Hype, drama, action! The doors of Jamie Oliver’s first restaurant in Perth, and second Italian restaurant in Australia, were flung open two weeks ago.
Situated in the cool 140 William Street precinct, Jamie’s Italian is large, seating over 200 people. There is a bar area at the front, or out the back, depending on which entrance you use.
We entered from the north William Street entrance at 4pm on a Monday afternoon. Despite all the empty tables, we were not greeted warmly and instructed to walk across the restaurant to see the ‘lady in black’. We obliged, and were told by the said lady in black to see someone else. Sigh.The correct hostess showed us to a table, which was about 10 cm away from the occupied table next to it. I asked if we could be seated at another empty table for two at the end of the booth. Initially she said no because the table wasn’t made up. What? What’s to make up? There’s no table cloths, just bring cutlery and a napkin. I was surprised and taken back by the Gen Y back-chat to my reasonable customer request. The hostess quickly changed her tack and asked us to wait a few minutes while she makes up the table. It took her 30 seconds and we were seated.
Despite the clunky start to service, we had a friendly and efficient waiter for the rest of our time there. I’ll go so far to say that our British waiter actually redeemed our initial sour impressions of service. Well done, chap.
Drinks to start; I was excited and delighted to see aperol spritz ($11) on the menu – my favourite Italian aperitivo. In Italy it’s made with equal parts of aperol and prosecco (sparkling wine), over ice with a slice of orange. Some places include a dash of soda. At Jamie’s Italian the balance between the prosecco and the aperol was off, too much prosecco, not enough aperol. What a shame. I’d go there again and again just to have an aperol spritz if they got it right – each sip had the potential to ignite my memories of Rome. It was not to be.
The house red wine was a sangiovese blend from Victoria, priced reasonabley at $37 for the bottle and was easy to drink without being remarkable. Sadly, no WA wines featured on the wine list.
Three kinds of complementary (i.e. free) bread were brought to the table with a freshly poured olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a dipping dish. Love that. The carta di musica bread, from Sardinia, was crispy and I was very excited to see it in a Perth restaurant. The house made grissini and ciabiata were both moorish. A great way to start our meal.
The variety on the menu would cater for most palates and the dishes were reasonably priced.
We had a blackboard special entree of crispy stuffed risotto balls smoked mozzarella and porcini arancini ($9.50). It was texturally balanced; crunchy crumbed outer, soft rice centre with robust cheese and porcini flavours. The side chilli tomato salsa was spicy hot and did not complement the dish in my mind. It was the same side sauce on the smoked mozzarella pumpkin nachos ($7), which were not really nachos as I know them. They were more like deep fried ravioli with very little filling. They were crunchy like the skin of a deep fried wanton, the smoked mozzarella was pronounced and the sweetness of the pumpkin came through. The textures and flavours worked well together, despite the confusing name of the dish.
For main, Zorba had a large serve of sausage pappadelle ($18) which was like a thick bolognese with rich deep flavours. The fresh pasta was perfect. A beautiful dish and a generous portion.
I had a small rabbit tagliatelle with lemon marscapone ($12.50). The pasta was perfect but the sauce has very strong lemon flavours that took over the dish. It was not unpleasant, but I wasn’t able to really taste the rabbit. The small size wasn’t that small, and unless you are a big eating Greek, like Zorba, a small size would satisfy, particularly so if you are ordering other dishes.
We both noticed that the grated parmesan didn’t have the usual parmesan bite that we both love.
For dessert, we had the chocolate vin santo pot. Vin Santo, a traditional dessert wine that hails from Tuscany, is usually served with very hard and dry biscotti that are dipped into the wine to soften. The chocolate pot at Jamie’s was completely different to the Tuscan tradition. It was rich and creamy and I couldn’t taste any alcohol. The cocoa dusting was a little bitter, but when eaten with the rich creamy mousse like centre, it was fine.
The warehouse-style ceiling has big steel air conditioning ducts is softened by the huge tiered crystal chandelier that illuminates a sense of elegance to the space. The atmosphere is buzzy. Bright red diner-style bench seats line the booths that act as room dividers, as well as giving the place a splash of colour. The music is hip and varied from current top ten chart toppers to Italian classics, but it worked really well. I found myself bopping along to the tunes.
Verdict: The prices are very reasonable, the food is good, some dishes mind-blowing, others were ok. It was the over all atmosphere and the fact we had a great table that wasn’t on top of other diners that made our night memorable. Would I wait two hours for a table? Probably not. We’ll go back again once the hype dies down a bit.
140 William St, Perth, WA 6000
Tel: +61 8 9363 8600
Open Monday to Sunday 11am until late.