Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Views and Reviews: Jamie's Italian

Rachel, Dublin

I have been less enthusiastic than most about the opening of Jamie's Italian in Dundrum.  I've nothing against Jamie, I just found the thought of a new  chain restaurant within a few paces of the likes of Nando's, Wagamama and Milano's underwhelming to say the least.  

I am only human though and, after hearing nothing but rave reviews on twitter, I decided to leave my preconceptions at home and we headed down to Dundrum to see for ourselves whether all that praise was merited.

We were lucky to get one of the tables reserved for walk-in diners; waiting a lot less than the 45 minutes the hostess had advised us.  Indeed, we got to our table before the cocktails we'd ordered at the bar had arrived.

The dining room and decor has been well thought out with a split level making the large space feel less cavernous.  The open kitchen creates a buzzing atmosphere and the enthusiasm of the staff was palpable.  The much-lauded local ingredients were visible on the menu; including bread sourced from the Bretzel bakery. 

We shared a meat 'plank' for two, while I opted for the Ligurian fish stew and  the boyfriend chose the burger with a side of 'funky' chips for main course.  The plank was a flavoursome selection of cured meats, salad and cheese, of which the small mozzarella balls were the most impressive.  Incredibly soft, almost creamy, they were worth the traipsing around Italy that our waiter told us Jamie had done to find them. The fish stew was a generous mix of mussels, clams and white fish in a piquant tomato sauce with capers adding little punches of flavour, accompanied by bread with a generous dollop of very garlicky aioli.  The garlic theme continued with the chips while the burger was pronounced good, but not amazing.  We rounded off with a vanilla panna cotta  (served with a candied orange garnish) and a chocolate brownie chased down with some shots of limoncello.

Top: Shared starter 'Meat Plank' for two
Middle: Left: Chocolate Brownie; Centre: Panna Cotta with Candied Orange; Right: I had to have a go of the kid's menu!
Bottom: Left: Burger with side of 'Funky chips'; Right: Ligurian Fish Stew with garlic aioli on toast

I have to hold my hands up and admit that I was surprised at how impressed I was with our experience of Jamie's Italian.  The quality of the ingredients, the excellent service and the buzzing atmosphere all contributed to a really enjoyable evening. However, I don't know that this has done anything to appease my skepticism about the potential impact of this type of restaurant on the Dublin dining scene.

Restaurants like this do have the buying power to be able to offer quality ingredients at prices that are within the reach of the average consumer.  However, this same buying power creates an inequity in the industry that may make it challenging for smaller independent restaurants to compete. Once the competition is gone (as it has in many towns in the UK; I'm thinking of a, thankfully brief, stay in Watford as an example) is there the possibility that we will experience a similiar homogenisation of the industry as there has been  in the supermarket/grocery trade?  When choices are limited will the impetus to use quality and/or local ingredients still be as strong? 

Three courses each with two cocktails, two shots of limoncello, sparkling water, and a bottle of Montepulciano came to a shade over €125 excluding service.  It would be possible to have a substantial meal with a drink for a lot less. We were both feeling the effects of a stressful working week and the portion of our bill related to alcohol (approx 50%) reflects this. 

Jamie's Italian

Unit 1
Pembroke District
Dundrum Town Centre
01 298 0600

1 comment:

  1. Looks lovely!
    I definitely agree with what you are saying - I don't want to like restaurants like these but they tend to suck you in with their beautiful rooms and fabulous locations (certainly the case in the Cambridge branch). Another big issue I have is that they tend to start off wonderfully on-message from their owner/celebrity and after a few weeks or months the quality of the food and/or the service tends to tail off (definitely my experience in the Cambridge branch - I like pasta al dente but this was ridiculous). My pet theory is that as just part of a big organisation and without the patronage of an owner/chef on the ground every day there is nobody who cares in the same way and things start to slip.