Restaurant Review: Jamie's Italian, Cheltenham

Katie Jarvis tell us her verdict of the dining experience at Jamie's, Cheltenham...

My week

Friday: mum calls to tell me she’s found her favourite trousers, which have been mysteriously missing for a week. She recognised them as my dad took them off when undressing the night before. He’s been wearing them for several days now. She wouldn’t mind so much but they’ve got a very floral waistband.

Saturday: the story has done the rounds of the local Probus Club. I consider calling my mum to say I may possibly have mentioned it in passing. A few times. But it turns out that the person who spread the story was my dad.

Sunday: lose one of my contact lenses during my early-morning ablutions and shriek to Ian for help. We scrabble round on the bathroom floor for a while until it suddenly occurs to me that, while I can see nothing out of one eye, I’ve x-ray vision in the other. I explain to Ian, quite reasonably I feel, that I’ve put both in the same eye, but he still tuts and looks heavenward.

Personally, I think he’s never forgiven me for the incident all those years ago when I asked him to carry my ironing board downstairs. Unfortunately, in a rare moment of over-zealous housework, I’d just finished polishing our turned wooden staircase.

Ian and the ironing board began their descent upright before picking up speed, switching to horizontal mode, and sweeping round the staircase together in a sort of ironing-board bob-sleigh run. I thought the whole thing had a profoundly moving elegance about it but Ian rather intractably maintained that no one in their right mind would polish a wooden staircase. Clearly not true.

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Monday: further disasters. We go to eat at Jamie’s new Italian in Cheltenham. It starts off promisingly. The last time I went – to the Bath branch – we had to queue so long it’s left me with a life-long tendency to hoard food. This time the girl on the door says we can go straight in.

“Are you sure?” I say, giving her one of my Paddington-type hard stares. She claims she is sure, so we make our way upstairs into the restaurant, which once housed the local county court. On the one hand, Jamie and co have brilliantly used the court’s original fixtures and fittings. On the other, they’ve used it so well, I find it hard to refrain from yelling, “Don’t answer that!” every time the waiter asks Ian or Ellie a question. It’s deeply disappointing that I haven’t secured a place in the press box.

The waiter is one of the most nervous people I’ve ever come across; he’s clearly guilty. The strong suspicion is that he’s already tried the food and doesn’t really want to hang around to see our reaction to it.

He startles as I choose a crispy courgette flower stuffed with cheese and swimming in a reasonably tasty tomato sauce, though I wouldn’t rush back for it. Ian has fried squid with a ‘really garlicky mayo’, which is really garlicky. Ellie has the only cold dish – a �6.85 dish of seasonal cured meat. It’s lovely quality – but why, when it’s presumably just plonk-on-a-plate-able, does it arrive long after we’ve finished our hot starters? We moderately grumble and, to be fair, our waiter – who by now looks inexplicably petrified – takes it off the bill without us even asking.

Ian has the anatomical-sounding ‘best of British lamb Spiedini’: marinated and grilled leg, shoulder, heart, liver and kidney, served on smashed jersey royals with minty chilli and yogurt dressing. It would be reasonable as a biology lesson but, as a dish of food, it’s largely forgettable. Moreover, the service is bordering on functional. Although we should be tidy eaters, our table (thanks partly to the bread, which is yummy) looks like a scene from Bugsy Malone, but our waiter merely steps through the debris and finds a rare place among the crumbs for each platter.

It’s so odd. Either I’m suffering from false memory syndrome or the flavours we loved at Bath have not carried to Cheltenham. Even after queuing for what felt like days, I enjoyed my meal last time (though I’d have gnawed on a couple of old boots, I was so hungry). Despite it being a celebrity-chef restaurant, I felt it was reasonably-priced, ungimmicky and a good family venue. This time? Sorry, Jamie, but it just feels like a non-experience. We share one pudding – a tiramisu – and escape from court feeling we’ve been slightly robbed.

Ambience 7

Service 6

Food 6

Value for money 6

 

Jamie’s Italian, The Former County Court, County Court Road, Cheltenham GL50 1HB; Tel: 01242 500193; www.jamieoliver.com/italian/cheltenham

 

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