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Dinner At Jamie Oliver's Plus Gennaro Contaldo Video

Jonathan Schofield enjoys the food at the epic Jamie's Italian on King Street

Written by . Published on February 18th 2012.

Dinner At Jamie Oliver's Plus Gennaro Contaldo Video

THIS isn't the proper Manchester Confidential review of Jamie's Italian because it was hosted by the restaurant. We wouldn't want to be guilty of bias when scoring restaurants if we hadn't paid for the food and drink.

The squid ink in the pasta gives a wild exotic note to the flavour immediately enhancing the scallops, anchovies, parsley and capers. The garlic, chilli and wine reduction this sits in, blackened and flavoured by the squid ink, has to be spooned up like soup.

So treat this as a hint and description of the nosh, atmosphere and ramifications of this gargantuan new Manchester restaurant. In a few weeks time we'll sneak in like food thieves in the night and chuck a full critical analysis at the place.

The Night Flies ByThe Night Flies By

What is clear is that Jamie's Italian is a game-changer in Manchester.

And it doesn't stop with the diamond geezer's gaff either. 2012 is going to be busy at the top-end of King Street, with the April launch of another 'name' in food and drink, L'Entrecote. The two new boys will bring more than 400 covers to King Street.

Add these to the larger cumulative number of covers in neighbour or near neighbour venues, Rosso, Room, Browns and Panama Hatty's and suddenly we're pushing beyond the 1000 customer level. (And that's not including nearby Piccolino, Sam's, Stock, Destino and Chaophraya.)

It's going to be either a battle royal around King Street, and across the city, to attract custom, or perhaps - and here's hoping - a perfect benign storm. Let's hope the older restaurants can soak up some of the overspill from the tsunami of Jamie's Italian. 

As for this place, it's an immediate and stunning winner. The scale of the 1935 Edwin Lutyen's designed Midland Bank has been carefully preserved through the refurbishment - as shown in our picture gallery last week, click here.

What we have in Manchester is without doubt the grandest dining hall in the North. 

The Bar AreaThe Bar Area

We ate on the balcony dining area over the deli bar on the east side of the building. There are three elevated areas which have a theatrical feel as though you're in a box watching the drama and performance unfolding on the stage below. 

There are also two ground floor dining areas, one in the main hall of the building close to the kitchen and 'the pass'. The other  is the one to be avoided, a low ceilinged space on the left as you enter the restaurant. To be stuck in there would be to miss out on the pageantry of the restaurant entirely.

The food has drama too and comes from Gareth Howard, the head chef here. The antipasti meat planks at £6.85 a person demonstrate this from the off.

Here's a short video of chef and business partner in Jamie's Italian, Gennaro Contaldo, introducing the meat plank. You also get part of Gordo's face and my voice interrupting. 

The plank is fine grazing food, a fine conversation promoter. Standout elements include juicy caper berries, lush fat olives, moist cured meats particularly a cracking mortadella, gorgeous buffalo mozzarella and a clever crunchy salad of carrots, beets and mint.

By this time we were cooing over a 2010 Alto Adige region Rain Riesling Alois Lageder at £31. This was as cool and crisp as the Alpine region it hails from and is heartily recommended. In fact we preferred it to the 2008 Piedmont Fausto, Vigne Marina Coppi at £85. There are also more sensibly priced whites and reds from £15 a bottle. 

Subtle But Pushy ReislingFresh as an Alpine stream

Next up we had the wild truffle risotto (£11.50 as a main), trout baked in a bag (£15.95), a side of swiss chard (£3.25) and a starter sized portion of black angel sphagetti (£8.20)

Putting the pasta dish with the rice and the fish worked beautifully delivering an array of textures and flavours. 

The Black Angel Spaghetti - Quite ExceptionalThe Black Angel Spaghetti - Quite Exceptional

You should try the black angel spaghetti people, it's exquisite.

The squid ink in the pasta gives a wild exotic note to the flavour immediately enhancing the scallops, anchovies, parsley and capers. The garlic, chilli and wine reduction this sits in, blackened and flavoured by the squid ink, has to be spooned up like soup.

The other dishes worked well. The truffle in the risotto could be smelled three metres away on approach but didn't overwhelm the dish. The trout in a bag (top picture on this page) came with a bundle of seafood, clams, anchovies, mussels and was given bite and character by fennel, and bulk with a mountain of cracked wheat. This was a properly hearty and filling meal, good value for its price.

