Jamie’s Italian – Nottingham

Last night was a night out for the girls. Our choice of restaurant for the evening was Jamie’s Italian in Nottingham. I love the online booking system at Jamie’s, it’s easy to see when a table’s available plus you get a text or an email to forward to your friends.

Cocktails

We arrived just in time for a drink in the bar and we ordered a selection of cocktails to set the evening off on the right track, I had my favourite Espresso Martini.

Our table was in front of the deli area, where huge hams, garlic and chillis are hung, and the antipasti planks are made up. We ordered a mixture of the Meat and Vegetable Planks plus the Bread Selection and the Crispy Squid. It was all delicious and perfect for sharing so it didn’t last long.

Jamie's Italian Planks

We were so busy catching up that I didn’t spend any time looking at the menu, so when it came to ordering mains I panicked and ordered by just pointing at something that I’d not tried before. It was the ‘Honeycomb Cannelloni 3 ways’ which was nice but perhaps a little bland. I do like the pasta dishes at Jamie’s, so perhaps I was just missing the rich meat flavour of the Ragù.

The ladies ordered steak and Fritto Misto, both of which looked lovely, the fish was very crispy and wrapped in vermicelli fried noodles. The side orders of posh and funky chips were delicious.  It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised that, although the waitress was friendly and helpful she didn’t offer us any specials. I do tend err towards a special when it’s something that sounds interesting, but perhaps they had sold out.

I really like the environment at Jamie’s. The Georgian house that it inhabits is a beautiful building. There are lots of separate areas for diners that all have a different feel to them. Some can be used for larger groups and almost give a private dining experience. We made a note to bring a bigger crowd next time so we could have a room to ourselves. If we did that we would not be quite so close to the sweet couple at the side of us who were either fascinated by, or shocked by, our candid conversation.

The house is filled with interesting period details and furniture, all ‘contemporaried up’ with a Jamie Oliver style twist. The toilets are down in the basement in ‘the caves’ where they also store ‘merchandise’ and wine, all safely locked away.

We shared a couple of desserts which we couldn’t quite finish and gossiped and laughed until it was time to head home. Although the booking system tells you your table time is limited we didn’t feel rushed out in any way.

The bill was reasonable, especially as we included cocktails, wine and several sides and starters; it was around £150 for the 4 of us.

Jamie's - photo courtesy of Jamie Oliver.com

Photo courtesy of Jamie Oliver.com

It was a good evening and very enjoyable and we will definitely be back when we can think of a good excuse. Perhaps next time we will visit on a sunny lunchtime so we can sit out in the garden.

Jamie’s Italian

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Superstar foodie chef Jamie Oliver finally has a presence in Leeds. The most northerly outpost of his Italian restaurant chain has finally opened in Leeds, with surprisingly little fanfair. There has been a lot of buzz in the foodie blogs about when it might open and after a week of ‘soft launch’ to get things up to speed, it was officially opened last week.

I’ve eaten at the Brighton restaurant earlier this year and very good it was too, so expectations are high for the Leeds operation. And after the disappointment of the failure to open Fifteen in the city, Jamie’s Italian has a great opportunity to firmly establish itself as a major player on the Leeds restaurant scene.

First things first – this is essentially a high class chain restaurant and although at times it’s easy to forget this, as everything is so well done, a chain it is – and all the more impressive for that. The second thing that hits you is the size of the place and the investment – the budget for the fit out alone is probably more than most restaurants make in a year. It’s a joy to behold from a design perspective with the interior stripped right back to the bare walls – very cool, modern and funky. First impressions are very good indeed.

We decided to eat early after a few drinks in Bar & Grill and sat down around 5pm. Top tip: to avoid the queues – and there are lots of people wanting to eat here – aim to eat between 5-6.30. I realise that’s early, but if not you’re in for a long wait and as we left at 7pm, the line was ten deep outside the door.

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The atmosphere is lively, laid back and very much of the moment. The waitress knew her stuff and recounted in detail the exact nature of the specials (Porchetta and Pollock respectively) so we opted for those and ordered the cured meat and cheese platter for two. Drinks took a little bit too long to arrive and considering the place was half empty, that wasn’t really good enough. As the restaurant filled up, people all around us were having to wait a little bit too long in between drinks and courses – it seemed like the staff were experiencing a few teething problems.

