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Jamie's Italian Reviewed By Gordo

The big critic makes an opinionated comeback with the 'event' restaurant

Published on May 11th 2012.

Jamie's Italian Reviewed By Gordo

IT'S been a busy time for Italian restaurants opening in Manchester. It has been for seven years.

What it does, however, for its size of operation is to gather extraordinary ingredients together, gets them delivered daily and constructs good looking, tasty and dare we say it pretty darned healthy dishes

One place, which advertised itself as ‘Italian with a twist’, has also possibly made it into the Guinness Book of Records for the fastest opening and closing. This was Pizza Porto - or better Pizza Pronto - on Albert Square. It lasted twenty four days. Gordo’s pal Dianne Bourne from the Manchester Evening News and a good commentator on these matters told Gordo it wasn’t bad at all.

The only ‘twist’ she could think of though were the two foot long pizzas, which Gordo thinks a little excessive.

Manchester is a sea awash with ‘Italian’ restaurants, most of them very mediocre in the food department if not in their sometimes splendid settings, Rosso and Stock being good cases in point.

There are less than five good Italian restaurants in the Greater Manchester region and probably thirty totally incompetent ones who are as faithful to great Italian ingredients along with care in cooking them as Gordo is to sticking to a healthy, nutritious and balanced diet. Most are only interested in the profit margins attainable by mixing flour and water and producing pizzas and pasta dishes that can deliver 80% margins.

The opening of the year for the Italian mob was always going to be with the ‘cheeky chappy’, aka Jamie Oliver, and his eaterie ‘Jamie’s Italian’ at the top of King Street in the old HSBC/Midland Bank.

Lutyen's Classic About To Set Sail AgainEdwin Lutyen's classic sets sail again

Arguably Manchester’s most beautiful building, it was the home of Gordo’s money for many years, including the first time he became a millionaire, followed all too swiftly with the first time he went spectacularly skint and was forced into bankruptcy. He was asked to leave the bank by a snotty ‘just out of uni’ manager who seemed to be enjoying his power moment.

Life, as most of us knows these days, does have a way of coming back at people. Gordo was quietly pleased to bump into the same feller some years later. He had left the bank to make his own way in business. He was caught out by the Internet crash of 2001, had his company liquidated and was driving posh cabs for a living - those that used to park outside Room, the other restaurant at the top of King Street. Get in.

Jamie’s Italian was a long time coming. It was going to be interesting to see how it was laid out. Pretty spectacularly as it happens.

Jonathan Schofield has described the interior well (click here) in one of his short reviews so Gordo will not go through all that; suffice to say that there is only one bad room, and in that, one bad table out of over 180 covers. It’s dark and miserable. Of course, Gordo got it.

View Of The Restaurant In The Former Banking HallView into the restaurant

He decided to do the review over two sessions as that first evening he feared that he might let his gloomily bad mood overtake him.

Also, the lighting in this area was weird, the snapshots were looking worse than usual. At this visit he also had to wait one hour and twenty minutes for his table. In all fairness he was informed of this and given a portable electric shock machine that prompted the fat one to go back to the maître’d station to report in for said table.

 It was exactly one hour and twenty minutes and a bottle of very good Barbera d’Asti later that we were seated at the worst table in the gaff by a lady whose job it was to take the punters to their table.

Someone else takes you order and someone else delivers. It’s all very slick, but a bit too slick; everyone had their part to play and they delivered it with the charm of the robot waiters on that spaceship looking after the fat people in Wall-e. It seems that they all want to be cheeky chappies and chappesses, clones of Jamie. On that visit they were like diabetic jam. There’s something not quite right about them, but they do the job.

The second visit had us seated upstairs. Gordo had asked his PA to book a table on Tuesday lunchtime. Apparently the quota for booked tables had run out, but we could ‘take our chances’. When we arrived, it was early, and we were given a table immediately. In fact, the restaurant was only ever just over half full for the session. Which irritated the fat one.

Nibbles of olives (big green buggers on ice, really good but need to be at £3.75) came with crispy flat breads and an earthy tapenade. Rice balls, which Gordo doesn’t get normally, were good. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, with a good dip (£4.95).

Big_Green_Olives_And_Italian_Nachos[1]Big Green Olives And Italian Nachos

The nibbles are a bit more than nibbles and make for a great two hour beer session in the bar area for grazing. Successful stuff has included Sicilian Spaghetti fritters, Crispy Squid, Mushroom Fritti, Polenta Chips and Italian Nachos, all between £3.55 and up to £5.75. Great bar food and Gordo can recommend that you order an extra portion or two at the table. They are fun.

