First review: Jamie Oliver opens doors to Hong Kong restaurant Jamie’s Italian
British celebrity chef not in attendance on opening night as Jamie's Italian attempts to capture mid-range market with inexpensive Italian cuisine. So was the food any good?
The highly anticipated Jamie’s Italian officially opened its doors yesterday, with streams of diners coming in from the late afternoon to evening to sample what the British celebrity chef had to offer in Hong Kong.
I arrived just before 6pm and managed to walk in without a reservation, though was seated at a long communal wooden table. Already the restaurant, which seats 200, was just over half full and had natural light coming in through the floor to ceiling windows.
It’s a long rectangular space, with one end featuring numerous cured meats hanging over a counter, while on the other side is an open kitchen where pasta and other hot dishes are prepared.
For the first day of full service, there were still teething issues, such as prices not accurately reflected on the bill, or orders that were wrong, but on the whole it seemed to be a relatively smooth operation with friendly staff.
Prices here are the main selling point, with diners spending an average of HK$300 per person. Starting off with drinks, a bellini is HK$45, martinis range from HK$55-HK$98, while some red and white wines can be either ordered as a glass, 250ml, 500ml or a bottle, with prices starting from HK$58 for a glass of white by Alpha Zeta to HK$1,680 for a bottle of Tignanello Antinori.
The menu is straightforward and the items are reasonably priced – a refreshing change for Hong Kong, where diners seem to be paying more for rent than the food. Portions for many of the dishes can be either small or large for sharing or to enable foodies to try more items.
Watch: Promotion video for Jamie's Italian Hong Kong
For appetisers, the crab and avocado bruschetta (HK$70) arrived on a thin slice of toasted sourdough. It was thin on the crabmeat but daintily presented with slices of green apple, and hints of ricotta, lemon and chilli. It arrived as one long piece that had to be sliced in two to share.
Fried three-cheese gnocchi (HK$55) sounded tempting to my cheese-fiend friend, but ended up tasting like regular gnocchi that was deep-fried with an arrabbiata dip.
There’s the option of three planks, or long wooden boards to choose from. The fish plank for one person (HK$79) features beetroot-cured salmon, clams and mussels, smoked mackerel pate and a mini fritto misto with lemon mayo. This was not outstanding nor was it at fault either.
A serving of crispy squid with garlic mayo (HK$60) arrived which we didn’t order, but we decided to try anyway. The squid was so soft that it could have been mistaken for fish. Nevertheless the batter was light and hardly oily.
Our biggest disappointment was the squid-ink spaghetti (HK$87) that was not al dente, served with overcooked scallops and mixed with garlic, chilli, capers, and hardly any taste of anchovies in there.
However things were redeemed with the lamb lollipops (HK$220), where diners take the grilled lamb chops by hand, dip them into a yoghurt sauce, then into toasted nuts, mint leaves and pickled red onions. The lamb was juicy and tender, and combined with the condiments were delicious, though a bit messy. The accompanying polenta was very salty.
The side of posh chips (HK$50) was actually thick-cut fries with grated Parmesan and a disappointing hint of truffle oil.
Finally for dessert, the autumn rippled pavlova (HK$65) was not too sweet, crunchy and had a refreshing topping of limoncello-soaked berries with hazelnuts.
The total for two with four drinks came to HK$839 with no service charge. At the bottom of the bill there’s a “quick tip guide” with the amounts for 10 per cent, 12.5 per cent, 15 per cent and “no thanks” or zero per cent.
Jamie’s Italian is not gourmet dining, but it’s not fast food either – it’s definitely value for money that will appeal to the masses, who want Italian food with a big name behind it.