Jamie Oliver, you make good pasta!
12 Upper St. Martin’s Lane
Westminister, London, England
If you’re a Jamie Oliver fan, you’ll know that he is obsessed with Italian food. He even based an entire TV series on his trip to Italy in his clunky, old Volkswagon van to learn how to cook authetic Italian food: Jamie’s Great Italian Escape.
His restaurant, Jamie’s Italian in Covent Gardens off 7 Dials in London embodies the warmth, passion and hominess that comes with Italian cooking. On a rainy London evening, we walked into the crowded lobby decorated simply with a wooden shelf of pasta, egg plants and vegetables. Huge pieces of cured meat hung from the ceiling pan rack in the open concept kitchen. The dining tables were set with silverware wrapped in rustic dish clothes sporting the name of the restaurant.
We ordered the pumpkin and burrata to start. A burrata is a traditional Italian mozzarella and soft, rich cream wrapped in another layer of solid mozzarella, basically, it is cheese wrapped within cheese. What could be bad about that? Well, I was expecting a sack of the cheese, even if it was a tiny sack but when the dish came, we discovered that it only contained one slice of the sack, the soft and rich cheese from the inside oozing off the harder shell. The pumpkin was a great accompliment though, the harder texture contrasting the soft cheese, the hard shell of the pumkin was still on each slice, which I loved. I also noticed that the salad features Jamie Oliver’s favourite vegetable, rocket. He uses rocket in many of his recipes. This may be because rocket grows in London, England. I’ve noticed that rocket appears on many restaurant menus here.
Next we ordered the mushroom fritti: the mushroom came sliced and deep fried. It was heaven. The strong mushroom taste wasn’t lost in the cooking process and the ‘really garlicky mayo,’ as described in the menu really reminded me of the endearing way that Jamie Oliver talks.
I’ve never had rabbit before, but I figured if there was one chef who could cook it right, it would be the adventurous Jamie Oliver. And I wasn’t disappointed. I ordered the Rabbit Ragu Pappardelle which is a slow braised rabbit with a mascarpone and lemon sauce. The rabbit meat was so incredibly tender I regret not trying it earlier in life. There is a slight gamey taste to the rabbit but it’s definitely not as strong as lamb meat. I also love the pappardelle pasta, the ridges on the sides of the pasta really scoops up the sauce and the pasta itself was thick enough to soak up the sauce well too. Basically every bite was a perfect mouthful of tender rabbit and perfectly sauced and al dente pasta.
One of my favourite pasta dishes is carbonara and I wanted to taste Jamie Oliver’s rendition of it: Bucatini Carbonara. The smoked pancetta was delectable: not too salty and still firm and not mushy in the heavy creamy sauce. The sauce was thick and creamy and delicious or as Jamie Oliver would say: beu-a-full! I didn’t like that the spaghetti was hollow in the middle though. I think regular spaghetti would have mopped up the sauce better, and would also be easier to twirl on a fork since regular spaghetti would be more limp than tubular noodles. I did have the noodles slip off my fork a few times.
Another Jamie Oliver trademark item is fries or ‘chips,’ with truffle oil. These fries were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I love the fact that the fries were served to us in an adorable little bucket. They were almost too cute to eat. But I was too hungry to care. The hot fries really hit the spot on such a cold and rainy London night.
For dessert we ordered an Italian classic: tiramisu. The Jamie Oliver version was pretty tasty. He added some fresh orange zest and uses sponge cake over lady fingers. The cake was drenched in espresso and a beautiful dollop of heavy mascapone cream was on top of the cake. The sweet and tangy orange flavours brought out the nuttiness in the espresso flavour and also gives the dessert a lightness and playfulness that is so indicative of talented and fun-loving Jamie Oliver.