We couldn’t hide our excitement when we knew that Jamie’s Italian was coming to Hong Kong, and all of us here at Sassy were itching to go. I couldn’t wait to try it out, but I was also a little apprehensive that it wouldn’t live up to the hype… after all; the big name behind this hot new opening did set certain expectations!
Thankfully when I arrived at around 5pm on the opening day, it wasn’t too busy… yet. The entrance has a number of Jamie’s books on display and some of his products, reminding you of how far this Essex boy has come. Once you’ve gone up two escalators, you reach the restaurant, and already there was a buzzing atmosphere. I love the street-art inspired mural that you’re greeted with, especially with the obvious Chinese influence. There’s a warmth and friendliness emanating from the restaurant, in keeping with Jamie’s personality and other Jamie’s Italian chains – so far so good!
We began with a couple of the appetisers, which included the Crispy Squid with garlic mayo, lemon and chilli, the Sweet Mini Chilli Peppers, Margherita Arancini and their signature ‘planks’.
Visually, the planks are impressive as they’re held up by vintage-looking tomato tins. Definitely a fun way to share some starters with friends!
I have to say that I enjoyed the planks the most out of the appetisers… you can’t really go wrong with cured meats and cheese, especially buffalo mozzarella (yum!).
Unfortunately the Sweet Mini Chilli Peppers weren’t anything special, and the squid – although tasty – was also unremarkable.
The Arancini Margherita risotto balls were also an average starter… not offensive, but not amazing. I would definitely recommend getting a plank!
On to the main courses, and I decided to go for the Pumpkin Panzerotti. The portion size was generous and I personally loved the comforting flavours of roasted squash, ricotta and parmesan. The pumpkin, chilli and rosemary butter with smashed amaretti was sinfully smooth and the whole dish was sweetly delicious.
I was very happy with my choice of pasta, but I couldn’t help taking a look at what other people had ordered. The Sausage Pappardelle looked like a very hearty dish, but I’m not sure it stood out as much compared to the Pumpkin Panzerotti! I also didn’t hear great things from the person who ordered prawn linguine… stick to the pastas which sound a bit more unusual for something that’s special.
To end, we enjoyed a huge selection of desserts – I felt spoilt for choice! Since I have such a sweet-tooth, I have to admit that I enjoyed most of the desserts. For a light, summery end to your meal, try the Macerated Strawberries soaked in elderflower and lemon juice served with frozen yoghurt and poppy seed filo crisps. This was probably the lightest dessert, and tasted simple yet fresh.
If you’re looking to indulge then you’ve got to try Jamie’s Epic Homemade Brownie with salted caramel ice cream and caramelised amaretti popcorn. For those who don’t have much of a sweet-tooth, then this might be too much for you with its gooey, fudge centre – but I loved how decadent it was.
One of the things I was most surprised about at Jamie’s Italian was the price. Drinks were (for Hong Kong), very good value, with a peach prosecco Bellini clocking in at only $45. The starters are reasonable, ranging from $55-$75, with planks at $79 per person. The pastas come in two sizes, but the portions are very generous (I was full with just the small!), and they range from $65-$165. Mains start at $120 and reach $300, and sides are around the $40 mark.
Overall I really enjoyed my experience at Jamie’s Italian. It’s a relatively cheap and very cheerful place to dine, and I would happily go back with a group of friends to share a ‘plank’… and maybe a cocktail or two! Don’t go expecting fine dining – this is supposed to easy, Italian food and it’s not exactly going to be breaking any boundaries – but it’s not supposed to. It’s simple food that people like to eat at reasonable prices that people can afford, something that’s all too rare to find in HK, especially when it comes to a chef with a big name. Hopefully they’ll be able to manage their flood of reservations and walk-ins a bit better in the upcoming months, because a lot of potential customers are being turned off by the enormous waiting time. Once the hype has died down, I think this will be a great, casual place to come for dinner and drinks, especially with a big group of friends. Sharing is caring!
Jamie’s Italian Hong Kong, 2/f, Soundwill Plaza II – Midtown, 1 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, 3958 2222, www.jamieoliver.com/italian/hongkong/home