Much better fun than ordering sides to go with your mains and thus getting a proper spanking for 20p’s worth of ingredients in the ‘Humble green salad’ which, although dressed with great skill is a complete piss-take at £3.25. Yes, Jamie, you really are a cheeky bleeding chappy, aren’t you?

Mozzarella_Best_Of_Breed[1]Mozzarella Best Of Breed

Gordo had twice ordered ‘Jamie’s Favourite Turkey Milanese’, which is the politically correct Veal Milanese. Clearly there is a PR army behind the cheeky chappy but they need to get behind Rose Veal. It’s got better flavour and mouth feel than pummelled turkey, which can be a bit vinyl-like at times, one of these certainly was. But, great flavour in the coating, which had been briskly fried in good butter. The fried egg on top was well handled, of a good size and runny. The dish, in Gordo’s opinion, should be served with anchovies. Gordo asked and he was pleased to be given a small bowl of chopped fellers with no fuss.

There is a lot of ‘construction’ cooking here, as is common in Italy, fillet of fish cooked in a bag (£15.95) is a case in point. A bed of cracked wheat, fish fillets laid on top. The flavourings are dropped over. In this case fennel, anchovies, chilli, mussels and clams. Bag is sealed by hand. The genius here is that the dish can be pre-assembled, it benefits from fridge time and this particular one, after about nine minutes in a hot oven is absolute heaven.

Another guest at the table reported that his sea bass was a ‘greasy overcooked mess’. Gordo was not best pleased, he had been polite and not complained. Always complain people, it gets straight to the Head Chef who can then sort out the problem of when and where the mistake happened and sort it. If you do this, everyone goes out happy.

The menu is different to other Italian gaffs, whilst pasta is not all over the carta; it is well represented by a few gems. The cockles linguini (starter £8.20) is great and Schofield the editor, who gate crashed, had the black angel hair spaghetti for the third time which didn’t disappoint. A seafood dish, you will find scallops, garlic, chilli, anchovies, parsley and capers along with a big slug of Sicilian wine.

Linguine_Seafood[1]Linguine Seafood

Anyways, back to that cheeky very rich chappie.  No pizza or blinking dough balls. Good thing.

Puddings are formulaic, ordinary and probably not made on the premises. Gordo will be happy to be proven wrong on this. A pannacotta on the first visit was wobbly, rich and creamy with a good berry compote. Peachy peach cake was on the dirty lush side with a dollop of thick cream. But Jeremy can do better with these. Gordo can’t remember the prices of these things. So shoot him.

Peachy_Pudd[1]Peachy Pudd

The wine is boxing above its weight; Gordo on the second visit was taking care at lunch with a bottle of Pinot Grigio at £19-odd for which he would have paid £27. The first visit was the Barberra d’Asta, again value.

The cooking at Jamie’s Italian isn’t world beating.

What it does, however, for its size of operation is to gather extraordinary ingredients together, gets them delivered daily and constructs good looking, tasty and dare we say it pretty darned healthy dishes which rarely go wrong.

The crowd currently filling it are from outside the city limits; those inside will try it but then go back to Ettore’s Piccolino and San Carlo’s Cicchetti, or drive up to Chris Johnson’s Ramsons up in Ramsbottom, where the food is better.

The decor may not be, however.

Jamie’s will become a firm event favourite, there is a good sense of occasion here.

One last moan. The tables are too small.

You can follow Gordo on Twitter here @GordoManchester


Jamie's Italian, King Street, City, M2 4WU. 0161 241 3901   

Rating: 15/20
Food: 6.75/10
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 4.25/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

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37 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Daniel JamesMay 11th 2012.

We also ate on tuesday lunchtime, as a party of six, and despite booking in advance, also got a bad (cramped) table.

The restaurant missed of one of the starters, which took a further 20 minutes to bring, the sea bass was like in the review, very greasy, but the worst was the turkey milanese, which two of us ordered and couldn't eat.

All this tasted of was cooking oil, and was swimming in grease, and was a pale white, far from golden and the meat was just too pink in the middle. the manager was very polite, and informed us that she had spoken to the chef, and commented that when she saw our dished it should never had come out of the kitchen - we wish it hadn't.

