This week saw the end of exams (and a return to blogging!) for me, so when I was invited down to try Jamie’s Italian Birmingham in the Bullring it was the perfect way to celebrate. Though surrounded by other popular places to eat out, all perfectly situated for a shopping break or an evening meal before hitting the bars, this celebrity chef restaurant offers more than your average chain, but still with reasonable pricing and a relaxed atmosphere.
As soon as you enter the restaurant, it’s obvious that Jamie’s personality and attitude to great food is going to come through. The urban and almost industrial decor creates a really down-to-earth vibe, and the staff were all incredibly friendly and welcoming. The menu is full of Jamie’s signature superlatives which emphasized the no-nonsense approach to quality grub. Becky, our server for the evening, knew the menu and the specials inside out and definitely convinced us that we were in good hands.
The menu itself we found somewhat limited. The choice was very thin on the ground if you’re a vegetarian or vegan (although it did say to let your server know, suggesting dishes could be altered to suit dietary requirements). Also, if you have your firm Italian favourites, such as spaghetti bolganaise or lasagne, then you’ll find yourself being forced to push the boat out, which is no bad thing perhaps, but the absence of any pizza was an interesting move for an Italian, and one that may disappoint a lot of people!
For drinks we ordered cocktails, and decided to try our favourite classics to see how Jamie’s Italian would fare. My favourite, an Amaretto Sour, stuck to the traditional ingredients of amaretto, lemon juice and sugar syrup, getting the quantities just right between a sweet and tangy taste, making it fine to sip with a meal. The Boyf’s ‘Jamie’s Mojito’ again had the perfectly balanced flavours of a classic mojito, but was topped with Jamie’s prosseco instead of soda water which added a really nice twist. Jack also ordered a ‘Ginberry’ which was that evening’s special cocktail. The blend of Bombay Saphire gin, manzana verde, apple and lemon juice and berry compote created a refreshingly fruity drink, although the amount of crushed ice it was served over meant it was over all too soon.
To start The Boyf opted for a ‘plank’ of seasonal vegetables. The plank was served on top of two cans of chopped tomatoes which was an interesting feature, and included gorgeously chargrilled and marinated vegtables, a mini ball of buffalo mozeralla, a slice of pecorino cheese, ‘crunchy kale slaw’, pickles and the ‘world’s best olives’. Every mouthful (I am told) of the selection was a treat; the oily marinade of the vegetables was spot on and the slight spice to the mozerella was a really nice touch. Jack and I both agreed that the ‘world’s best olives’ were, in fact, the world’s best, and now any supermarket-bought olives will be a disappointment in comparison. For my starter I had the Sicilian Caponata Brushchetta, which was piled high with aubergine, ricotta and pine-nuts, though slightly over-powered by the balsamic vinegar.
For our mains we both chose something from the pasta menu. I opted for the Vegetable Rotolo Al Forno which came as two pasta parcels of pumpkin, squash, spinach and ricotta, surrounded by a tomato sauce and topped with parmesan and breadcrumbs. This main was a winner for me; the unusual addition of pumpkin and squash complemented the ricotta and spinach beautifully and there was neither too much nor too little. Jack chose the ‘Famous Prawn Linguine’ as it had indeed been recommended to him before we went. The overall conclusion of his main however was that it was nothing special. The flavours simply weren’t strong enough to make an impression, and he admitted that he felt he could probably have made it at home, which is not what you expect from a celebrity chef dish.
Though I was feeling full already, I knew I had to get desert when I spotted the sour cherry and almond tart (I even had some amaretto sour left to go with it!). The pastry tart with almond sponge, sour cherries, crushed amaretti biscuits and whipped honey cream was no disappointment and I only wish I had saved more room for it! The cream saved the desert from being dry and the hint of honey was a great addition to the classic flavour combination of the tart. The boyf chose the ‘epic’ chocolate brownie to finish, which was served with vanilla ice-cream and caramel popcorn. Unfortunately there was nothing ‘epic’ about this desert, it was simply your average brownie with ice-cream, and we both agreed we’d had far better.
Overall the Jamie’s Italian experience made for a really nice evening out. The service and atmosphere managed to be down-to-earth yet classy (we particularly appreciated the feel-good playlist in the background), and Jamie’s un-snobbish approach to cooking really came through and was very welcome. Though we weren’t consistently blown away by the food, we would still happily visit again and recommend it to anyone looking for a really pleasant and reasonably priced dining experience in the city centre. Thanks to Jamie’s for having us, and to Becky for looking after us so well for the evening. You can find Jamie’s Italian on the outside of the Bullring opposite St. Martin’s Church, just a 30 second walk from the indoor shops.
*I was invited to Jamie’s for review purposes and our bill was partly complimentary. This does not affect my honest opinion.