i love jamie oliver. there's nothing about the man, the brand, the icon that i can't get on board with. i've been to union jack's, to jamie's diner, and a number of the jamie's pop ups that tend to... pop... up around london every few months without warning. last year i was even lucky enough to head out to jamie's big feastival at alex james' farm, which was an amazing day out full of food, music and wide open (albeit cheesy) spaces. i love the guy, ok? and yet - despite the hoards of opportunities to, i'd not yet managed to make it into one of his italian joints though, so when the generous folk behind the scenes at jamie's italian stratford got in touch asking if i'd quite like to have a lunch on them last weekend, well... guess who couldn't answer their email fast enough. this guy.
with mum and bex in tow, we headed off to westfield stratford city on the overground from crystal palace after our morning spent walking among the dinosaurs, and arrived dead on our reserved time of 1pm. we maybe got a little lost. probably because i thought we would just wing it and it would be easy to find. well, for someone who does not attempt to visit the hell that is westfield stratford on any kind of regular basis, i assumed the restaurant would be with all the other restaurants in the fancy food court bit. no. it's not. ok, so it will be outside with all the outside fancy food restaurants? no. it's not. well, it is, but not really. it's located outside the mall on "the street", but to the right by john lewis, not directly ahead by wahaca. which doesn't seem sensible, but nevertheless, that's where it is.
we found it. we were welcomed by the lovely irish hostess, and we were shown to our seats in the loudest part of the busy restaurant, right by the kitchen, by our lovely polish waiter. after we sat down and my mum took one look around the room at the other (multi-coloured) staff, she announced to the table, "i wonder if they have to be italian to work here?" err... no mum, no they clearly don't. but thanks for playing.
we ordered in a round of bellini and rossinis, as well as a shit ton of starters to get ourselves primed to eat all of the food, and have all of the tastes. in lieu of actual garlic bread, out waiter encouraged us to get the mixed bread plank with chilli tomato dip (we don't say no to carbs), which we happily did, and then also ordered a serve of the crispy squid and aioli, a mushroom bakey thing that mum devoured, arancini balls (erm omg these were incrediballs) and the crab and avocado bruschetta (which was so hard to share because the bread was super crisp and all the toppings fell off every time we tried to cut the damn thing). the topping was delicious, a kind of mornay of crab meat and avocado on a bead of crisp green apple and lime, and atop the crispest bread you've ever seen. this was my favourite, without a doubt, although the squid came a really close second for me.
mum scarfed the mushroom baked thing like there was no tomorrow, so fair to say she really enjoyed that, and bex had not one bad thing to say about the balls. i had a ball, and i can agree that they were sensational. kind of cheesey, tomatoy risotto deep fried in a ball. imagine it. go on...
plates cleared and fizzy drinks drank, we opted for pink wine while we awaited our mains. obviously. we elected to order the smaller portions of pasta for our mains, knowing full well we would have filled up on breads and starters and drinks, oh my! when my 'half size' portion of prawn linguine came, i was overjoyed - it was totally not as small as i was anticipating, which meant there were plenty of prawns in it still. i hate ordering small portions of seafood dishes, as they normally scrimp. not at jamie's! the pasta was cooked al dente (which i can never do at home), and the sauce was so light it didn't even look like sauce, but definitely still had a million incredible flavours in it. it was delicious, and i would definitely recommend the dish.
mother chose the half serve of the rabbit ragu, and bex chose the 'chefs recommendation' of... some sort of ricotta ball. come to think of it, both her choices were ball shaped... anyway, the balls were super cheesy - very much the same taste the whole way through, which she tells me she had zero problem dealing with because cheese balls are her idea of heaven. i had a taste, they were nice. i wouldn't be able to eat a whole portion of them, but each to their own. foolishly, i didn't even try mum's dish, but she said she was pleasantly surprised that it didn't taste gamier. i guess that's the risk you run with rabbit; if it's not cooked well, it can taste a little... rural. she had no complaints, and cleaned her plate. i'd take that as a good sign, folks.
we were absolutely stuffed. the waiter was very attentive and friendly, suggesting things for us to try at every step of the way, and almost didn't want to take no for an answer when we refused the dessert menu. offended, maybe? who knows. what i did know was that there was absolutely no way i was going to get any more food inside me at that point of the day, so we polished off the rest of the wine, used the facilities (i love a jamie's loo - if you've never been in before, they're always themed and really well curated; this was no exception!), and bid our goodbyes.
the food definitely lived up to my expectations. it was all well made, incredibly presented, and tasted bloody delicious. i reckon i've used the word 'delicious' enough in this post, but that's because i'm struggling to find a word that describes the way it tasted, without sounding contrived.
it was all delicious, ok? if you don't believe me, you will just have to try for yourself.
*thanks to the team at jamie's italian stratford for having us for lunch!*