This was my third time at the restaurant, and after thinking on previous visits, the poor quality of the food may just be teething troubles, it clearly isn't. A very attractive place to enjoy some lovely drinks and good wine, but food wise a very bad NAFI, that is well below par, with many better Italians in Manchester to choice from.

paulMay 11th 2012.

"the first time he became a millionaire"and how many times are you on now ?

Alan WharrierMay 11th 2012.

First time I've heard anyone say anything good about this place ....

Daniel HarrisonMay 11th 2012.

Same here Alan Wharrier. I've heard only terrible things about it, other than the fact that the building is wonderful. No doubt the fat tongued mockney will try to take the credit for that, but I'd rather eat in Essy's.

Anne KershawMay 11th 2012.

We ate there when it had just opened and loved it. The food and service was excellent. Sham others haven't had the experience we did as it was really lovely.

jenbobMay 11th 2012.

I had a lovely dinner here with friends - I really enjoyed my bean bruchetta and the black angel hair spaghetti and the wine was great.

Yes it's a bit cramped, but I wasn't there for a romantic meal for two - it was for a good laugh catching up with the girls - which this place is perfect for.

Chris BurkeMay 11th 2012.

The choice for veggies is very poor ... especially for an Italian restaurant.

Caroline EardleyMay 11th 2012.

Jamie's Italian is the worst restaurant I have eaten in in Manchester. Shoddy service, overcrowded, overpriced, too hot, food ranging from mediocre to inedible - if you are unlucky enough to go, don't order the shin of beef - just a rubbish experience. My turkey Milanese looked nothing like the one here!! Shame on Oliver for letting this crap be churned out under his name.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Alan WharrierMay 11th 2012.


HavershamMay 11th 2012.

I was so looking forward to trying the squid ink risotto. Was a let down and mediocre at best. There are much better places for the money.

AnonymousMay 11th 2012.

I had the meatball carbonara it looked like a child had prepared it. Absolutely no depth of flavour at all- and about five miniscule meatballs. Terrible. The spaghetti fritters looked impressive but were cold and didn't taste of much. Never going back.

AnonymousMay 11th 2012.

I really enjoyed my trip to Jamies - went for dinner and had a wonderful pesto pasta dish and yummy pudding afterwards. Atmosphere was wonderful and service brilliant. I can't fault it, and am planning a trip back very soon

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Daniel HarrisonMay 11th 2012.

Jamie - is that you?

Alan WharrierMay 11th 2012.

Dan if it were jamie it would have went along these lines:
I really enjoyed my trip to Jamith - went for dinner and had a wonderful pethto pathta dith and yummy pudding afterwardth. Atmothphere wath wonderful and thervith brilliant. I can't fault it, and am planning a trip back very thoon

Jane SpencerMay 11th 2012.

I've been twice to Jamies just to see if it was as bad as the first time and guess what is was!!

Helena RimmerMay 11th 2012.

I ate there recently for a friends birthday, I had heard a few bad reviews but thought I'd give it a go...I can honestly say that the best part of the whole experience was seeing the orginial bank vault! The starters were mediocre and the angel hair pasta was watery and tastless, my partner had sea bass which came with a side salad that looked more like a garnish...will be sticking to san carlo's in future!

SusieMay 11th 2012.

Waited 1 1/2 hrs for table, we were told itll be a wait but we saw several empty tables so didnt understand the wait (on second thoughts while waiting at the bar we spent around £25 on drinks,ploy?)Service awful - had to call for waiter twice to order drinks only to wait 30mins for them to arrive. Had the burger, onions on it was half cold. Not pleasurable crunchy through salt in burger (oversalted) You never see the same waiter twice. They forgot 1 of the starters they took their time with bringing that when prompted. Also forgot a side. We had a plank for starters, you get barely nothing for the price - its got excellent ingredients including slightly bigger than marble sized mozarella balls £6.85 a head, no thank you. Everyone else I know who has been wont be visiting again neither will I.

Dave MartinMay 11th 2012.

Blimey I went there a few weeks ago and although unimpressed with the table since we'd pre-booked weeks ahead, and the "cheeky" service was slightly irritating, the food went down well with everyone and was refreshingly different to the usual "italian" fare. All agreed we would return and recommend. Perhaps they sent a chef from London to get things established and they've gone back too soon, or he/she is on holiday!?

