Jamie's Italian LiverpoolThe newest recruit to Liverpool ONE’s harvest of chain eateries, Jamie’s Italian brings a superstar chef to the city. In name at least.

Inspired by Mr Oliver’s “passion for Italy”, the 14-strong chain restaurant describes itself as a “neighbourhood restaurant, offering authentic, affordable and great quality Italian food on the high street”. Really? Let’s see…

Since its opening, there have been steady queues out of the door of punters wanting to sample what’s on offer. Does it really live up to the hype?

On a grey and drizzly summer afternoon we decided to give it a whirl. Luckily on arrival there was no queue, we were told there was a five minute wait and issued with pagers – straight outta 1989. Said pagers would inform us when there was a table ready, even though we were waiting just ten feet away from the maitre’d station.

Indulging in an overpriced bottle of Diet Coke whilst sitting on some extremely uncomfortable metal stools we scanned the gaff. It’s your chain-store kit, off-the-shelf formula, and could be any of your standard TGI Hard Rock Frankie & Benny’s gaff. With the odd kitsch knickknacks for that ‘authenic italian decoration’ vibe.

Soon enough, we were buzzed and ushered to the bustling first floor. While we scanned the menu – an Italian menu, in an Italian restaurant – we foolishly requested some garlic bread. Sorry, we were informed, that’s not an option at Jamie’s; no garlic bread allowed. Not Italian enough, obviously.

Um, some bread and oils then? Yes, that passed Jamie’s Italian test.

Only we had to dip our bread into meagre thimbles of oil which got soaked up after the first dunking.

Now, if there’s one thing that Italians are not short of (or stint on) it’s olive oil. Go to any neighbourhood trattoria and you can practically bathe in the stuff. But here was our first sign that, in Jamie’s Italian, accountancy beats authenticity every time.

The second sign? The table next to us ordered the Seasonal Meat Antipasti Plank, and the salami was sliced so thinly they were still reading the menu through it. We know this because the tables are placed so closely together we were practically the same party.

Still, the service was friendly and attentive, and our server guided our choices with patience.

Our mains arrived and the daily special of mackerel with fennel salad was fresh, light and nicely oily (we should have dipped our bread in that, instead). The meatballs, on the other hand, (which, according to our waiter, were “Jamie’s favourite”) were very lukewarm, tasteless and presented with too much pasta and not enough sauce.

If this was one of Jamie’s favourites we can only hope Jools Oliver does the cooking at home, as teatime must be a very lacklustre affair.

Dessert rescued the day. After an initial confusion about what was on and off the menu, we tucked in. The tiramisu was comfortingly gorgeous and the (peculiarly un-Italian sounding) Bakewell tart was a substantial portion of almond loveliness that almost made up for the microwave-ready meal main course I’d had to endure.

A meal for two, with no alcohol, came to £44, a definite case of ‘paying for the name’ when the name just didn’t deliver. For the diehard Oliver fan’s there was the chance to buy ‘Jamie’s Italian’ branded tea towels to take a piece of the empire home with you. Needless to say, we didn’t bother.

There are at least five other superior, and family-run, Italian restaurants in close vicinity, few of which understand the art of portion control and branding guidelines – and none of which employ pagers.

Our advice would be to visit one of these and leave Jamie’s Kitchen to the tourists and fanboys. Your stomach and wallet will thank you for it.

As our absent host would put it: “it’s just not pukka”. And, like the Bakewell tart, it’s not especially Italian, either.

Stephanie Heneghan

Jamie’s Italian
45 Paradise Street, Liverpool

4 Responses to “Jamie’s Italian: The Review”

  1. I eat out quite a lot. I like to think I know good food when I taste it, and I know there aren’t that many great restaurants amongst the many in Liverpool. I also appreciate that this review was written over two years ago. But despite all that, I HAVE to go on record and say that I think Jamie’s Italian is a superb restaurant. This review includes the tired, anti-chain snobbery so often (and so often correctly) trotted out in restaurant reviews, but without foundation. This place is nothing like a Frankie & Benny’s or a TGI Friday.

    More importantly, I’ve visited this restaurant twice in the last year and on both occasions the food was exceptionally good. Delicious, fresh ingredients, rich, flavoursome creations, generous portions and consistently good service make eating here very pleasurable.

    Maybe it’s time for another review? Or shall I post one myself?

  2. Glad you had a good meal there Phil. We don’t print the ‘tired old anti chain’ mantra out in some knee-jerk reactionary way. Some chains are better than others. But Jamie’s portion control and fiscally driven ingredients aren’t to my tastes. Go to Da Piero in Irby and I bet you, Jamie’s won’t seem quite as Italian after that. But you’re right, it’s time for us to go back.

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