Teo Degas Sunday, 26 May 2013
Finally there is a business thriving in 140 William St, a place that seems to be jinxed except for a few public places.
The designers of Jamie's Italian deserve a huge praise for creating a space that is very modern but with lots of traditional and rustic elements. Jamie's restaurant is large place with different seating spaces, bar and restaurant combined but conveniently separated, and a few corners reserved for the waiters and pasta-making. The layout and decoration are an harmonious eclectic mixture of street art (a warm diptych by Creepy is covering part of the bottom end wall), wild west saloon, rustic trattoria, trendy osteria, and refurbished industrial space. Ambitious, and even pretentious in a way, but the whole ensemble works well and has aesthetic harmony.
OH, SO HANDY
Jamie's Italian does a great job at making things that are a hassle elsewhere very easy - from ordering, to paying, to keeping you happy while you wait for your food.
- They have good quality cutlery and fabric napkins. That always makes me happy because too many restaurants in Perth, even those that call themselves posh, use paper napkins and/or average cutlery.
- They provide a complimentary basket of Italian breads with olive oil and balsamic vinegar while you wait. The selection is excellent, really great, and almost an entree per se. Some of the guys ask you if you want, some others do not, so if you want it and aren't offered, use your pretty lips to request it.
- They make their pasta fresh in the premises daily.
- They have different sizes for the pasta dishes, as entree or as a main, which comes very handy depending on the time of the day, or if you want a dessert or not.
- They have specials of the day (savoury), which are great if you are a regular.
- They seem to use Italian Parmesan, which they offer grated to you with some of the pastas. Others have it already on.
- They have mobile EFPTOS machines, so they come to your table and you pay without having to cue or move anything that are not your precious fingers.
- Easy no-fuss online booking system. Go online, provide your email and mobile, select a time slot, add you preferences regarding anything, push the button, and you are done. You will receive an email confirming your booking and a SMS two days before your visit, asking you to re-confirm. You can also cancel by using return email or sms.
Jamies Italian, despite the name is not all Italian. There is a mix of Italian dishes (both savoury and sweet) mixed with tapas style antipasti and planks, and very colourful fresh fruity salads. Jamie's is, above all, a place of modern fusion food inspired by Italian cuisine. The menu is quite extensive thanks to the combination of a well-round selection of antipasti, pasta, dish and meat dishes, salads, desserts, Italian wines and coffee.
The antipasti are very good, the arancini being the ones that I liked the least. The planks are great, with a mix of textures, colours and flavours that are very pleasant and a great degustation experience. The side salads are very good, very fresh, good sized, and good looking; the stand out, to me, is the Apple Slaw Salad, which is is truly fantastic, while the Winter Salad is just blah.
The pasta dishes, supposedly the star of the restaurant, have been a great disappointment. The Sausage Pappardelle were hard, not al dente. If they had been al dente, it would have been possible rolling them around the fork to eat them the Italian way. Al dente, for Italians means firm, slightly underdone, not underdone. Never hard. It is soft outside with a bit hardness inside when your teeth go through it. The taste was OK. Something I could cook at home easily with my poor culinary skills.
The Honeycomb cannelloni were overcooked, not al dente, and the whole thing a tiny service of a mashy undistinguishable thing that did not charm me at all.
On the contrary, I found the Wild Mushrooms Ravioli very good in flavour, perfectly cooked, still, not many ravioli under the sauce and nothing really wow.
Jamie's Desserts are great. They truly are more British than Italian, or a mix of both, but they are always terrific and decently sized. Unlike most places in Perth, Jamie's sweets are not overly sugary, so you can enjoy the flavours much more.
The Tiramisu was moist, good sized, with the right amount of everything. Perfect.
The Seasonal Poached Fruit with ice-cream and mint were delicious despite being cold. For whatever reason, I expected the dish to be warm or warmed a bit. Still, it as a fantastic mix of textures and seasonal fruit, very light, very healthy and flavoursome.
The Sour Cherry Bakewell is lovely - a moist flavoursome cake with a very light but delectable orange sour cream and mint on top. Not much cherry in it, but the ensemble was filling and has great clean distinct flavours.
The Chocolate & Vinsanto Pot was fantastic if you are a dark chocolate nerd. The mix of the sweet ice-cream and cream topping a rich dark chocolate mouse, and the freshly crunchy biscotti is great. Very filling, despite the size.
