Off the bat, it’s easy to dismiss Jamie’s Italian, the British restaurant chain opened by chef/restauranteur/TV personality Jamie Oliver, for serving the kind of run-of-the-mill Italian food that one would expect from a restaurant chain of this scope and size.
When you walk into Jamie’s second Hong Kong outlet in Causeway Bay — the first one is in Tsim Sha Tsui — everything about it screams “English version of an Italian restaurant,” from the rustic decor to the playlist of early-2000s Britpop playing overhead. Oasis, Stereophonics, The Kooks. Autentico!
They’ve got a new head chef, Atisha Kumar, at the helm of both restaurants, and a new menu under Kumar. Coconuts HK swung by the young Causeway Bay outlet to see what her take on British-ized Italian food has to offer.
We started off the meal with the restaurant’s famous meat plank (HK$108), which included fennel salami, pistachio mortadella, prosciutto and schiacciata piccante, with mini buffalo mozzarella, pecorino and chilli jam, pickles, olives and crunchy slaw.
It’s a decent-sized platter. The meats tasted fine, although there wasn’t a particular meat that struck us as particularly memorable, and we couldn’t help thinking “this board needs more cheese.” We really liked the salty pecorino cheese, and the addition of the sweet chili jam was nice, though it could get overpowering if you used too much.
It’s a fun sharing platter placed atop two Italian empty tomato cans, but it’s pretty steep for HK$108 per person.
The other antipasti dishes we sampled were the mussels in ‘nduja cream sauce (HK$138), truffle beef carpaccio (HK$138), and spicy Italian meatballs (HK$128).
The meatballs were quite big, chunky, and flavorful, spiked with a bit of chili, and served with tomato, basil, parmesan, and a side of toasted ciabatta.
But the meatballs paled in comparison to delicately-sliced carpaccio, which was topped with truffle emulsion, chicory, pickled mushrooms, and crispy shallots; it was the perfect combination of creamy, sharp, crispy, and salty, with no one element overpowering the other.
The other starter that we’d go back for more of was the mussels, which were covered in a sauce that also included chili, cherry tomato, and white wine. It was hearty, and not too spicy — just hot enough for you to feel a gentle warmth in your throat.
Moving onto the mains. We were very curious about the restaurant’s seven-layered lasagne (HK$168) made with slow-cooked beef, chianti ragù, béchamel, mozzarella and parmesan. We had so many questions: Why does this lasagne have seven layers? Is that too many layers? Would it taste good?
But, we were pretty disappointed with this one. The slow-cooked beef was really good, well-seasoned, and the sauce was nice — but it was a bit too sweet, and needed more salt to balance out that sweetness. And, like the antipasti board, this needed more cheese.
If this lasagne had two or even three fewer layers, we’re sure it would have tasted great, but the end result is a lasagne that was just too stodgy to eat.
The Norwegian salmon (HK$288), however, was excellent. The star of the show should be the salmon, but it shares the spotlight with a bed of quinoa, corn, asparagus, and lemon vinaigrette, which were all delicately flavored and textured enough to come together beautifully. We couldn’t detect much of a sharpness from the lemon, but we really enjoyed the warm smoky flavor from the quinoa and corn.
We also had a grilled tomahawk (HK$588), a grilled 32oz slab of meat served on a large slab of wood. It’s normally hard to go wrong with grilled steak, and it tasted pretty good on its own, although we did quite like it with the sharp caper salsa.
We’d also recommend eating this with a side of the restaurant’s grilled asparagus (HK$78), which had a nice smokey taste, and the restaurant’s posh chips (HK$58). How posh are these chips? There’s a hint of truffle and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, although the truffle smell gets a bit overwhelming after a while.
In stark contrast to the heavy and rich steak was the restaurant’s considerably lighter roasted cauliflower and artichoke pesto salad (HK$188).
The salad was hearty and delicious — one of those stand-alone salads that’s satisfying enough for a quick, light meal on its own. The lemony taste of the artichoke goes really well with the roasted cauliflower, and we particularly like the added crunch from the almonds in the pesto.
We ended the evening with a smorgasboard of desserts that included a tiramisu, baked cheesecake, Eton Mess, and a chocolate brownie. The dessert platter, we were told, was a one-off for this tasting, however. Typically, they serve each of the four desserts on a platter that costs HK$88 individually.
The tiramisu was particularly good — there was a clean, sharp coffee taste that was especially pleasant. The cheesecake was rich but not too overly sweet and heavy, and the Eton Mess was also a winning item that perfectly balanced a sweet whipped cream with a crispy meringue and sharp raspberries. The brownie, unfortunately, was also stodgy. A bit too sticky, and not so enjoyable to chew on.
Overall, we actually enjoyed quite a lot of the items on offer, but this is not the restaurant to go to if you’re a budget-conscious person. Be prepared to pay up somewhere within HK$300 to HK$600 per person — this is assuming you’re with a large group of friends and getting a lot of sharing dishes, and where everyone gets dessert.
We’re definitely coming back for the artichoke salad, salmon and carpaccio though.
Jamie’s Italian 2/F,
Soundwill Plaza II- Midtown, 1 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay AND Shop 412, Level 4, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.
Reservations: +852 3958 2222 (CWB) +852 3758 3333 (TST)
Mon-Fri, 12pm-11pm; Sat-Sun, 11am-11pm
MTR: Causeway Bay (approx. 5 minute walk) Tsim Sha Tsui (approx. 5 minute walk)