I’ve long been a fan of Jamie Oliver, I’ve got a number of his cookbooks and many of his recipes are staples in our house – his pizza sauce, sausage pasta, carbonara and many more. We’ve not visited Jamie’s Italian much however, preferring to cook his dishes ourselves, so when the restaurant invited us to review it, we decided to give it another look.
We visited on a Sunday lunch time, it was very busy and certainly not a quiet place for lunch. The restaurant has an open kitchen, so we could see the chefs at work whilst we ate, something which I like because I am Very Nosey.
We started off with drinks, a peach bellini for me and a golden beer for the Mr, branded with the restaurant’s name. The bellini used very dry prosecco and not too sweet peach puree, so it tasted mostly like a normal glass of prosecco.
To begin, we had the bread selection, which arrived on a wooden board with dips, oil and vinegar. There was lots of interesting breads to nibble on – sourdough, rosemary focaccia, an enriched brioche like bread, breadsticks (grissini) and an excellent seeded crackerbread. Along with oil and vinegar, for dunking there was a really delicious olive tapenade (I think made in house) and a sundried tomato harissa which had a punch of chilli.
We both decided to go for pasta, the Rigatoni Pomodoro (tomato sauce with the usual fixings of garlic and basil with added mascarpone) and the Sausage Pappadelle for me. My sausage pasta was very flavourful with lots of fennel to complement the sausage, the tomato sauce with it was a little watery however. Mr really enjoyed his pasta, it was a basic dish cooked really well – which I think is what they try to do here. Importantly both pastas were al dente, something which nearly all chain restaurants normally fail to do. An Italian restaurant should get that right, and it did, which is what you want!
There is very much the emphasis on simple food done well here, I’m guessing that is from Jamie Oilver’s background at the River Cafe. If the River Cafe was a chain then this would be it, but it’s not a bad thing for it.
To accompany our pasta we had some Cauliflower Fritti. The batter was crispy with plenty of seasoning and the accompanying arrabiata sauce had a nice kick of chilli. The cauliflower was a little bland on the inside, but once coated in sauce it was fine.
On to puddings, I always save room for pudding and we were glad we did. I had the ‘Ultimate Brownie’ which was a huge square of rich, deep dark chocolate heaven, with chocolate sauce, ice cream and caramelised popcorn on top. Despite the fact that the infographic style menu uses way too many superlatives, this was indeed the Ultimate. Mr had the chocolate hazelnut arctic roll – filled with chocolate and espresso gelato with chocolate sponge and butterscotch sauce – a really nice Italian style twist on an old school British pud.
All in all we were impressed, more than we expected to be. We had visited shortly after it opened a few years ago and were left underwhelmed, but we’re pleased to say that it has improved. Everything was cooked well and was full of flavour, usually you find that chains dumb down the food to suit everyone, but it is not the case here. We’d go back to try more.
Recently they’ve opened a Pizzeria upstairs, which we are keen to try, it’s a small menu with 5 pizzas, a few starters and sides and a handful of puddings. One for the always growing list.
Jamie’s Italian Cambridge
Peas Hill, Cambridge
We dined as guests of Jamie’s Italian.