Location: Perth CBD, William St above Perth Underground Train Station
I was so excited the moment I read that Jamie Oliver was opening up his second restaurant in Australia, and of all places, he chose Perth! It has been a long wait since and what luck it is to have the new restaurant directly across the road from where I work at Bankwest. Bonus! Each day as I walk in to Perth I’ve been keeping a keen eye on when the restaurant was going to open. In the week leading up to Easter, it did open, but not to the public, as some lucky diners got to be the Guinea pigs while the restaurant had it’s test run. It finally opened on the day I decided to have a day off work – what a let down. Ah well, I decided to try my luck directly after Easter.
I lined up around 11:40am behind a long line. Staff were outside telling us there’s a 20 minute wait just to put your name down for a booking and then a 1 hr wait for a table so you can go off and do your shopping and then get a call when a table is ready. Suits me fine. Fortunately for me, after the 20 minute wait, I managed to get seated straight away. The beauty of going solo. Walking in, you notice 2 large pasta machines to your right which, according to an article I read, churns out 70-80 kg of fresh pasta. Further along is the bar serving patrons waiting for a table. The back has a refrigerated cabinet stocking all kinds of alcohol and next door is the open kitchen where all the hot meals are prepared. To the left is where I was seated, at a bar overlooking some kind of mini kitchen which prepares cold meals like anti pasto, salads, desserts. In the middle of the restaurant hangs a large chandelier, yet the restaurant is neither posh nor daggy. It’s very relaxed but still smart and little rustic (note the tables).
The staff were very friendly and service was excellent throughout. I was assigned one of the waitstaff who took my orders during my lunch. I got taken to my seat, brought a menu, a caraffe of water, asked if I would like any drinks, and then my order taken. As I waited, I watched what I could see of the chefs in front of me shaving cured meats, toasting bread, squirting sauces delicately over the plate, preparing salads. On the wall hung blistered red chillies, bulbs of juicy red baby tomatoes, bulbs of garlic, and cured meats.
I looked around at this mad house, so full of people, the food being pumped out of the kitchen, the waitstaff frantically serving the hungry throb. The place was buzzing and I was expecting a lot. After all, Jamie Oliver is one of my favourites and probably my food hero. I was captivated by him as a teenager when he first graced our screens on his first cooking show, The Naked Chef. Full of passion, excitement, and some rather unusual things like breaking a block of chocolate by smashing it over the counter, or placing salad dressing in a bag and whizzing it over his head at a picnic to mix the salad, or grabbing the nearest bottle of wine as a makeshift rolling pin for rolling out pastry. I must admit I do adopt his chocolate breaking method much to the dismay of Mum who thinks the kitchen counter might break. So far so good and I have broken plenty of blocks of chocolate when cooking. He’s done a lot apart from his TV shows and headed many a cause. So what does his food taste like?
I decided upon the Wild Rabbit Tagliolini ($23 mains serve) - Slow-cooked MacLeay Valley rabbit ragù with garlic & herbs, mascarpone & lemon. The menu has various starters, or anti pasti dishes, then there’s pasta, risotto, ravioli, mains like saltimbocca, fish, and sides. Then there’s the drinks menu with dessert on the back. Oooh. The pasta dishes are available in entree or main serves so if you fancy a dessert, it’s made all the more easier. Of course I was hungry so no entree serve for me. When I had seen the menu online before the restaurant opened, I was shocked at the prices – they were so cheap for Perth. I would have thought he would charge Perth prices, or even add a premium for the Jamie Oliver name. But no, the prices looked fantastic but what was the serving? Well, decent, nothing short of what I would expect.
The pasta is wound up into a mound so it doesn’t appear like much initially, till you unravel the tightly packed bunch of pasta. Suddenly, the plate is full. The meal was just short of piping hot so I had to impatiently wait patiently for it to cool and then I dived in. The first thing that struck me was the lemon. It really overpowered the other flavours and I was disappointed. I like lemon but given it overpowered the dish, it was a shame. The pasta itself is cooked a little beyond al dente (Italian’s do have their pasta al dente so the pasta is firm) and was delicious. Ignoring the lemon, I really enjoyed the flavours in the dish. The ingredients appear simple but what Jamie has done with them is lift plain old pasta into something else. I was surprised to see that there was mascarpone in the dish because you don’t really detect the cheese or it’s distinctive flavour, as per it’s presence in cannoli or tiramisu. There also was a decent amount of rabbit which was cooked a little beyond tender but just short of tough. The dish did lack seasoning but fortunately, there are brown salt and pepper grinders. They look identical so twirl them around till you see “S” or “P”. After some salt and pepper, the dish was tasting much better. I was comfortably full, now time for dessert.
The dessert menu is also well priced at around $8-$9. There’s 3 scoops of ice cream with a choice of 2 toppings, sorbets, lemon meringue, tiramisu, brownies and more. I decided to try the chocolate & vin santo pot ($9). Not sure what this is but it sounded good. I was a little taken aback at the cup presented in front of me. There’s a lot of volume and a lot of dessert. As I had the top layers, it was just cream, till I got to the bottom and got this intense, dark chocolate mousse like mixture. Wow, it needs the cream and ice cream to counteract that intense darkness of the chocolate. It’s not bitter, but the spoon needs to get all the layers. Fortunately they throw in a couple of biscotti to break the flavour and add a different texture and sweetness which is a welcome relief. Boy, was that filling. I’m stuffed and satisfied. No need to leave your seat, just ask for the bill and they bring out a handheld EFTPOS terminal. They do charge a surcharge of 0.8% on credit cards which amounted to a huge 25c. For a group of 12 or more, you also get charged an 8% service gratuity.
By the way, if you want to get a booking, ring the reservation line which is currently inundated to set a date and time based on availability. The venue allows booking to around 60% with the other reserved for walk ins (hopefully I didn’t get the % the wrong way around). For walk ins, you still need to line up to make a booking, but once you’ve waited in line and got your name down, then you will receive a call while you’re off shopping or you can take a seat at the bar. This is directly from one of the staff, but I have heard very conflicting advice on the booking procedures.
Jamie’s Italian Food Review Summary
Verdict: Well I probably set my expectations a little too high and was subsequently disappointed. To be fair the wild rabbit tagliolini was delicious and had excellent flavours, but needs the lemon element of the dish tuned down so it doesn’t overpower it. The pasta was delicious and the serving more than decent for a $23 price tag. The dessert was also delicious and probably stole the show from the mains. I really loved the soft smooth texture of the very dark chocolate mousse which was very intense but perfectly balanced by the cream and vanilla ice cream. The biscotti is also a welcome relief, providing a textural element and a different kind of sweetness to offset the slight bitterness of the dark chocolate. The atmosphere was excellent, as too the interior, the service was refreshing, the price fantastic, serving size excellent, and I will definitely be making more visits. If Jamie Oliver can serve such delicious foods at such affordable prices, why does most of Perth charge so much more? Hope he opens up more restaurants in Perth and this starts a revolution in food, service, quality and pricing. Go Jamie!
Jamie’s Italian Restaurant Details
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