Well, its arrival in town certainly wasn't subtle. Everyone has been screaming from the rooftops about Jamie Oliver's new restaurant. Located in the historic Rowes Arcade on Edward Street, the venue takes up two floors — making it the largest Jamie's Italian in Australia.
You heard correctly; there is more than one Jamie's Italian in the world. In fact there are five in Australia, and more than 30 scattered throughout the rest of the globe. But does a chain restaurant tick the boxes?
I'll say yes. The brand has successfully melded the best of three cultures. We were greeted at the door by English accents, told about the three Queensland craft beers on tap and shown the fresh pasta machines on the way to our table. Upstairs is the front bar, pasta machines (worth a sweet $20k each and painted fire-engine red for Mr Oliver) and antipasti bar — a floating kitchen/bar with big legs of meat, garlic and tomatoes hanging decoratively above. Downstairs is the open kitchen, another bar and plenty of tables and booths.
The antipasti bar upstairs spends its time crafting Jamie's signature 'planks' — long wooden boards that come decorated with either meats, fish or vegetables. We opted for the classic meat ($14pp) that came with four types (personal favourite, the Wagyu bresaola) plus pecorino, Buffalo mozzarella, olives, peppers and caper berries. Two tins of Italian tomatoes are used to hold the long plank above your table.
As for mains, they all sound incredible — but how could you walk past the pasta? Homemade in front of your eyes, fresh pasta really does make the difference (as was evident here). The bolognese ($19.50) was a classic pick, and it didn't disappoint. If you like your greens, add some on the side.
Overall, the restaurant had a sense of theatre about it. It's a buzzing hive of activity with loud chatter, busy chefs and staff working the floor. We agree that often a new restaurant needs at least four weeks to find its feet, but this Jamie's has it from the get-go — in part, we could assume, since it learnt its mistakes elsewhere.