Lauren HoldingMay 11th 2012.

I have visited 2 Jamie's Italians in & around London, which I loved, so was really excited when the Manchester restarant opened.
After 2 visits to the new Manchester branch, I'm really disappointed. The first time I had meatball carbonara, which was bland; the meat was like cheap processed sausages. The second time I had seabass. Now I know fish have bones, but this was ridiculous! I had to take the smallest bits at a time & just ended up with a mouthful of bones. I gave up in the end, as I couldn't taste it & was sick of picking bones out of my mouth.
Will not be going a third time.

JohnthebriefMay 11th 2012.

It's a chain. The food will never be consistently good.

Poster BoyMay 11th 2012.

The Fat One seems rather...out of step.

Maggie MilnerMay 12th 2012.

Gordo - you are a national treasure with such a way with words, welcome back - not enjoyed a Mancon review so much for ages!! Not been to Jamie's in Manchester but tried Cheltenham last year and was not overly impressed so don't think I will be bothering - especially to wait over an hour for a table!

1 Response: Reply To This...
GordoMay 12th 2012.

Eh, Schofield, have you read Maggie's very sensible words?

Christine KilbyMay 13th 2012.

Two visits later, I find this place ok but slightly over priced for what it is. The menu reads better than it delivers. The 'fun' presentation idea of balancing planks of Italian meats on tins of Italian tomatoes is ridiculous and I removed them immediately - imagine one landing on your foot! As for cheeky chappie service, I find this irritating -you are not my 'pal', you are my waiter, or in the case of Jamies, waiters. The building is magnificent and (currently) there is a very happy atmosphere. Gordo is probably right, it will become a firm favourite but possibly because many people care less about quality of food and more about their surroundings. This will shock though: I prefer it to oddball Chris Ransom's restaurant - now there's a Basil Fawlty type if ever I met one, don't care how good his food is supposed to be (and that would be not very on the day we visited!). Cicchetti is the best out of the three mentioned in my opinion.

NickyMay 13th 2012.

We visited 2 weeks after the opening to let the dust settle - the staff were lovely although we had to wait nearly an hour after our scheduled reservation. Alias the food was totally shocking, infact I was rather imbarrsed as I had really pushed to visit. I think the restaurant is far to big to deal with menu which they have on offer and the covers that they squeeze in. This restaurant will obviously be a tourist trap and possibly win awards as the new eaterie in Manchester. Try harder is my only advise

TopchefMay 14th 2012.

I have eaten there twice now, both great.
Great food, service and reasonably priced as expected from the cheeky chap chain.

AnonymousMay 14th 2012.

Hold on a sec. You didn't review Jamie's Italian!. You told us about your lunch. That's not a review. It'd be nice to have an alternative vegetarian or a dietary specials review of places like this. Or at least a nod to what's on offer. Also, Jamie's have a kids menu too. A half arsed review in my opinion.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoMay 14th 2012.

Anon, you're welcome to your opinion. Do you come from Chorlton, you numpty?

AnonymousMay 15th 2012.

Thanks Gordo. Not from Chorlton no. Looks like your GPS is as outdated as your food reviews.

pollolocoMay 15th 2012.

Anon...what are you doing on a food and drink site?

BKMay 15th 2012.

Anon, valid points well made!

As a food lover, with a recent diagnosis of gluten and wheat allergies, a decent review would go a long way!

Tell me, do allergies make for a Chorlton numpty?

DavidMay 23rd 2012.

A restaurant review should be about the restaurant. Not about the person reviewing it. It's totally narcissistic and is very poor journalism.

Charlie ButterworthMay 23rd 2012.

David, a review is anything the reviewer wants to write about. And as long as several thousand readers want to read it then that's the correct approach. There are no rules.

DavidMay 23rd 2012.

Is that Gordo in disguise?

1 Response: Reply To This...
GordoJune 7th 2012.

Nope, this Gordo! Now David, you can say whatever you want about me and my writing but never, ever, call me a FUCKING JOURNALIST.

NorthernGeezerMay 26th 2012.

Turkey Milanese????
I've got a couple of Mr Mathews finest 'drummers' in the freezer if anyones interested.

Tracy PennyOctober 7th 2012.

We were going to book this for our 20th anniversary, however, after reading this review i think we should look else where. I wouldn't want to wait so long for a table then be stuck in a dark corner. Back to the drawing board to find somewhere special. Thanks

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