Our food arrived in fairly good time and the meats et al arrived on a rustic plank, supported by two tins of italian tomatoes – which was a nice touch and a little bit of theatre. The mains arrived and Julie’s porchetta was spot on although lacked the crispy crackling advertised and my pollock was nicely cooked although not quite the ‘chunky portion of white fish’ she promised. Well priced at £13.50 too. Washed down with a bottle of Venetian Pino Grigio, we were very happy indeed. I did take some pics of the food but the lighting was modishly low where we were sat and they are just too dark. These pics from the website perfectly represent what to expect:

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By now the restaurant was jumping and the early evening dinner crowd were in full swing. This would be a great, lively destination for a group of diners although the expected wait in the bar (if you’re lucky) might put a lot of people off. If you don’t mind a few beers before you eat, I suspect it would add to the evening. If you like to get seated as soon as you arrive (like me), then you’ll be frustrated.

We finished with a quite acceptable but quite orangey Tiramisu to share and the bill finally came to £70 including tip. Nice also to see that the practice of sticking 10% automatically on to the bill is not practiced at Jamie’s Italian.

Jamie’s Italian is a welcome addition to the Leeds restaurant scene – a big, hairy commercial set up that is completely in keeping with the city’s stature (some would say fur coat no knickers outlook, but not me) . I think it will have the knock on effect of boosting restaurant trade across the city too will be considerable, as people who can’t be bothered to wait or can’t get in, go elsewhere.

All in all, we felt it was pretty good value for the food and dining experience, although it seems that they’re still finding their way a little bit and I expect these minor details will get ironed out in the coming weeks. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the attention to detail right across the restaurant is terrific in terms of ‘brand Jamie’ – it all works and feels right. If you’re a fan of Jamie and his cooking, then a visit to this restaurant won’t disappoint.

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Rialto Market – Venice

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I think Phil posted some similar pictures last year but if in Venice a visit to the Rialto fish, vegetable and fruit market is a must for the visual experience alone. We found a small street bar close to the market called ‘Al Merca’ where the locals stood outside drinking wine or the bright orange ‘Aperol Spritz’ an Italian favourite.

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We all ordered the refreshing ‘Aperol Spritz’ and some small sandwich rolls and just watched the world go by from the outside of this busy little bar near the Rialto bridge. A simple pleasure which the Italians get so right.

J&L. Mar-10

Don Fernando Ristorante – Treviso

After the launch of Ryanair’s new routes from Leeds Bradford we decided on a long weekend in northern Italy flying to Treviso. Tony and Pat joined us for the trip taking in Venice and then driving up to the Dolomites for some end of season skiing with some memorable foodie moments along the way. This was our first visit to Treviso and we loved the place. Anybody wanting to visit Venice without the high costs should consider using Treviso as a base and taking the regular trains for the short 25 minute journey into Venice Santa Lucia station.

On Friday night we were recommended the Don Fernando Ristorante in central Treviso and  managed to get a table arriving without a reservation. The decor was eclectic with a varied display of musical instruments, Italian dining club plates, local pictures and memorabilia.

There actually was a Don Fernando who came and sat at our table and introduced himself and explained he would be our verbal menu describing the choices. Without the usual written menu the presentation was listened to intently and we opted for a traditional Appetiser, pasta course, main course and dessert in true Italian style as this was our last night in Treviso and we were in no hurry. There was a choice of approximately six dishes per course showcasing local specialties and seasonal produce.

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We mainly all chose different dishes from each course and started with a seafood platter, fresh asparagus, eggplant and tiny shrimps as the picture above to be eaten whole. All the dishes were prepared simply but the textures and flavours were excellent.

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For the pasta course a half portion of a simple fresh garden pea and wild boar spaghetti a local specialty was both tasty and not too filling.

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In the Veneto region Pollenta is just as popular as pasta and found on most menus. Our main course was a suggested regional dish of oven roasted guinea fowl with pollenta and roasted vegetables. The guinea fowl was incredibly salty but again a simple dish with immense flavour. All the courses were washed down with the Vino Rosso della Casa served in a jug and testament to being practically impossible to get a poor local wine in Italy.

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Dessert was a shared fruit platter with cream and biscuits. Service was excellent and all the other diners were local with ourselves being the only tourists but every effort was given to make us welcome. Don Fernando revisited our table several times and told us his stories of a singing career in California, hence the musical instrument collection.

For friendly good value  dining with regional specialties and a talking menu the Don Fernando Ristorante was a great find.

J&L. Mar-10

Diva Italiana

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Not a newcomer to this blog – in fact an old favourite.

A very welcome Monday night initiative from the entrepreneurial Pudsey Italian restaurant saw all the Troffers (minus John and Linda, still States-bound) convene for a chilled out  Monday evening dinner.

Now I realise that Mondays are really meant for an early night and a cup of cocoa after a weekend of excess (discuss), but this was the first of Diva’s special Italian ‘home cooking’ nights. There’s no menu. It’s fixed at £15 for 5 or so course and then you pay on top for drinks, coffees, desserts etc. The chef asks if you’re seafood, meat or happy to try both and you take pot luck. You get what you get.

