I bought my first Jamie Oliver cookbook in about 2000 (The Return of the Naked Chef) and I’ve been a fan of his cooking and shows since then.
Jamie’s Italian restaurant recently opened in Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, and I visited the establishment, at my own cost.
The restaurant reminded me of an up-market version of Col’Cacchio restaurant (another favourite of mine). We were welcomed by the manager and lead to our table – it was 12h00 noon and the restaurant had just opened for the day, so it was fairly empty, and I was able to get a good sense of the space and décor.
The friendly waiter was well dressed in his soft blue shirt and khaki chinos, with a funky looking leather waist apron-like belt, which holds a tablet device for placing one’s order.
I had a mocktail with passion fruit and mint spritz (R35) and my husband had the ginger mojito mocktail (R35). Both were tall and refreshing, and a welcome thirst relief on the hot Johannesburg day.
I ordered the Julietta pizza (R95) and as the menu states, apparently it is one of Jools Oliver’s favourites (Jamie’s wife). I was pleasantly surprised at the size of the pizza (slow roasted tomatoes, basil, buffalo mozzarella and aged parmesan) when it arrived, considering the price you would pay for the same pizza if one were eating this in the London branch of Jamie’s Italian (£11.95) which converts to about R202.
My husband ordered the tender roasted aubergine (R75) but unfortunately the aubergine was not fully cooked through. The attentive manager sensed my husband’s dissatisfaction and he politely offered to have them prepare another. While we waited for it, the manager brought over a complimentary garlic bread, made with buns, herby garlic butter, parmesan & rosemary.
My husband said that the new aubergine dish had fresh flavours of raisins & pine nuts, garlic flavoured yoghurt, rocket, pomegranates, lentils and their own tomato sauce.
I nipped to the loo before dessert and made my way up the wooden staircase to the first floor, which has a posh looking private dining area with its own bar.
No expense was spared in the deco of this restaurant – they have exquisite leather couches, lavish bars and very British looking loos. I could not resist taking a few pics of the wash basins and cisterns, which even has the Oliver name! (not sure if this is a brand of cistern that just so happens to be called Oliver too).
Dessert was the Amalfi lemon meringue cheesecake (R60) but is was a bit on the small side and my only other gripe was that it was not labeled as a baked cheesecake in the menu, which is not one of my favourites, as I much prefer fridge cheesecake.
The other great thing about Jamie’s Italian is that it offers a kiddies menu of healthy food. Jamie Oliver has been very vocal about serving healthier food at school canteens in the UK, so his kid’s menu offers some healthy options.
The really fun part for your children is the way in which they can view the menu. Back in the day, this device was called a ViewMaster – I had one with Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Michael Knight in Knight Rider!
Jamie’s Italian offers this device, now called Image3D, as a way to view images of the food on the kiddies menu. It really took me down memory lane, let me tell you!
All in all, Jamie’s Italian is very affordable and comparable to other eateries such as Col’cacchio and Piza e Vino, and like I mentioned before, you’d be paying practically double for the same or similar menu in London. As can be seen from the menu, there is a good selection of choices, from starters to mains and dessert. This is the first branch in the franchise to open in South Africa and more are in the pipeline.
Melrose Arch, Shop 00513, Building 13
Melrose Arch, 2076, Johannesburg