19 Feb REVIEW: Jamie’s Italian Edinburgh
One of the many perks of marrying a blogger – and in no way related to my recent foray into the medium… or marriage! – is the invitation to dine somewhere new. It is commonplace now that a restaurant will host a bloggers night, whether they are new to the scene or simply debuting a new menu, in order to raise awareness and – fingers crossed – some positive press and general interest from the public. As a (hesitant to call myself) foodie, I really am spoiled by the popularity of my wife’s blog.
The latest of these adventures occurred recently when the missus (see: jenniestamp.com) was invited to review Jamie’s Italian Edinburgh. The restaurant very generously subsidised the meal (which , by disclaimer, in no way influenced this review either way) and we headed along one surprisingly mild winter in January.
The restaurant almost seems split in two, with an elevated dining room composed around a central antipasti bar on the George Street side, with a slightly diner-like setting in the lower area nearer the kitchen on the Rose Street side. We chose the latter but upon inspection there was nothing to tell the two apart, each dimly lit and equally as busy and boisterous; this was simply the layout of the space.
Décor-wise the place is replete with points of visual interest; bunches of chillies and thick legs of cured meats hanging from the butcher’s rack; the clean and med-style tile-work gracing the pass; the rustic almost steampunk light fixtures; the gift shop, choca-block with books and memorabilia. You’d be forgiven for forgetting this was a chain restaurant.
We kicked off with a couple of cocktails, Caipirinha for myself (standard) and a Blackberry & Vanilla Daiquiri for the missus (£7.25 – £7.50), both of which went down a treat. After our refreshing treats we opted to share a starter of Crispy Squid (£6.75), fried in in a light crumb with chilli, garlic and parsley with a generous dollop of aioli on the side.
Before going into the food any further, I need to take my hat off to our waitress, Sydney, who was attentive, helpful and insightful from start to finish. For example, if she had not intervened to clarify that the antipasti planks could be purchased as a starter for one, I might still be waiting for Jen to make up her mind now! Luckily that was not the case and she opted for the Classic Meat Plank (£6.95) and the Fantastic Fried Gnocchi (£5.50).
This was in fact Jen’s main in the absence of any pizzas on the Jamie’s Italian Edinburgh menu – a bold move but understandingly one that encourages the awareness and exploration of other aspects of the cuisine. As a platter for one, the plank is a formidable beast indeed, laden with slathers of fennel salami, pistachio mortadella, prosciutto and schiacciata picante, with an ice cream scoop of lovely, lovely buffalo mozzarella and an accoutrement of various pickles, jams and slaw.
Where the gnocchi perhaps didn’t impress in its presentation, the flavour certainly made the missus happy, infused with a mild gorgonzola and dowsed in delicious Parmesan (she’s a cheesy lady!). I also found oodles of enjoyment in the crispy sage leaf garnish.
For myself it was a toss-up between the British Crab Spaghetti (£14.25) and the veal tortellini – I chose the former; chilli, fennel, capers, white wine, garlic, lemon zest… how could I not? Mildly surprised when it arrived as I did not expect a tomato-based sauce, nor am I a fan of such, but it won me over with solid, sumptuous flavour. If I had one criticism, I would have preferred a little more crab meat, but I think that is more down to my carnivorous leanings than a genuine lack thereof; the dish was presented beautifully and the flavours well-balanced, and heaps of crab would surely have detracted.
Full to bursting, we dare not glance at the dessert list, promptly waved our white flags and prepared for an uncomfortable waddle down the road.
Admittedly I did not go into Jamie’s Italian expecting any great shakes, but between the stellar service, the comfortable setting, and the impressive eats, my preconceptions had been raised to their foundations by the time the mains had arrived.
Those with a similar mind-set take heed and give it a try. A worthy Italian if you’re looking for something beyond your run of the mill half and half.
Fantana Score: 7.5