Sunday, 18 September 2011

Jamie's Italian Angel Islington review - hitting all the right notes


Address: Angel Building,
409-411 St John's Street,
London EC1V 4AB
Tel: 020 3435 9915
Nearest Tube station: Angel

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: Below £25pp
Service charge: N/A
Taste: ****
Service: ****
Ambience: ****
I recall reading an interview with Jim Skinner, CEO of McDonald's, a couple of years back. The interviewer threw him an open ended question about the secret behind McDonald's success. Skinner's answer was rather enlightening, he answered in a straight face (according to the interviewer),"Real estate." Apparently, while McDonald's business is primarily food, they would always make it a point to identify the prime location to start a new restaurant whenever they are looking to expand. To Skinner, location is the main concern. Regardless of how good your food is, you customers have to not only know where you are but be able to reach you without jumping through hoops.

Jamie's Italian newest addition at Angel Building hit the bullseye on this. Right smacked at the intersection between Islington Upper Street, City Road, Pentoville Road and St John Street, Jamie's Italian is going to draw the crowd away from the stretch of restaurants on Upper Street and St John Street.

You might have noticed that the visits that I made to Jamie's Italian at Canary Wharf weren't exactly pleasant. So we were almost dragging our feet when we walked into the restaurant. To be honest, as there was a spot of sunshine that afternoon, Wife and I were making a beeline for Moro at Exmouth Market for some tapas. What stopped us on our tracks was a Jamie's coffee van (one of those small ones for takeaway) parked just outside Jamie's Italian. We merely wanted to find out how Jamie's Italian coffee compares to Caravan's.

Apparently, they just dished out the last coffee of the day minutes before and were packing up. But the staff helpfully pointed out that we can get a takeaway. So we figured out that we might as well stop for lunch instead.

"The newest Jamie's Italian
seemed quite bent
on merchandising."

A rather charming gentleman brought us the menu. No surprises there for it was exactly the same one at other Jamie's Italians. One thing was quite glaring though. The newest Jamie's Italian seemed quite bent on merchandising. Jamie Oliver's cookery and recipes books lined an entire shelf, which doubled up as a wall divider. Not only that, wine glasses, tea towels, mugs, t-shirt, oven gloves, aprons and even the table napkins were for sale. In case you are wondering about their prices, the price list will come together with your bill.

Determined not to go for Jamie's Italian's carbonara and angel's hair (see previous review), we got a linguini and a burger with an aracini to share.

The smoky scamorza aracini (£4.95 for three), crispy rice balls filled with smoked mozzarella an porcini could be a bit less dense. But compared to da Polpo's, the ones at Jamie's Italians had a more intense flavour. If you are not a chilli person, go easy on the dip.

Burger Italiano (£11.25) came in the form of a tower. Balancing it must have taken a fair bit of effort (think playing Jenga with meat, burger and layers of greens). Everything was balanced on a tiny wooden platter with room for a cup of chips (if you have ordered it).

The chips free burger came with British beef topped with fontina cheese, crispy salami, soft lettuce, tomato salsa, dill pickles, chilli & fried onions. The fried onion slices were fairly interesting; while I've had onion rings before, having them crispy was a first for me. They did taste good. While chilli were used. Again, you might wish to watch out for those if you can't handle them.

I had to have some chips with my burger so I went for the funky chips (£3.25). Frankly, I've got no idea why they call it that. Why not call just call it like Byron does - skin on chips? While they were a bit salty, the fresh garlic and parsley liberally sprinkled on them made them much better than Byron's.

Wife had a half size prawn linguini (£7.25). Serves with pan-fried prawns marinated with garlic, and tomatoes, rocket, fennel and (you got it) chilli, The sourly, spicy and peppery concoction was just right on the palate. As Jamie's Italian's pasta is all made in-house, they would be a bit more raw in texture. But we thought it came through very well in this dish.

With this much space to play with Jamie's Italian at Angel Building has a bit of everything - a good size bar, tabletop and high stool seating, comfortable lounges, alfresco dining, and the regular furniture found at its Canary Wharf branch. Even its toilets have been tastefully done up. Interestingly, while there is a lift installed to enable wheelchair, the restaurant chose to conceal that behind a sliding door. Perhaps it is to discourage kids to have a go at it, who knows? With Stokke highchairs lined up in a corner, I guess that makes Jamie's Italian baby friendly.

A welcome addition to the dining scene at Angel, Jamie's Italian managed to hit all the right notes. I wouldn't be surprised if there is already a queue during the weekends. And if you have to ask, Caravan's mocha still tastes better.

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