I tasted is on the menu for R95 – now that doesn’t sound too bad, it’s basically a Margarita. Again, it could be that I expected more because of the hype around Jamie’s, but the pricing puts it a little bit out of my league.
BoozyFoodie (she said):
In general – my opinion of Jamie’s Italian does differ a bit from Noble Savage’s. And remember, that is okay 😉 I actually liked the decor – when we were taken on a ‘tour’ of the restaurant, we were told that the touches of plated gold was included on purpose, to fit into Jozi, the City of Gold. Yes, even in the bathrooms (with Jamie Oliver branded toilets – ahh, the finer details 😉
Okay, a few steps back – I’ve been watching the excitement about Jamie’s Italian opening it’s first branch in South Africa in Johannesburg with baited breath! First – the news broke, and then – where in Joburg – and then the big reveal “Melrose Arch”. It is one of my favourite ‘precincts’ in Johannesburg, exciting stuff!
I think I was one of the first people to follow the Instagram account (check it out, it is quite a stunning feed https://www.instagram.com/jamiesitaliansa/) – keeping an eye on the developments amd eagerly awaiting confirmation of the opening date. And the buzz was quite astounding! So imagine my joy when we cracked an invite to attend this media launch evening.
We were also taking on a walkaround, and let me tell you, the restaurant was packed!
So it was marvelous that Chef Shane Smit took the time out of a hectic dinner service to share his own personal journey, as well as the philosophy behind Jamie’s Italian restaurant. The focus is on quality ingredients, with a fine line between importing the best possible italian cheese and getting freshly baked high quality goodies from the supplier up the road. He passion and drive is contagious, truely inspirational to listen to.
Okay, that is me going off the rails again – we were there for the FOOD!
We sampled some of the anti-pasta platters – both vegetarian and meaty. And again, the pure quality of the ingredients were the true winners. Top-notch! We tried a few pizzas as well, and the Julieta was definitely my favourite. For mains I ordered the Procini Fettucine. And it was superb!
The service was a little slow, but again, we were quite a large group to manage. In general it was a great experience – especially becuase of the opportunity to chat with Chef Shane, the food was delicious, and I actually thought it was reasonable priced compared to other high-end Italian eateries.