—–13th Dec 2013—–
I don’t usually go in a restaurant on a Friday night and not have a reservation, that is just asking for a laugh in the face and I’m not good with rejection, but at Jamie’s Italian Canberra they have a different booking system where they have several tables set aside for ‘walk-ins’ i.e. the people who were weren’t fast enough/organised enough to book ahead.
My friend and I arrive at the ‘early bird special’ time of 5:15pm with only having 2 out of the 3 people there for dinner. They said they couldn’t offer anything to us until we were all there, “that’s fine, we will have a drink at the bar”. As we were watching the millions of wait staff whizz around us, one of them handed us a buzzer, as soon as it goes off our table would be ready. ‘That’s nice’ I thought considering we weren’t one of the hoards of people gathering in the doorway waiting in line. Before we even took two sips of our drink, the buzzer goes off and we are led to a table outside (even with one person still missing).
‘Refresher’ mocktail – fresh lemon, elderflower cordial & cranberry juice, topped with lemonade ($6.50). A little bit sour but very refreshing, appropriately named. It is packed with a lot of ice so if you don’t drink it quick, the ice melts and it tastes very watery.It is hot outside and I’m not talking about ‘a whiny girl who doesn’t like heat’ kinda hot, I’m talking about ‘afternoon sun, we had to eat with our sunglasses on and my head of black hair was burning’ type of hot. The outdoor seats aren’t ideal when the sun hasn’t lowered beneath the surrounding buildings but I was going to take whatever seat was available. After about 45 minutes it was okay.
Italian bread selection homemade rosemary foccacia, Italian grissini, crispy ‘music bread’ & ciabatta from our bakery. All served with Rylstone extra virgin olive oil & aged balsamic. $1 from every bread tin we serve is donated to Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia ($1.50). When I last went to the Sydney store, their bread is complimentary but I much prefer this idea where you pay a bit and most of it goes to a good cause. A nice selection of bread with freshly poured olive oil and balsamic vinegar for the table. Easy to order ahead and nibble at while you’re staring at the menu.Crispy tomato and mozzarella arancini stuffed rice balls with pickled red chillies, spicy arrabbiata sauce and parmesan ($10.50). The arancini balls were crispy and I really enjoyed the arrabiata sauce underneath, although it wasn’t too spicy. This was the better entree of the two.Fried three-cheese gnocchi delicious crunchy gnocchi with a fiery arrbbiata dip ($9.50). The gnocchi was crispy but I felt I couldn’t really taste the cheeses and the saltiness. I found the sauce was just really tomato-y and it tasted better with the sauce from the arancini balls.Mains~
Rainbow trout Aqua Pazza beautiful Goulburn Valley Rainbow Trout cooked whole in Gennaro’s Aqua Pazza with chilli, garlic, gaetta olives and capers finished off with juicy cherry tomatoes and parsley ($28.50). We had ordered this under false pretenses. We asked what the fish of the day was and the waiter said it was a whole snapper blah blah blah, snapper sounds good so that’s what we ordered. When they put it down and I was taking photos of it from the tail end, I said to my friend ‘sweetie, I’m no fisherman but I don’t think that is a snapper’, we lifted up the skin to find pink flesh, no that is definitely not a snapper. It also came with a lot of olives, tomato and capers which my friend was not fond of, it was sitting in a sauce that looked very buttery but it wasn’t salty and buttery. I asked a passing by waitress that we had expected a snapper and we got the trout and she said that the waiter got it wrong, the snapper was yesterday’s fish of the day. We weren’t too overly impressed with the situation or the dish. Trout has a lot of little bones which also made it hard to eat.My hand for a size reference, I would like to state again that I do not have man hands so it is not a size illusion.