The one I enjoyed the least were the selection of ice-creams. They were just OK.
Jamie's Italian use Fiori beans for their coffee, which are among my favourite beans. They produce a flat white with the strength I like it, and that is always a big tick on my list of important ticks, while the long macchiato is a bit too strong even for me. This means that the coffee could be a bit too strong for you if you are into smooth coffees. The coffee lacks in creaminess and is not aesthetically finished at times, but it is perfectly prepared others.
The staff have always been wonderful. Very friendly, chatty and accommodating about everything, and very attentive to you and your personal needs. They do their best to get you a good place, to comment on anything that might bother you, to ask you if everything is OK. They run non stop any time you visit, and they well deserve the salary they earn. Having said this, the service can be lacking at times due to the lack of enough staff to attend customers or the inability of the cooks to provide the many meals requested at once. My criticism to the service is based on the fact that the restaurant doesn't have enough staff - to me.
We are so used to be ripped off on a daily basis everywhere we go in Perth, that Jamie's Italian, in comparison, is really cheap. You can have three dishes and a coffee for about 35 bucks. A dream in most restaurants in Perth. Prices are good, but, hey, they could be cheaper especially when non imported ingredients are used. Most things prepared are seasonal, so seasonal means very cheap produce at the market.
NOT SO GOOD
- Jamie's pasta are average, mostly not al dente, and their pappardelle aren't what Italians call standard pappardelle. Moreover, many of these dishes have too much sauce and little meat in them.
- The eating space is tiny. Eating at the solo-eaters counter can be quite uncomfortable and it doesn't allow you much movement with your hands especially if more than a plate is brought at the same time. In the same way, some of the tables for two are tiny-winy, with barely room for anything than a kiss :D.
- Jamie's is a very noisy place, even during the quietest times of the day. If you are looking for a cosy quiet place, this is not your place. Sometimes you have to speak loud to the waiter/tress because it is difficult to hear anything. However, it varies from one place to another in the restaurant. The only solution I come with is to turn down the mainhein in your head, and find a zen space between your two ears, or just listen to the conversation of the table beside...
- Their online booking system is limited regarding hours available. Some time- slots are not displayed or available for booking online, and you cannot book, say, two weeks in advance. Moreover, the guys at the restaurant do not deal with bookings at all. So they are making things difficult unnecessarily.
- Sometimes, you have to wait about 10 minutes for the guy to come and take your order, despite the guy knowing that you are there and wanting to come earlier. Sometimes you have to wait 25 minutes to get what you ordered, even if you are alone and just ordered the antipasti.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
> It would be great if Jamie's thought a bit more about the efficiency of their service system and less about cashing in with the least effort, especially during peak hours, which, at the moment, are all opening hours due to the hype surrounding the place. Hiring more people would be an act of kindness towards both the current staff and customers who would get a prompter more relaxed and faster service.
> More individual tables could be easily scattered around the place.
> Cook pasta al dente as Italians do. Otherwise is not... pasta al dente!
> Improve the presentation of the Tiramisu; if you put something brown on a brown plate is never going to be appealing to the eye. The Vinsanto Pot would need of a cup with a broader circumference on top.
> The staff should ask customers if they want sugar, sweetener or nothing with their coffee.
Despite the hype, Jamie's Italian is more a posh fast food place or eatery than a proper restaurant. However, it is a a lovely place to drop by on weekdays to have decent simple meals, good portions at good prices. There is nothing to rave about the food because, despite being lovely, it is never remarkable or wow. Still, Jamie's is one of those places that invites you to return for the right reasons, and one would like the hype to wane to have a more relaxed ambience and being able to walk through their doors without reservation or cues. Jamie's is always a vibrant place to visit, but also very hectic and extremely noisy.
Don't cue for Jamie's, book online or by phone. Cueing for a restaurant that is not uber-posh and uber-delicious is not only a waste of time, but also a bit parochial. I would recommend going to Jamie's for some of their salads, planks, desserts and Italian wines, or for simple dishes if you work in the city and want something better than the food options available at Carillon or Rayne's foodhalls.
Food: 6.5-8 (varies)/10
Coffee: 6.5-8 (varies)/10
Food: 6.5-8 (varies)/10
Coffee: 6.5-8 (varies)/10