Sunday, 28 March 2010

Jamie's Italian review - Italian cuisine with a healthy twist at Canary Wharf

Address: 2 Churchill Place,
London E14 5RB
Tel: 020 3002 5252
Nearest Tube station: Canary Wharf

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £20 pp
Service charge: NA
Taste: **
Service: ****
Ambience: ***
Suitable for: winding down after work
(prepare to wait a minimum of 30min)
It was one of those nights again when the last thing I want was to trudge back home with an empty stomach. Wife has always been a bit resistant to coming over to Canary Wharf, with its glass and steel skyscrapers, reminds her of Raffles Place back home.

Not that I can blame her really. Given a chance, I wouldn't want to be stuck on the DLR as well especially with the congestion at Bank station during peak times. But this time round, I tempted her with Jamie Oliver's new offering in Canary Wharf - Jamie's Italian.


I was thoroughly fascinated with Jamie even before I stepped foot into London. For some weird reason, the people scheduling TV slots back home thought that it was a good idea to do replays of Jamie's Kitchen at 4pm on weekdays where no one other than housewives and sorry sods like me would be home watching TV. Between long winded Taiwanese serials (housewives' favourite) and Jamie's Kitchen, I guess the choice was pretty clear. To be honest, I was more intrigued by the name "Jamie - the naked chef". Throughout the program, I was half expecting scantily clad nymph coming to the screen. Couldn't help but felt cheated when I realised that the chap prancing around a long kitchen table was in fact Jamie himself.

Anyway, both Wife and I cowered under a flimsy brolly and braved the chilly winds and the typical English drizzle to Jamie's Italian only to find that there was a long queue at the front not to mention those hanging around in the bar with a beer in hand. As Jamie's Italian doesn't take reservation, the only way of even hoping to get a table would be to get a pager (which beeps when it's your turn) and join the line.

I must say that I was impressed by the crowds.  Being right in the heart of Canary Wharf, you would expect most diners to be working within the vicinity. While that was true, there were quite a number of families with kids as well when we were there on a weekday evening. I was crestfallen when told that I had to wait for at least one hour. I duly collected a pager and headed towards the bar.

After 20 minutes of fidgeting around the bar, a staff came by with a huge (and I mean huge) platter of finger food - cut rolls of ham, pieces of bread and a generous bowl of olives. "Any tidbits while you wait, Sir?" Nice one, Jamie. I was just about to walk out in frustration and you come bribe me with some light bites. But I did feel happier after munching on some ham and olives. Some time later (I didn't bother to look up the time as  I feel obliged to stay after succumbing to the finger food), our pager finally sprung to live. Yes, we got a table at long last!

Unlike his Fifteen, Jamie's Italian is clearly meant to cater for the wider audience. While there was a healthy buzz around the extensive floor space, individual tables were set rather closely together and long tables dominated the area (think Cha Cha Moon and Wagamama). While the furniture was more flimsy, Italian's service was top notch - pleasant, efficient and always served with a smile.

My carbonara was the most peculiar ones that I had ever encountered - that was the first time I had perciatelle (fat spaghetti with centre hollowed) for carbonara, not to mention with a healthy sprinkle of greens topping it up. Was I missing something? Being famished, I was all for something sinful, something unhealthy, some creamy. Instead, I had vegetables and had to struggle with thick perciatelle that was served with barely there carbonara sauce. I should had expected that, shouldn't I? He's the crusader of healthy diet and a wiser person would be really suspicious if anything deemed as capable of clogging up the arteries was present on the menu.

Wife wasn't too impressed by the prawn linguine as well. Perhaps she wasn't exactly in favor of linguine done in al dante but she couldn't help but felt a bit let down by the unimpressive sauce. However, I suspect that our palate was spoilt by La Forchetta but I started to wish that we had been to Tenore instead.

For desserts, we went for another safe choice - the tiramisu. We gingerly pushed aside the wallop of cream sitting on top of the thin slice of tiramisu. We found out why the it was stated on the menu that it was a 'specially made' tiramisu - there was orange grating intermixed in each layer of the tiramisu. That made the dessert taste like a soft fruitcake instead of the coffee and chocolate (among other ingredients) concoction that we were familiar with. We didn't finish the dessert and asked for the bill very soon after.

Would I return again? Maybe. But I'm really not sure whether it was worth the hour's wait for a table, pleasant service and free finger food or not. However, Jamie's Italian is definitely for those going for a healthy twist in the usual Italian fare.

Read Jamie's Italian (revisit) - Strike Two

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