Truffle risottoTruffle risotto

The side of Swiss chard with chilli and garlic sums up the best qualities of Jamie's Italian, one which I've previously noted in Liverpool. While there is real skill in the cooking, there's also big, punchy, honest-to-goodness strength. 

Not for me the desserts though. The coffee flavoured Tiramisu (£4.95) with chocolate and orange mascarpone I found too heavy. The peach and almond tart (£4.95) with creme fraiche and honey was good but as I was still trying to permanently commit to memory that black angel spaghetti it didn't really register.

Service from our waiter, Bradley, was exemplary - informed and enthusiastic at the same moment. 

An irritant came in the form of an odd 1982 disco sound-track which as the place filled became a bassline lost in chatter. Jamie's Italian should turn the music off when two thirds full. The human voice provides melody enough. 

At this point I'm going to say, damn - I seem to have done a sort of review after all.

Er...can we call this more of a guideline as to what to expect on a visit?

Anyway back to the game changer point above. The big openings in the first months of 2012 might be a measure of how far this city can push its food and drink offer. There's more to come this year too. 

The question is, can Manchester's restaurant scene cope? Are there enough customers to go around?

Jamie Oliver's celebrity, and the magnificence of this building and the experience it delivers, will no doubt drag people in from the Shires as well as the city region.

It will pull them over the Pennines and from deep into the Cheshire Plain, but will Jamie's appeal make the dining scene cake bigger or just slice it thinner? 

Either way it seems in Manchester we're in for a proper food and drink ride, Euro-crisis blues or not.

Jamie's Italian is at 100 King Street, City, M2 4WU. Open (from Monday 20 Feb): Monday-Saturday noon - 11pm; Sunday noon - 10.30pm.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

Perpetual MotionPerpetual Motion

Jamie's Kitchen is at 

Jolly Branding For New Jamie's ItalianJolly Branding For New Jamie's Italian

Busy At The Food BarBusy At The Food Bar

Waiting for the dishes at 'The Pass'Waiting for the dishes at 'The Pass'

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

GordoFebruary 18th 2012.

Wild truffle rissotto? I didnt realise that there was any farmed?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 18th 2012.


Clare GallawayFebruary 21st 2012.

yes of course there is, every truffle fair in france has baby trees with their roots treated with truffle spores. Everyone walks away with a precious little tree, which may - or may not! - result in your own truffle culture...

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2012.

Th eplace that is going to be hammered by Jamie's is that faux Italian over the road, Rosso. I bet the owner has never been on a field trip to Italy in his life and simply hasnt got a clue what his product should taste like. His room is now very much second best to this place. The food has always been poor.

Isabella JacksonFebruary 18th 2012.

Yep, lots of truffle farms - in fact there is at least one in England

Laura Dipple-JohnstoneFebruary 19th 2012.

This Jamie's Italian has got to be the jewel in the crown - such a handsome setting. Can highly recommend the Wild Truffle Rissotto and Amalfi Lemon Curd Slice.

AnonymousFebruary 20th 2012.

I am gutted... I was looking forward to this opening for ages but couldn't believe what we were served for lunch on Saturday. The 'rice balls' were inedible, the rice was raw. The prosciutto spaghetti was (and i know im sounding dramatic here) one of the worst pasta dishes I have had. Spaghetti was over done, sauce resembled watery tasteless soup, i couldn't believe it. My friend had the burger which was unimaginative and ultimately tasteless too.
The venue is undeniably astonishing, i just wish the food was.

1 Response: Reply To This...
JJJJFebruary 20th 2012.

Steady on, this is early days, it wasn't even officially open

alex dandekerFebruary 20th 2012.

no excuse

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2012.

I'm afraid my experience of Jamie's Italian in Liverpool has put me off visiting my old bank (I was once refused a mortgage in there!). The food at the Liverpool one was reasonable price-wise but was so damned dull and tasteless.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Melanie JolleyFebruary 21st 2012.

We ate at Jamie's Liverpool restaurant at the weekend. And while my husband & I agreed it wasn't the best Italian food we have ever eaten (I think Stock would probably achieve that status), we both really enjoyed it and will definitely be trying the Manchester restaurant. We both had the meat plank as starters which were delicious. I had the revolution burger and funky chips as a main, which was also really good and my husband had the porchetta off the specials. He said that this was really good, though not the best he had ever had. Our friends both had pasta and risotto and were very impressed with both. However, I had the tiramisu (and I have to admit I consider myself as a connoisseur of Tiramisu) and unfortunately I have to agree with the review. It was too heavy and i didn't think the orange worked at all.

