I had both heard of Jamie Oliver and knew that St Catz does not serve dinner on Sunday evenings, so instead of the usual Dominoes drop off, I went for a meal at Jamie’s Italian. This place had come up in conversation with a friend a while ago, and received a tentatively positive review: ‘yeah, just like so many flavours, I mean, ya know nice, but like you couldn’t really ever have it more than once, because, ya know’. No, I didn’t really know, so intrigued at these alarming new ‘flavours’ which could only ever be eaten once I showed up to the Jamie Oliver emporium.
Grayson Perry’s documentary ‘All In the Best Possible Taste’ which explored the intersection between class and taste, portrayed the peculiar obsessions of a group of middle class people in Kings Hill in Kent with the chef. Not just recipe books and TV shows, these people had bought into Oliver in a big way, their gleaming show kitchens shrines to his range of cookware. Sitting in the humming restaurant, the planks that the food is later served on and various cooking implements dangle from the wall complete with price labels. Jamie Oliver is not just a chef, Jamie Oliver, or now just Jamie, is a way of life. The very friendly waiter seems part of the Jamie conspiracy too, as his charm is very much in a familiarly Jamie vein; affable cheeky chappy with knowledge of ingredients and rhyming slang which may or may not have been authentic.
Despite the slightly surreal Jamie saturation, the atmosphere was warm and upbeat with a balance of big groups of celebrating students and parental guilt trips. The food was lovely, with particular highlights being the tender lamb lollipops to be flavoured and seasoned to taste with a variety of yummy things (obviously on a wooden plank) and the lemon meringue pie which was light and not too tangy. The espresso martini also comes highly recommended. The cheesy mushrooms were nice and rustic and the menu offers a huge variety of familiar Italian staples, albeit with more pretentious descriptions than I was used to, which is quite amusing (see, the obsession with serving food ‘on ice’). Jamie’s is not cheap, but with the £5 Student Deal voucher which gets you any pasta or burger for a fiver from Monday to Thursday then it’d definitely worth going to see for yourself. In spite of the warnings I received, I will be going back for what is essentially flavoursome Italian food in an oddly cultish setting. Pucker.