If you asked me to recommend good Italian restaurants in Cardiff, I’d reel off a relatively short list including the likes of Cafe Citta, Casanova and Calabrisella, amongst a few select others. Up until recently, I wouldn’t have dreamt of placing Jamie’s Italian anywhere on that list. I was less than impressed on my previous visits to the Cardiff restaurant and to the Islington branch in London, with stodgy pasta and a shortage of chicken being my main complaints.
However, I was pleasantly surprised on my recent visit to Jamie’s Italian Cardiff, situated on the lower ground of St David’s 2 Shopping Centre.
Inside, the restaurant hadn’t changed at all since my last visit, although I was pleased to discover that the tables weren’t as close together any more. The atmosphere was vibrant and bustling, with candlelight casting a warm glow over our table.
The menu was also very much the same, with a few minor tweaks. Choices included bread and antipasti dishes, pasta, meat, poultry and seafood, with a separate dessert menu and children’s menu. A number of gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free dishes were also available.
To whet our appetite, we ordered some drinks. I treated myself to a glass of Jamie’s Italian Prosecco NV Spumante Veneto (£5.95 for 125ml; £27.25 per bottle). Light and slightly dry, this went down very nicely and I managed to get through another glass by the end of our meal.
As he was driving, my guest went for the Berry Blast (£3.50), a non-alcoholic cocktail of strawberry & passion fruit purée shaken up with lemon, sugar syrup & cranberry juice. This had a refreshing taste, but it was a little too sweet for his liking.
To start, we ordered the Ultimate Plank (£10.50 per person for two or more to share) so that we could try a range of antipasti dishes. Stretched out on a long wooden plank was a mammoth selection of artisan fennel salami, mortadella, prosciutto, spiced chicken-liver pâté, Cobble Lane bresaola & pork scratchings with grissini & music bread, Italian nachos, mini buffalo mozzarella, aged pecorino & chilli jam, olives & pickles, grilled marinated peppers and rainbow slaw. What a mouthful!
This both looked and tasted absolutely amazing – an indulgent Italian feast! My personal favourites were the Italian nachos; crispy, fried ravioli stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella and Bella Lodi, served with a Sicilian tomato sauce (visible at the bottom of the above photo) and the pork scratchings, which were cooked to perfection and served with a moreish spiced apple sauce.
For my main course, I initially ordered the Meatball Pappardelle (£11.95) but it had sold out and so I went with our waitresses’ recommendation of Old Sausage Pappardelle instead (also £11.95). This consisted of small morsels of sausage meat removed from its casing, served with frilly pappardelle in a tomato sauce flavoured with fresh fennel, garlic and a hint of chilli. I loved the taste of this dish and the frilly pappardelle was a lovely touch, but the sausage morsels could’ve done with being slightly bigger, as they were so small that they sank to the bottom of the dish and I struggled to find them at first.
I’ve actually managed to find an uncannily similar recipe for pappardelle with sausage meat and fennel seed on the BBC Good Food website, which I intend to have a go at making sometime soon.
Meanwhile my guest was drawn to the Wild Mushroom and Winter Greens Risotto (£12.50); carnaloni rice in a creamy sauce with seasonal greens, roasted mushrooms, mozzarella and extra virgin olive oil. I am a big fan of mushroom risotto and this tasted lovely. I could tell it contained porcini mushrooms, as I use these when cooking my own risotto at home. They have a rich, earthy taste that just ‘makes’ any mushroom risotto. Comforting and warming, this is a great dish to eat on a cold January evening.
After eating such a large starter and our main courses, we were feeling fairly full up and so gave dessert a miss. However, we thoroughly enjoyed our meals and the experience somewhat changed my opinion of Jamie’s Italian. The quality of the food has improved greatly, as has the presentation. There was never an issue with the speed or quality of the service, but it’s great to see that the staff are still just as friendly and knowledgeable as ever.
Jamie’s Italian is gradually making its way onto my list of favourite Italian restaurants in Cardiff, especially when it comes to value for money. That said, I still feel as though Jamie’s Italian ought to make a bigger effort to embrace the local produce available in the areas surrounding its various restaurants. I’d love to see the Cardiff restaurant sourcing its fish from E. Ashton’s Fishmongers in Cardiff Indoor Market and buying all of its meat from a quality local butcher like Martin Player. Similarly, it would be great to see some dishes with a Welsh twist on the menu, like roast lamb and mint served with fresh leeks or mussels in a creamy sauce with pasta.
Have you been to your local Jamie’s Italian? What did you think of it? Drop me a comment in the bow below – I love hearing your thoughts!
Jamie’s Italian, Cardiff
Unit LG 69/70
St David’s 2 Shopping Centre
(029) 2002 7792
Jamie’s Italian provided me with a voucher to use towards the cost of my meal. However, I was not obliged to write a positive review.