A size comparison between a main meal bolognese and an entree sized prawn linguine. My serve of pasta looked just as big as TimmyC which I was surprised to find. I don’t know if I got a lot more than expected or if he got ripped off.Prawn linguine juicy pan-fried garlicky Spencer Gulf prawns served with tomatoes, chilli, rocket & fennel (entree size $16.00). I just saw prawns and chose this dish so I wasn’t quite sure what I was eating when I came across this odd shape in my pasta, was it pasta that hadn’t been cut properly? A parmesan piece that had melted onto multiple strands of pasta? I had to look up on my photos what it said on the menu – fennel, of course! I don’t think the fennel added anything to the dish other than confusion, the prawns were cut up little pieces rather than whole and the sauce just tasted tomato-y plain and boring without any hint of chilli. It was much better in Sydney, I don’t know why it was at least similar in Canberra being the same menu item and all.We weren’t quite sure what this was until we looked it up.Tagliatelle bolognese ragù of beef, pork, herbs, Chianti & parmesan with crunchy, herby breadcrumbs (main meal size $19.50). Every time we go to a Jamie’s Italian, TimmyC just looks for a bolognese on the menu and then he has decided. Canberra uses tagliatelle while the Sydney store had spaghetti, but he didn’t mind, he likes them both. The sauce itself was a beautiful rich base and I could really taste a wine or something in the after taste, the breadcrumbs didn’t really have much of a crunch for me as it did in Sydney. The disappointing part was the pasta itself. It is great that they make all the pasta on site but this was cooked under al dente, I prefer mine soft and TimmyC prefers al dente but even he said that this was too hard for him. It was made worse by the fact that a lot of the pasta clumped together in 3 to 4 strands forming an even harder to eat dish, I ended up just pushing the pasta aside and eating the sauce when TimmyC was done.My friend and I only had enough stomach real estate for one dessert between us, so we had to make it count. We crossed off all the desserts that you could get in other restaurants and narrowed it down to two.
Raspberry Frangipane fresh raspberries & almond filling with creme fraiche ice cream & berry drizzle ($8.50). When they put the dessert down, it wasn’t the most appetizing looking but this dessert was fantastic. The cake was moist, the sauce was surprisingly strong in flavour and it went really well together. The creme fraiche ice cream was a bit interesting, the slight sourness balanced out the sweetness of the cake and sauce. I would really recommend this dessert.
As I asked for the bill, I also asked if I could browse the kids menu, after all I didn’t know when or if I was going to ever dine with children here and I wanted to peer through the cutesy old school ViewMaster. The children get a good menu selection, even I would have chosen some myself, I love the awesome idea of layering the salads in jars to make it more appealing for kids to eat.
The bread box preparation area. The bill comes out in a bread box and the outer card showing a range of Jamie’s Italian souvenirs that you can purchase for home.I don’t usually do a George Costanza toilet review but I found it very amusing that they had their own personalised set of toilets when all the neighbouring restaurants have their bathroom with the public mall. You walk up stairs and the ceiling is so low, you feel like Alice in Wonderland. ‘Nice buns’ hehehehe.
This place has more of a casual vibe than the Sydney store, see my Sydney experience here. When you sit down you are not rushed at all, there is no time limit or next table booking in 45 minutes, so we took our merry time as tables around us came and went. The staff were friendly, not always attentive as they rush around but always happy to stop if you ask them for something.
People are always surprised about the prices to the restaurant because of Jamie’s name associated with it but I also feel that people just want to come here because of the name association and because it is new rather than because of the food.
The restaurant as a whole was an okay pleasant experience although sitting outside on those seats in a prolonged period of time really hurts your bum. I was rather disappointed with the food other than the dessert, we might have had a bad run so I am willing to come back again.
Venue: Jamie’s Italian
Address: 125 Bunda Street, Civic, ACT (Canberra Centre, under the Dendy Cinema)
Phone: (02) 6268 0400
Opening times: 11:30am – 11:00pm daily
Booking process: book online, ring the restaurant if there is less than 9 people and if you can’t get a booking, they have tables set aside for walk ins although you have less of a wait time if you go super early like we did or later after 8:30pm.
- Jamie’s Italian Canberra (yummylummy.com)