107 Pitt Street
(02) 8240 9000
This new wave of ‘no bookings’ restaurants drives me bonkers. If you’ve ever stood in a queue snaking down the stairs and around the corner from Melbourne hotspots like Mamasita or Chin Chin while your stomach attempts to eat itself, you can probably understand where I’m coming from. And even if you are more likely to score a table closer to bed time than dinner time, nine times out of ten, I’d rather try my luck elsewhere and call it a day.
The one person I will make an exception for, though, is Jamie Oliver. Well, the closest thing we get to him in Australia, anyway. Jamie’s Italian was a non-negotiable on our list of Sydney restaurants to hit up. I’d heard rave reviews and knew I’d regret not going more than the inevitable wait. Having spent most of the day down at Bondi, G and I rocked up at peak hour but were delighted to find that the queue wasn’t as long as we had imagined. Everything seemed to be going swimmingly; we were shuffling forward at a consistent pace and there were free nibbles to keep us waiting patrons happy.
By the time we got to the front of the queue, I was so giddy with excitement that I almost missed the front of house casually mention that we had a two-hour wait ahead of us. Say what?! Yep. Two hours. Apparently 170 other eager beavers had beaten us to the chase that night. I vaguely remember leaving my name and number, before stumbling out in a daze.
We found ourselves walking all the way to Chinatown, and spent the next two hours at the night markets. We ended up getting so distracted by the festivities (and the dude in the panda suit) that I realised I had missed a call from an unknown number. Nooo, I thought, as my stomach made a weird churning sound. There is no way in hell I’m waiting another two hours to eat dinner. Frantically, I tried to find a number for Jamie’s, but to no avail. On an impulse, G and I jumped into a taxi and made our way back downtown to the restaurant. I had some sort of pleading speech halfway made up and was ready to blurt it out to the front of house so he’d take pity on us. Instead he asked, “What was the name under?” And before we knew it, we were being led to our table. Insert fist pump here 😀
Drinking on an empty stomach probably wasn’t the best idea, but we saw the cocktail menu and couldn’t resist! G ordered an ultra refreshing mojito (14.0) and I ordered a Tuscan Sunset (16.5); a concoction of Frangelico, tequila and lemonade. The tequila kick made me extra chatty that night 😉
The complimentary Italian bread selection (housemade rosemary focaccia, carta di musica, ciabatta and breadsticks served with extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic) took a while to get to us, but was delightful regardless.
A friend of mine who went up to Sydney earlier this year recommended we get the polenta chips (8.5) – and for good reason. The chips were crispy little golden nuggets of perfection. The addition of the rosemary salt and parmesan gave the polenta a bit of lift – perhaps a little heavy on the salt, but enjoyable nonetheless.
G was eyeing the courgette fritto (12.5) – a ricotta and mozzarella stuffed zucchini flower with rocket pesto and roasted tomatoes – so we ordered that to start as well. The cheesy insides of the zucchini flower went so well with the freshness of the pesto. Jamie certainly has a knack for throwing simple flavours together and making them shine.
The only downside to the menu at Jamie’s is that it makes you want to order EVERYTHING. We eventually decided we couldn’t go past the pasta. Fresh pasta is made on the premises every day. Of course, it isn’t your average pasta menu. Even the spag bol sounds fancy. G went for the buffalo ricotta ravioli (21.0), which went hand in hand with her mojito. The intense lemon and mint sauce cut through the creaminess of the ricotta beautifully.
Wanting to see what all the fuss was about, I ordered the truffle tagliatelle (24.0) and popped my truffle cherry that night. The first few bites were heaven; the nutmeg, parmesan and butter sauce was unlike anything I’d ever had before. And the truffle – well, it’s hard to describe how a truffle tastes because it’s a quite a rarity, as far as food goes. I kept thinking it was going to taste like a mushroom because it kinda looked like one, but it didn’t. Unfortunately, it was such a full-bodied dish that I could barely get through half of it. I should have ordered a side salad or something because the house bread only served to mop up the incredibly rich flavours of the dish. Still, I can’t say I regret ordering it.
We were so stuffed, we couldn’t even fathom the thought of dessert after our mains. Instead, we joked about having to roll to each other out the door and relished the fact that the two-hour wait had definitely been worth it. Service, we noted, was lovely despite the late hour. But most importantly, the food was fabulous. It was simple, honest and full of flavour – the way food should be.