There's probably not a person in Sydney who hasn't made a visit to the newly opened Jamie's Italian, or at least doesn't have a visit planned sometime in the not to distant future.
It seems that everything Jamie Oliver touches turns to gold and his latest Jamie's Italian in the heart of Sydney's CBD is no exception. I've heard of people queuing for two hours to get a table, or turning up for dinner at 4.00pm to try and beat the crowds. The restaurant serves up to 600 people each night...and that's on a slow night!
I wasn't going to queue for 2 hours for dinner, but I was happy to turn up at 5.00pm to meet Miss M for an early dinner. I took a seat at the bar for 30 minutes and sipped on my Strawberry and Elderflower Cordial ($4.10) and waited for Miss M to finish work. By 5.15pm the place was getting full, and by 5.30pm there was hardly a spare seat in the house - I was getting worried! Miss M texted at 5.40pm that she was just fixing her make-up before heading down to meet me. Make-up? What? Don't waste time on make-up (the restaurant is dark anyway) - we need to get a seat NOW or risk ending up the end of the ever-growing queue that was rapidly forming outside. Miss M and I were seated by 5.45pm at the second last table for two in the entire place. Phew!
We start with the Italian Bread Selection. The bread is "on the house", however you have to order it - it's not automatically brought to the table, which is good to know for new players like us.
For entree we choose two small dishes. The Crispy Polenta Chips ($8.00) are a must order in my piggy opinion - they are totally delicious! The poletna cubes are fried to a crispy perfection, yet remain soft and fluffy inside. The seasoning of rosemary, parmesean and salt has me polishing off a good portion of the bowl. The Fat Green Olives on Ice ($6.00) are another stellar entree and a nice fresh counterbalance to the fried polenta chips. The olives are firm, plump and nicely cold thanks to the bed of ice the are served on.
Miss M decides to forgo a pasta main and orders the Best of Aussie Lamb Spiedini ($25.00). The lamb skewer is HUGE with at least four or five pieces of plump marinated lamb which sits attop of smashed potato salad in a mint and yoghurt dressing.
To me Italian food is all about pasta, pasta, pasta and more pasta. The pasta at Jamie's Italian is made fresh every day on premises - you can watch the pasta being made in the front window, which is good entertainment I suppose if you're stuck waiting outside for two hours. For once my eyes are not bigger than my stomach and I stick with an entree sized Monachelle Puttanesca ($12.00 for an entree size, or $17.50 for a main size if you are so inclined). The shell pasta is topped with a rich tomota sauce, capers, anchovies, parsley, sliced black olives and a spoonful of herby breadcrumbs that you mix through the pasta to give it a bit of a textural crunch. Very nice - I was really happy with my choice.
We both had a great dinner at Jamie's Italian (in fact this Miss M's second visit). The staff are all very friendly, if a bit rushed off their feet - therefore if you're wanting fast service be assertive and grab the waiters attention like we did. Our waiter was a hoot - we couldn't quite figure out if his Italian accent was real, but his recommendation were authentic - avoid the salad on the specials board he said as the pasta is better value for money. As he doused my pasta in Parmesan cheese we both agreed that everything tastes better with Parmesan. It sure does!
Jamie's Italian is at 107 Pitt Street, Sydney. Phone them on 8240 9000. They only take bookings for groups of 6 or more, so get there early or be prepared to wait.