Restaurant review: Jamie’s Italian, Cardiff

 
As my friend Dan and I approach Jamie’s Italian in Cardiff, the fire torches and entrance rope create an elaborate first impression.

Stepping inside, we are greeted upon entry and escorted to a table at the back of the dining area, opposite the open-plan kitchen. The restaurant has an authentic Italian feel with artificial meat joints, salami and red chillies hanging from a shelf above the bar, and vibrant music playing in the background. So far our only complaint is that we are sat so close to the other diners, we may as well be sharing a table with them.

A waitress arrives to offer us drinks and kindly take us through the daily specials on offer, before explaining the starter/antipasti menu to us. We order the Italian bread selection (£3.75), World’s Best Olives on Ice £3.75), and a meat ‘plank’ featuring a selection of cured meats, Italian cheeses and pickles (£6.85 per person).

As the starters begin to arrive, the meat plank – literally served on a plank of wood – is supported by two tins of Italian chopped tomatoes, adding to the rustic vibe of the restaurant. The Italian bread selection sits in a small metal basket, and the olives on ice are served in a metal, dessert-style bowl. After taking our main course orders, the waitress leaves us to enjoy the mini banquet that lays before us.

 

The meat plank provides a good overview of the sort of food on offer at Jamie’s Italian, including: fennel salami, pistachio mortadella, prosciutto and schiacciata piccante (that’s cured meats to you and me!), buffalo mozzarella with chilli and mint, pecorino and chilli jam, and a selection of green chillies, best green olives, Gaeta olives and caper berries, and finally, a crunchy salad of shaved carrot and beetroot with lemon and mint. This could easily be my favourite course, although the serving could be slightly larger – one slice of each meat between two people seems a bit stingy.

The Italian bread selection is a delicious accompaniment to the meat plank – an array of breads from the restaurant’s own artisan bakery including homemade rosemary foccacia, sourdough, crispy “music bread” ciabatta and tortano, with extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. All of the breads have that warm, freshly-baked taste and the rosemary foccacia is particularly more-ish, but I’m not a big fan of the restaurant’s signature “music bread”. Thin and crispy, it reminds me of a flat, tasteless poppadum.

 

Said-bread also puts in an appearance in the World’s Best Olives on Ice, consisting of large green olives embedded on a circle of crushed ice which surrounds a bowl of black olive tapenade. We are especially impressed by the presentation of this dish which makes the olives seem rather special indeed, whilst the ice gives them a crisp, fresh taste.

When we have finished our starters the waitress wastes no time in gathering up our dirty plates and whisking them off to the kitchen, taking the time to ask us if we are enjoying our meal. The service is very efficient and our main courses arrive in around ten minutes.

 
After finding out that the restaurant have run out of chicken, I choose what sounds like a fail-safe option – Jamie’s Favourite Turkey Milanese (£12.25). This dish consists of turkey stuffed with prosciutto and fontina, with a fried free-rang egg and truffles. However, rather than being succulent and juicy, the turkey is over-cooked and hard to chew on. It might be Jamie’s favourite dish, but it’s not mine.

My side dish, on the other hand, really lives up to its name. ‘Posh Chips’ (£3.25) are served in a small steel bucket filled with golden brown morsels of fried potato, drizzled with truffle oil and sprinkled with Parmesan – just like traditional chips, but with a sophisticated twist.

 

Dan is luckier than me in his choice of main, the 30-day Matured Prime Rib (£19.50) – a 10oz slab of bone-in, chargrilled beef steak served with wild mushrooms and peppery endives. After just one mouthful I see Dan’s face light up, and he claims it’s the best steak he’s ever tasted. When he offers me a taste I can’t possibly say no, and I agree that it has been cooked to perfection.

 

Served with aged balsamic and Parmesan, the Rocket and Radicchio salad (£3.25) is a refreshing addition to the steak. The peppery hint of rocket and the bitterness of the radicchio are offset by the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar. The result is a mouthwatering combination of tastes that just leave me wanting more – much to Dan’s dismay!

After finishing our main courses, we have just about enough room left for dessert. Torn between Tiramisu and Tutti Frutti Lemon Meringue Pie (both £4.95) I opt for the latter, but when the chef accidentally makes Tiramisu first I get to try them both!

My original choice of dessert is my favourite of the two. The meringue is freshly-made, and the lemon pie filling is noticeably zesty yet sweet, flavoured with limoncello. The addition of pistachio brittle gives the pie a pleasantly crunchy texture, whilst the chopped fruit makes for an attractive finishing touch.

The tiramisu, on the other hand, is not what I expected it to be. Jamie’s Italian put a contemporary twist on this traditional Italian dessert by adding oranges to the list of ingredients. This could make for a tasty contribution, but the oranges overpower the dish and I am struggling to taste the coffee, let alone any liquor.

Dan orders the JI Warm Brownie (£4.95) – a slab of warm chocolate brownie baked with fresh raspberries and amaretto, served with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice-cream. This is difficult to fault, and I would definitely recommend ordering it if you are visiting Jamie’s Italian.

Our three-course meal at Jamie’s Italian has been rather pleasant, overall – well-presented, mouthwatering food and an authentic atmosphere in which to enjoy it. The staff are really friendly and their food knowledge is impressive.

However, I am particularly disappointed that the restaurant have managed to run out of chicken, and my main course had definitely been over-cooked. This won’t stop me from visiting Jamie’s Italian again in the future; it just won’t be my preferred dining venue.

 
Jamie’s Italian, Cardiff
Unit LG 69/70
St David’s 2 Shopping Centre
Cardiff
CF10 1GA
(02920) 027 792

Opening hours

Mon – Sat: 12pm – 11pm
Sun: 12pm – 10.30pm

I was invited to Jamie’s Italian as a guest and our food and drinks were complimentary.

 

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