Since the Oxford branch of Jamie’s Italian was the first to open, I pretend that Jamie’s isn’t a chain restaurant, and ignore that there are branches all over the UK. Since it opened, Jamie’s has been one of my favourite restaurants in the city. I take out of town visitors there (especially for American’s, it has that tv chef cool factor), and I enjoy going there fairly frequently (almost embarrassingly so). Though you’d never know it from the people who work there who NEVER remember me, no matter how often I go.
Jamie’s went through a bit of a slump. The prices went up, the quantities went down, and the menu got stale. I found myself not getting as excited about going there as I used to. In fact, the length between visits was becoming larger and larger. But then Jamie’s changed their menu. They changed the look of the menu (different, more vibrant colours), and even did a slight redecorating of at least one of the rooms in the Oxford branch. Suddenly I couldn’t wait to go again and try some of the new items on the menu!
My excitement was barely contained when I went this week and saw that they brought back my favourite item from the very first menu – honeycomb cannelloni (£10.95). I tweeted at Jamie several times begging him to bring this item back after it disappeared, but I never got an answer (I wasn’t really expecting one). Eventually I gave up hope. But there it was – many years later, and it’s grown up! The honeycomb cannelloni used to be little bite sized tubes of pasta bursting with spinach and ricotta in a rustic, thick tomato sauce. Now, the 2012 version is Honeycomb Cannelloni Three Ways – Aubergine & sun-dried tomato, pumpkin, ricotta & spinach! Squeeeeel! Each mouthful was a delicious surprise, and I was in heaven. I am eternally grateful they kept this item vegetarian and that they brought it back. I wonder if I’ll ever try anything else on the menu for as long as this little wonder of a dish exists!
Of course, no meal for me at Jamie’s is complete without their incredible polenta chips (£3.45). My friend, who I dined with, can’t understand my obsession with these. And I can’t understand why she’s not obsessed herself! But I guess I’m thankful she’s not because I got to try her wonderful Courgette Flower (£6.50) – A courgette flower filled with ricotta, mozzarella, mint & lemon, served with peppery rocket pesto & salsa rosso crudo. What a dish! The flavours were popping all over the place! I was well behaved and didn’t ravage her plate like I had wanted to. Maybe next time I’ll get that in addition to polenta chips.
The final item ordered at our table was the Scottish Salmon Salad (£10.50) – Beetroot-cured salmon with crunchy fennel, blood oranges, herb cresses & croutons, with zesty citrus & yoghurt dressing. I didn’t manage to steal a bite of this but it looked beautiful, and had a serving size my greedy self approved of.
Jamie, I’m thrilled with the new menu and can’t wait to go back often. Welcome back! You have definitely upped your game, and I appreciate it!