Rebecca SimpsonFebruary 21st 2012.

I went to Jamie's last Thursday evening before the official opening. I thought the food was lovely and very reasonably priced. Great building and had a look in the Vault

Richard McCleanFebruary 21st 2012.

Thanks for your comments about the "music" here - it's a bee in my bonnet and your remarks will, I hope, go buzzing round the management's ears...

Howard BamforthFebruary 21st 2012.

I agree that music in restaurants and pubs should be optional, and not force-fed to the paying customers. If we really need music we will take our own choice of music and listen to it privately with headphones, and avoid forcing it on other customers. Personally I would prefer the sound of conversation rather than muzac every time.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Victoria GreenMarch 8th 2012.

I totally disagree, I find it rude and ignorant to have someone sat at the table with headphones.

Stephanie Kniveton-JonesFebruary 21st 2012.

I went to jamies on the preview day on Friday. Fabulous building excellent informative service. Had the meat plank, then the wild mushroom and truffle rissotto, my husband had pasta and meatball carbonara. Pasta was light and delicious and rissotto was heaven on a plate. Top quality ingredients cooked to perfection.

Simon TurnerFebruary 21st 2012.

Better than Stock, better than Piccolino. The acoustics are terrible and/or the sound system is terrible; the muzak doesn't come across well at all. Good waiting staff, much better trained than some I've encountered in the first wek or so of an opening.

kisscurlFebruary 23rd 2012.

I have already been 4 times to Jamies and thoroughly enjoyed it every time. For me though there was too much salt and chilli in the Italian Feast, but that is only my personal taste. I also enjoyed the music on Sunday, during the evening last night it was very noisy with customers talking, but I think it would be lost without any background music at all. The staff are great and spend time to talk to you. We found if you go to the door and say your just coming in for a drink, you're in then and you can ask if you can eat a snack where you are sitting or if they can let you know when there is a table free. It's worked every time for u, but I suspect Friday and Saturdays will be even more busy than last night and that was rammed! Enjoy, there aren't many Southerners who are brave enough to tackle Manchester and I think Jamie may just have got it right.

TwiggyFebruary 24th 2012.

Apparently there was a two hour waiting list at Jamie's last night....

rachie72February 25th 2012.

Just been for lunch. We loved it, food was great as was the service. It was busy though, no sure I would chance a walk-in at the weekend. We'll be going back. King St is looking up, now bring on L'Entrecote.

CALLAGFebruary 27th 2012.

We had a booking for 8pm on Friday night.
I was more than willing to allow some concession for service due to it being very early days but it was absolutely attrocious.
We never actually saw what the place looked like as we were whisked away to a dark corner that was so loud we couldn't hear ourselves think.
The floor was so shiny and slippy that anytime you moved your chair you shot across the small amount of space there was and either barged into somebody or banged into somebody elses table.
It took 10 minutes for anybody to ask us for a drink and just over 20 minutes in total before they turned up.
1 hour 20 minutes later the starters arrived. Ordered a meat board and assorted breads between the two of us so we could share.
When the cutlery was replenished they had ran out of forks and said that we would have to wait for the moment but in the meantime they would leave us with a knife! Sometime later some cutlery turned up which was thrown onto the table as they were walking past.
2 hours 5 minutes after arriving the mains turned up. I ordered the seafood risotto and my husband ordered the meatball carbonara.
To be perfectly honest I couldn't actually tell you whether they were fresh/well cooked/tasty because by that stage we would have probably eaten anything we were that hungry.
I was so disappointed as this was a treat for my husband and it was a total let down. Don't get me wrong, I knew it would be very busy and was fully prepared for that however, the times for being served were just plain ridiculous.
I will probably try there again some time - but certainly not for the next few months or so and see if it's any better then.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Lisa MFebruary 27th 2012.

At least we are not alone in our criticism of the place, went last Thursday evening, waited for ages like you for drinks and food, was told they had run out of the starters we requested, then told that they had not run out but that it would be too time consuming to prep!! 3 starters came, then one ten minutes after the three had been eaten, the fourth arrived, another hour for the mains, three of them were burgers, dry and unappetising, nice chips, waiter rude, dropped food on the floor and left it there for the whole of the meal, after we complained we were not offered a dessert menu, never again...

