Thursday, 10 December 2009

Jaime's Italian - Kingston upon Thames

The Jaime Oliver brand has certainly been spreading it's wings. The anti commercialists amongst us would call them tentacles. I can eat at a Jaime branded restaurant (depending on how much you're willing to spend, you can either go slightly upmarket and head to Fifteen - with branches all over the world or head down to your local Jaime's Italian), learn how to make fresh pasta and buy a ready prepared meal at his Recipease, cook with Jaime branded utensils and of course there's the famous cheeky grin on those cookbooks. Long gone are the days when Jaime was just a 'local lad from Essex' who made it so cool for guys to whip up a meal at home.

Interior - Jaime's Italian

I actually quite like Jaime. Good for him I say. Well, I must admire him to some extent since I did find myself queuing outside Jaime's Italian down in Kingston, my old haunt, not too long ago. And my, he must be rolling in it ... the queue was long and it was well past lunchtime. Since I was the first to arrive, I was led to the bar for a drink - a single girl in a restaurant full of happy young families needed reinforcements, which came in the form of a glass of Bellini. Nicely chilled and deliciously peachy (please, no pun intended:) I settled in to people watch. Alright, waiter watch. It was non-stop activity. By the time P finally arrived (traffic in Kingston is maniac on weekends - how could we ever forget?), I had a nice large table all to myself and a bottle of wine to keep me company.

Seasonal Meat Antipasti Plank - Jaime's Italian

We decided on the Seasonal Meat Antipasti Plank at £6.50 a head, which came on a large wooden plank (it does what is says on the menu!) balanced on a couple of unopened tins of tomatoes. An interesting idea, certainly.

Seasonal Meat Antipasti Plank - Jaime's Italian

Our meat plank featured:

Seasonal Meat Antipasti Plank - Jaime's Italian

Seasonal Meat Antipasti Plank - Jaime's Italian

Seasonal Meat Antipasti Plank - Jaime's Italian

Seasonal Meat Antipasti Plank - Jaime's Italian

Cured meats - Tuscan fennel salami, pistachio mortadella, San Daniele prosciutto and Schiacciata piccante.
Italian cheeses - buffalo mozzarella, pecorino with chilli jam.
Pickles - green chillies, green and black olives
Salad - Italian coleslaw with lemon and mint

There was a nice range of textures with the meat - ranging from the almost run of the mill, supermarket ham like pistachio mortadella to the cured prosciutto and of course, the fatty yet so lush salami. The mozarella was fresh, almost goey in the centre and my favourite, the pecorino with the chili jam. I liked the cheesy saltiness against the sweet chili - or as I would like to think of it as Italian meets Thai. I swear that chili jam came straight of a Thai sweet chili sauce bottle. The large green olives ultra mild and very unlike any other olives I've ever tasted. None of that olive punch in them.

Roasted belly of Pork - Jaime's Italian

Roasted belly of Pork - Jaime's Italian

For mains, P decided on one of the specials of the day - roasted belly of pork stuffed with breadcrumbs and cheese served with stewed beans. For a touch of pretension, there was a scattering of micro basil. The meat was lovely - meltingly tender. However, the crackling had less crackle and more chew to it than P would have liked - not that I went anywhere near it. Crackling is evil in my book. Even the beans were delicious. A truly generous, heartwarming dish - perfect for a cold, blustery day.

Fish in a Bag - Jaime's Italian

As usual I took an age deciding on what I wanted - oo-ing and ahh-ing over almost every dish on offer. Not forgetting I had a good half hour by myself to decide what I wanted before P arrived. I finally settled for decidedly boring Fish in a Bag (£15.65). Sometimes I seriously question my food decisions. Opting for fish over the interestingly named Lamb Chop Lollipops ... tsk. As expected my bass fillet, Cornish mussels and clams steamed in their own juices with smashed fennel, heritage potatoes, capers, Amalfi lemon, seasonal herbs, sweet baby tomatoes and white wine was good. The seafood was very fresh but also ultra safe (boring). It was something I could easily make for a mid-week meal (alright, lamb chops isn't exactly hard to cook either but lamb chop lollipops just sound so good!). Maybe I was just jealous of P's gorgeous hunk of pork.

Crispy Polenta Chips and Funky Chips - Jaime's Italian

We were very keen to try the Crispy Polenta Chips with rosemary salt and parmesan (£2.95) but a portion of Funky Chips with fresh garlic and parsley (£2.50) was brought over instead. The waiter sweetly gave us a portion polenta chips for free. Yes, I know .. his mistake but it was busy and he did manage to maintain his good humour throughout our stay. I've never had polenta before - deep fried or otherwise and found it an unusual experience. I wasn't too keen on it at first but it grew on me, tasting better as it cooled down. P gave up after a couple of bites and left the rest to me (yay? nay? I'm still not quite sure). The chips really were as 'funky' as described on the menu. It was ultra crisp, delicious and very likely fried in garlic flavoured oil to give it that extra 'umph'.

Crispy Polenta Chips - Jaime's Italian

Funky Chips - Jaime's Italian

Our waiter was cheery throughout despite the non-stop stream of people. He did get our polenta order wrong, which he did rectify by giving us a a free portion of chips but we had to remind him of the fact when the bill came charging us for both orders. He also miscalculated the amount he charged us when we asked him to split the bill onto two cards ... by over £10. We were sorely tempted to walk off but he was so nice and yes, maybe not everyone is great at math. But he rushed back soon enough, very apologetic about his mistake. We had a very good afternoon with delicious food. It didn't have the wow factor - no Michelin stars - but that's not what Jaime's Italian is about. It's good food (think of it of a step up from your usual run of the mill high street places like Strada) in a comfortable environment with affordable prices. Well, if you lived in Kingston you should be able to afford it anyway.

Jaime's Italian


jo said...

Hello, love the blog! Thanks for taking the time to post photos and write about what/where you eat, it's great. Just wanted to say that Jamie is from Essex, not Kent (I'm from Kent and would be very proud if Jamie was too!)
Hope you keep the blog going for a long time yet,

Luscious Temptations said...

Hi jo, thanks for spotting the mistake! What a silly one to make too. All rectified now.
Also, many thanks for the lovely comments. I do love eating and really enjoy looking back at all my photos. Do drop by again soon :)