Jamie's Italian, Kingston, Surrey KT1 1LL - restaurant review
Ever since Jamie Oliver opened his new restaurant in Kingston, there's been a veritable stampede to get a table. TRACY COOK joined the queue to see whether it's worth the wait
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2009Reviewed: Jamie's Italian, 19-23 High Street, Kingston upon Thames KT1 1LL: 0208 912 0110Ever since Jamie Oliver opened his new restaurant in Kingston, there's been a veritable stampede to get a table. TRACY COOK joined the queue to see whether it's worth the wait
If you don't know where Jamie Oliver's new restaurant is, the queues lining up outside will surely lead you there. Located on the High Street in Kingston, just opposite the Rose Theatre, it holds the promise of great dining experiences, even though you can't book (unless it's for parties of eight or more). It was a cold, rainy Tuesday morning as we queued up just before opening time. Peering through the window, huge hanging, smoked hams looked appealingly rustic and by the time it was midday, there were some 30 people behind us and a party atmosphere in the queue. I've long admired Jamie's cookbooks and his campaigns with school dinners, Fifteen and most recently his Ministry of Food. So I was curious to find out what his latest mission was all about. Jamie wants to set up neighbourhood restaurants offering good, authentic, Italian food at affordable prices. Having long been a fan, I hoped he wasn't going to let me down. As the doors swung open, we were greeted by a warm, rich fug of garlic, baking bread and the clash of pans from the open kitchen. We were virtually salivating as we were shown to our wooden table with its trendy metalled orange chairs. By half past twelve, the bustling restaurant was full. We mulled over the menu while relishing the homemade breads - focaccia, sourdough, grissini breadsticks and crispy bread, served with olive oil and a 12-year-old sweet balsamic vinegar. For starters, we chose the vegetable antipasti plank - and were thrilled when two tins of La Bella San Marzano tomatoes were plonked on our table and a long wooden board perched on top. On it was a feast of mouthwatering, chargrilled marinated aubergines - courgettes, artichokes and peppers - along with buffalo mozzarella and pecorino cheese served with hot chilli jam and a small dish of Italian coleslaw with lemon and mint dressing. Good, fresh ingredients, simply done. Jamie's mission on a plate and truly a mouthful of Italy. A rival to Rome For the main course, I ordered the homemade linguini with pan-fried garlicky prawns, chilli, rocket and fennel. It was delicious, quite spicy, the hint of fennel coming through. My friend ordered the day's special - fish stew with Nile perch and halibut, which she said was very tasty, "but it's got too many carrots in". All the portions were generous, even Jamie's 'humble green salad'. Full of crisp, green leaves, it did, however, look rather like a snowstorm, so smothered was it with parmesan gratings. While the puddings looked tempting (a diner nearby had chocolate brownie and icecream), we settled for cappuccinos, which were made with strong coffee and the silkiest foam I've had since visiting Rome three years ago. The service is exuberant and intelligent - and we were chuffed to chat to Gennaro, Jamie's mentor, who is supervising on his behalf. For a neighbourhood Italian, Jamie's is everything it sets out to be and more: authentic, simple food, brilliantly done and all at fair prices. It's like a trip to Italy - well worth the ten-minute wait in the rain.
What we ate Starters Basket of bread � 3.18 2 vegetable antipasti �12.72 Main Courses Prawn linguini �10.85 Special fish stew �14.95 Green salad �2.35 Drinks Carafe of water Free 2 cappuccino � 4.50 Verdict Food and drink 10 Service 9 Venue 10
3 other Surrey restaurants owned by celebrity chefs...
Kew Grill, 10b Kew Green, Richmond TW9 3BH. Tel: 0208 948 4433 Owned by Antony Worrall Thompson, the Kew Grill uses the finest seasonal produce and is famous for its amazing array of steaks (the menu is dominated by meat so this is not, perhaps, the best choice for vegetarians). The Dining Room, 59a High Street, Reigate RH2 9AE. Tel: 01737 226 650 Well-known to viewers of BBC's Ready Steady Cook, Tony Tobin owns the Dining Room in Reigate where he offers the gastronomic luxuries of top London eateries in a Surrey market town, and now at sister restaurant POST in Banstead, too. Le Raj, 211 Fir Tree Road, Epsom Downs KT17 3LB. Tel 01737 371371 Awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours List for services to the Indian and Bangladeshi restaurant industry, Enam Ali owns the acclaimed Le Raj restaurant on Epsom Downs, a regular haunt of local celebs such as Chris Tarrant.