MattMarch 1st 2012.

Went last night. Waited approximately 45 minutes for a table, which was not ideal, but we didn't have reservations so I can cope with that. Drank some wine in the bar area, which is nice, but noisy.

Shown to our table with menus but it then took over twenty minutes for someone to take our order. They finally only came over when I asked a passing waiter and they said they would send ours over.

Ordered bread to come before our starters, as we were effin starving by this point. Anyway, the starters came before the bread. The waiter apologised because 'his manager keeps asking him to do other things'. Interesting. My starter of mini red sweet chillis filled with tuna and anchovy was actually really delightful. The missus pasta nachos were just crap in my opinion. Actually it was just bits of pasta chucked in a fryer with some bland, watery arrabiata. The bread was average.

My chicken liver tortellini main was average, average, average. The lemony sauce that came with it was nice, but again lacked punch and there wasn't enough. Offered parmesan for this, accepted the offer, but then the waiter went off to serve some pints. Came back with the parmesan five minutes later.

The missus had the black angel spaghettii above but it looked nothing like the one above. Tasted pretty good though.

At the end, the waiter apologised for everything but apparently it was because 4 chefs had phoned in sick. Now that is not a good sign.

Overall, the experience was phenomenally average. May return, but it will be a while.

MattMarch 1st 2012.

Oh and what the hell is the score with serving Joseph Holts absolutely awful 'Crystal' Lager?

JennyMarch 1st 2012.

I really wanted to like this place but found it lacking in many of the ways already mentioned above. Long wait for (booked table), table for 4 was so tiny we had to put the wine bucket on the floor under it...as for the service, very long time before ordering (waitress could not be found) when found she garbled at us and didn't listen (although it could be the background noise), which resulted in an incorrect order, and then she sat down with us for quite a while to moan about her lot...how awful it was working that evening and how mean the customers were...! To be onest the food was OK but not better than Piccolinos etc (in fact my other half said he had had better at Bella pasta!)

1 Response: Reply To This...
Liz TuckerMarch 2nd 2012.

I had the same thing! waitress moaning about the technology - and complaining that taking orders with pen and paper would be better. They also got several items wrong on our order). She spent more time with us moaning than anyone had throughout the meal attending to service!

AnonymousMarch 2nd 2012.

pretty disappointed to be honest. Went for my birthday meal this evening with friends.
Floor is dangerously slippy and I don't expect to have a long queue for the ladies toilet (some women were actually going to the mens - which is something I haven't done since my days as a student). The staff were smiley and pleasant but the service just wasn't attentive. They got several things wrong on our order - my starter didn't arrive until I asked where it was (after others in my party had finished theirs). Then they asked 'do you still want yours?'. Ermm hellooo - I have come out to eat!
No apology given for the errors.
They mixed up the chips ( which again failed to materialise and mains were going cold by the time they actually arrived) - famous polenta, funky and some other type - which all tasted the same to me tbh. I a a big fan of olives so couldn't wait to taste what was billed as 'the best olives in the WORLD' no less on the menu. They tasted of absolutely nothing except water and salt. I fed this back to the waiting staff who informed me that it is because they are picked fresh from the trees!!!!! Salted olives on a tree??? I think not.
My steak was good and cooked perfectly. Friends had pasta and risotto which they described as barely seasoned and pretty bland.
Amazing and I mean AMAZING building but if you want a meal to remember then I would say forget this place.
I know there will be teething problems - this is an ambitious location and the restaurant is very busy BUT the prices are not teething prices. At £100 for 3 of us - starter, main course and 2 glasses of wine a piece, I expected things to be much better and the food to be something to write home about.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Victoria GreenMarch 8th 2012.

You pay a premium for location especially in city centres, and for a celebrity name to go with it. £100 for 3, 2 courses, wine and one had steak - not bad going for King Street. What did you want a £5.99 meal deal? Try the Toby Carvery next time, might be more you.

ScoteeeMarch 15th 2012.

Victoria could you be any smarmier? Most of the offerings on King street do far better and are less expensive.

Mark RichardsonSeptember 27th 2012.

Im afraid this place is very much over rated, the food is expensive and bland, and £25 for a bottle of prosecco is terrible , especially as the quality is very poor, but wrapped up in a Jamie Oliver Label, To be honest the whole place reminded me of a wetherspoons. would not recommend at all.

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