We all had a bit of both and the highlights included bruschetta, pate, gamberoni, gnocchi — all the food was intended to be just how it is back home in Italy. Simple. The pannecotta I had for dessert deserved a mention and the tiramasu went down well too. Wine was good too – authentic and not overpriced..

All in all, a fantastic treat for a Monday evening where the best you can expect is a late tea and and early bed. Instead we were still sat out drinking Limoncello whilst the taxi showed up.

It would be churlish to point out that the Monday evening ‘event’ is just an opportunity to get diners in when we’re most likely to be sat in front of BBC2. But you know what, when food is cooked so passionately and the service is so attentive, it’s a travesty to stay at home. Thanks to the Troffers (in particular D&G) for making it happen.

Great neighbourhood restaurants are rare – we should cherish this one.

Sorry about the lack of pics – the food came thick and fast – I just got stuck in!

The Well Hung Meat Company

I think I’ve mentioned to everyone that I have a good mate who’s involved with The Well Hung Meat Company. This Devon based business supply some of the finest organic meat in the country and we had one of their turkeys at Christmas and can attest to the quality of the product. Have a look here http://www.wellhungmeat.com

Well Hung Meat has expressed an interest in providing a discounted deal for the Globe Troffers on all Well Hung products (us being influential and all) and also sponsoring a Devon foodie event for us. We’ve not worked out what this might be as yet, but can everyone let me know if in principal it’s something you’d be interested? The guy who owns Well Hung has some lovely cottages on his soil association certified farm in deepest Devon and he’d be happy to come and talk to us about his work – he’s a real food hero in the mould of Hugh I’m told. We could have a cracking weekend and I’m sure there will be Brown sauce for Linda (only kidding!!!)

Could I get a sense from everyone when would be a good time to do it – I’m thinking early Spring when we’re all around…let me know what you all think, I’m happy to arrange.

Two Thousand and Ate – A Retrospective

 

Not quite a retrospective but an attempt to play catch up and get back to some regular posts. Where to start is a dilemma January or April, the latter being the start of the ‘Troffers’ journey and this web site, how time passes? Remembering foodie events from January to April 2008 is hazy but the highlights are memorable. Italy is always a favourite and a February ski trip to Breuil Cervinia discovered the Copa Pan a lively après ski bar with a excellent restaurant downstairs serving great pasta and local dishes. Not sure which months, but two local…ish favourites were visited, the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill in Nidderdale which in my opinion has the most consistent, quality dining experience and Sunday lunch is a must. The Sun Inn at Kirkby Lonsdale is also becoming an old friend which never disappoints. Some highlights from April and May are still in the Archives and things get going again in late June. Sirmione starts our summer with two of my favourite Italian ristorante / trattoria’s both located in what in my opinion is one of the most romantic locations ever … Sirmione on the base of Lake Garda. Antica Trattoria La Speranzina (www.lasperanzina.it) was visited on our wedding anniversary for the tasting menu which can be either from the land or lake/sea and either is an experience not to miss. When all the elements of atmosphere, quality food, wine and attentive service are put together in a special location it becomes a memorable evening and this was it. On the Saturday for dinner we visited another old favourite Ristorante Signori (www.ristorantesignori.it) again with a table at the lake side and were treated to another excellent dining experience this time with a firework display on the other side of the lake at Desanzano after the sunset. I have posted a few pictures but take a look at the web site links. After northern Italy we were soon in Portugal visiting our old friend Diogo at the Palladium in Guia for his prawn piri-piri washed down with Lancers rose, I am sure we posted this earlier along with Pier One at Villamoura and O’Teodosio again at Guia. Our fellow troffers Dawn and Gurdev then joined us for the rest of the holiday where we had a few days left in Portugal and then drove down to Seville. The culmination of the tour was two nights at the Hacienda Benazuza – El Bulli hotel in Sanlucar la Mayor (www.elbullihotel.com) to dine in Ferran Adria’s La Alqueria restaurant. Again this has been covered earlier by Dawn but to say the 28 course tasting menu was an experience which will probably never be equalled. To finish the experience memorable meals were had in Seville and a strange location involving Planes, trains and boats all at a little seafood restaurant on Faro harbour.

 

Moving on to autumn and winter one of our regular visits to Norwich coincided with the local food festival and highlights were the food theatre, local growers displays and a well attended sausage competition? A return visit to Adlard’s (www.adlards.co.uk) did not disappoint and the presentation and quality of food were excellent. Two thousand and ate was definitely a year of foodie experiences but despite all the great restaurants visited a mention has to go to the culinary talents of friends and fellow troffers which has provided some fantastic dining moments at respective homes throughout the year.

J&L