Oh Jamie I love you so. I love the style of food you cook on your TV shows; I love how you are trying to make the school children of the world eat healthier with your global food campaign; I love how my 4 year old knows exactly who you are, and gets so excited every time he sees you on telly or sees your mug shot in Woolies, he even built one of your hothouses at Preschool; I love your gorgeous wife Jools, and your divine little brood with kooky names; BUT Jamie what I don't love is the restaurant on Pitt Street in Sydney that has your name on it.
I so wanted to love your restaurant - Jamie's Italian, so much so that I booked a table 6 weeks in advance for the family friendly hour of 5pm on a Saturday evening. The online booking process was oh so easy and we were all very excited about dining out at night time and my boys kept asking if they would be able to meet you. I told the boys that you were the head of a global organisation and that it was unlikely that you would be there on the evening. I also told them that we would be able to check out their menu on a Viewfinder which sounded oh so very cool, and made them clap their little hands with excitement.
We wandered down Pitt St in plenty of time for our booking but we actually couldn't find your restaurant Jamie! Then we realised that the place that had a growing line of people out the front was it but as the queue was standing in front of the only sign for the restaurant it was a wee bit tricky to see. As we had a booking we politely squeezed our way to the top of that queue only to be told that that we had to go the back of the queue and wait behind all of the "walk ins". So we waited in the queue as you do, whilst all of the walk ins were processed and told to hang fire because there was up to an hour wait for a table.
Whilst waiting in the queue I noticed that there was a Secure Car Park right next door, so that is handy for people that need to park close by ($20 flat rate on Saturday evenings). I could see that there was a bar inside where a lot of the walk ins had congregated waiting vainly for a table making it very difficult for anyone to squeeze past. There was also a pasta bar where you made all of the pasta for the restaurant which is a lovely thing to see but I couldn't help but think Jamie, that maybe this was a bit of a waste of space. See Jamie, people who have bookings don't like to be kept waiting for too long and may be this space could have been used for the walk ins to put their names down and that way people with bookings could be greeted and treated with some respect as they did book quite a long time ago.
When we finally made it to the front of the queue we were warmly greeted by the gorgeous looking English backpacker wait staff but there was no apology for us having to wait so long, oh well they were under the pump after all. We were shown up stairs to our table and as we had a stroller with us, this was kindly stored downstairs. We took in the industrial chic surrounds and our charming waitress placed the menus in front of us, including a kids menu. When I inquired what happened to the Viewfinders, I was advised that they had all been stolen and some more were on order from HQ in the UK. Obviously we Aussies are still holding onto our convict ways! Oh well crayons and colouring sheets were quickly placed in front of the 3 kidlets so that kept them occupied for quite a while.
I have to say your kids menu is very impressive Jamie. I liked that were were loads of options, that it was healthy and that it as reasonably priced - $9.50 including either an apple or orange juice and I loved that the waitress bought the kids juices straight away. The kidlets ordered the Spaghetti Bolognese, Curly Wurly Tomato Pasta Bake and the Puppy Dog. Someone obviously let the dogs out cause you had run out of Puppy Dogs so we changed the order to the Chicken Lollipops.
Two of the meals came reasonably fast considering how busy you guys were - the spag bol was devoured quickly as were the 3 widdle chicken lollipops and all the while the third little tacker kept waiting for his dinner and turned into Captain Cranky Pants. I think his meal got dropped as the poor waitress was coming upstairs (Jamie, those trendy wooden boards that your food is served on can be a bit tricky to carry when laden with food). Finally the Curly Wurly Tomato Paste Bake arrived and when we inquired if it was hot we were told no - but it bloody well was.
The meals sizes were adequate for smaller kids but I think kidlets from about the age of 8 may need to order off the adults menu as their little bellies may still be rumbling. The 'shake me salads' were MIA, we probably should have said something at the time but alas we didn't. And I think the crunchy bread crumbs were also MIA from the top of the Curly Wurly Tomato Pasta Bake, but don't worry the little tacker wasn't too fazed by this. (My apologies for the poor quality photos it was difficult to take decent photos in the dim lighting).
I did love your kids fruit boards for dessert Jamie. I wish so many more places did this and at $2.50 they represent excellent value. The cute cartoon paper was also a neat idea and kept the boys entertained for a little while whilst their parents ate.
I've been quite negative so far Jamie haven't I? Sadly, I've still got a few gripes left in me. But I will start with a positive - your tucker is tasty! The adults ordered the Italian Bread Selection and for $1.50 for the pot it was damn fine value - the focaccia was heavenly. We also ordered Crispy Prawns and Crispy Squid to share amongst 4 adults - so it kinda sucked when only 3 prawns and 3 pieces of squid arrived. Maybe our lovely waitress could have told us that when we ordered? We would have happily ordered more if we had known, as they all tasted oh so good.
We all liked our mains and chose similar dishes. The pasta of the day was spaghetti with house made salume and marscapone was yum as was the prawn linguine with garlicky prawns, tomatoes, chilli, rocket and fennel. Just to let you know Jamie, Aussie blokes are big eaters and are used to the traditional Italian restaurants that we have so many of down under, that serve big bowls of pasta, so maybe something to take into consideration. The other thing about us Aussies is that we like to drink. Your Italian wine list is great and we asked our lovely waitress to advise us which wine on the list was most like a sav blanc. She very kindly said that you had a wine from an old wine list that was similar and so we ordered it. What she didn't advise us was that the wine was not chilled. So we had to wait for that process to occur. Had we known this we would have chosen something from the list that was already chilled, cause you kind of need wine immediately when dining out with kids. Now Aussie blokes like a beer (just like you Pommy lads) and the wine list that we were given stated that you stocked a selection of local and imported beers but there were only two Italian beers available and apparently one of them was a wee bit shite.
Do you mind if I ask Jamie why your kitchen staff were continually coming upstairs, squeezing past diners and wait staff with big dirty trays, pots, dishes etc? Where were they off to? Is the person who washes your dishes (aka the dish pig) located upstairs somewhere? Not a great look I have to say. I find it weird that the kitchen would be downstairs and the wash up area to be upstairs. And because the kitchen is downstairs, all of the hot air it generates rises upstairs making it a tad warm on a balmy Sydney evening. I think if I was ever to come back I would most definitely request when I make my booking 6 weeks in advance that we need to be seated downstairs. But that's the question isn't it Jamie - would we ever go back? Maybe at lunch time the experience would be far superior? I don't think it was just a "once off" the bad experience we had in the evening. You guys have been operating for a few years now and quite a few reviews I have read online complain about the same issues.
By the way Jamie when we left the queue was bigger than ever. We had to barge our way out the door, with terrified little tackers in tow as those damn walk ins wouldn't move out of the way cause they seemed so desperate to snag a table in your restaurant. Is there anyway you can streamline this process do you think Jamie? One thing I suppose, is that the queues are testament to the fact that your restaurant is still very popular, just like celebrity chef restaurants normally are.
I honestly do love everything about you Jamie, you are a gorgeous bloke, and an honorary Aussie of sorts. I just don't think that your Jamie's Italian in down town Sydney is really that Pukka x
So tell my dear Little Munchers - have you been to Jamie's Italian? If so, did you have a positive experience? Please let me know as I really want to recommend Jamie's Italian but after the evening we had, I feel as though I shouldn't.
107 Pitt St Sydney, NSW 2000
02 8240 9000
Open 7 days 11.30am - late