A Melbourne, London & Hong Kong dessert blog
Ice cream burgers? Everyone loves playful Italians.
Jamie. Heard the name? Read the book? Seen the TV series? Dined at the burgeoning global restaurant empire of 27 restaurants of the same name to date? Yes, no, no and no are MoMo & Coco’s answers. We have articulated before and before, that celebrity anything and hype anything is repulsive to us. Following hype usually leads to profound disappointment, whether that be the top 10 best-selling books, must-adopt fashion trends, must-buy share investments etc. However, in a very tiny percentage of occasions, that hype is warranted. Tucked away into a narrow but large space, Jamie’s Italian lures marathon queues of would-be diners. Behind a curved glass frontage, a chandelier-like fixture glints over a pasta-making machine that spins out ropes of long pasta. A front bar tiled with the mosaics featuring the more French than Italian fleur-de-lis blocks one’s view of the main corridor where eating — Jamie-style – happens. In line with an exasperating no-bookings policy, one is given a buzzer to wait for a table while drooling over a bright pink-red one-page menu. Once inside, it all moves at an incredibly supersonic pace between two dining areas, one upper, one lower, both decked out with silvered antique-look mirrors, black here, timber there, metal here, concrete there, the food set on tightly-spaced tables laid with thick, tea-towel-like napkins emblazoned with the eponymous name. It’s noisy, it’s full-house and everyone, from the student-age patrons to the couples and families and a surprising number of business groups, seems to be really having loads of fun.
MoMo & Coco visited Jamie’s Italian for a businessday luncheon. Designed with the flexibility of a share-plate or traditional 3-course meal, the a la carte menu was divided into “bread & nibbles, antipasti, pasta, mains, sides, desserts and kids.” One great thing, there was a brief explanation of each dish under its label, unlike so many restaurants nowadays that merely note down a list of ingredients and the leave the rest to guesswork or a thousand questions to the usually hopeless wait staff. But back to Jamie’s Italian, from our trips to Italy, MoMo & Coco are fully aware that it was not entirely “true” Italian, but as its name stated, Jamie’s Italian, that guy’s interpretation, so there was a flourish of French and British culinary influence here and there. The complimentary bread basket was a fine thing, and the savouries were well-executed, rustic, simple, wholesome fare. Balanced on tin cans, the antipasto board was truly lovely, but pasta pasta pasta was the way to go. As this is an abbreviated “Travel Post,” let’s move on to the desserts now. There were 7 options available, we bypassed the ubiquitous pannacotta and the more English (not Italian no matter how you say it or make it) bakewell tart and chocolate brownie, and in our opinion, the non-dessert of the affogato. We stopped at the “Tiramisu” ($9) and the “Brioche Con Gelato” ($9.50). The first irresistible sampled was the make-or-break dessert of Italian desserts, the ”Tiramisu” ($9). The version at Jamie’s Italian was almost on par with our favourite in Australia, from Melbourne’s neo-classical Italian fine-diner, Mezzo. At Jamie’s Italian, the tiramisu gave a distinctively sharp kick of orange zest and espresso amidst layer of a little too-moist-but-still-delectable cake and mascarpone cream. The epitome of a decadent Italian.
The second irresistible sampled, the “Brioche Con Gelato” ($9.50 for 2) was served on a rustic wood board, and was the perfect share bite for those who only desire a little something sweet to end a meal. Somewhat unecessarily dusted over with icing sugar, mini brioche buns were bisected by a ball of lemon and strawberry ice cream layered with a bracing sweep of lemon marmellata and for crunch, little pistachio rocks. Although we never saw anything like this while in Italy, it could be said to be a loving tribute to Italy’s love for all things limone.
Italian food isn’t anything new, you might say. I’ve seen it all before, you might also say. Yes, we have those restaurant stalwarts where you would bring a date, your parents, your business partners, your Young Liberal friends — The Italian, Mezzo, Sarti, Becco, Grossi Florentini, Bottega, Il Bacaro, Cecconi. But these are classy, solemn, usually pricey places. By contrast, Jamie’s Italian is thereabouts refined casual dining, far more affordably priced, and arguably, just as good. Although MoMo & Coco wouldn’t personally venture here for a date or business luncheon (though there were multiple patrons of these categories present), it’s otherwise good for all other occasions.The crowd and mood is loud but not unbearably raucous, casual but not unrefined unlike other no-bookings venues in Melbourne (eg those nasty pieces of mod-Thai and mod-Mex works). At Jamie’s Italian, the service is purposeful, efficient, though given that it is somewhat difficult to get hold of them perhaps a little understaffed. The food’s simple, but done well and done very generously for the price and therefore easy to appreciate. So yes, the hype in Sydney over Jamie’s Italian is warranted. And if the rumours are true, MoMo & Coco can’t wait for another instalment to land in Melbourne this year.
- Dessert adventure checklist
- Dessert destination: Jamie’s Italian Restaurant, 107 Pitt Street, Sydney CBD, NSW 2000.
- Budget: $$-$$$.
- Sweet irresistibles: Restaurant dessert. Neo-classical Italian/British.
- Must-eat: Gingerbread house.
- The short and sweet story: Ice cream burgers? Everyone loves playful Italians.