Monday 28 June 2010

Jamie's Italian Milsom Place Bath - Italian Food in Ye Olde Roman Town

Whilst on a day trip to the glorious city of Bath, home of the Bath Spa and Johnny Depp amongst other things, my better half and I were intrigued at the prospect of visiting a Jamie Oliver restaurant, especially the Italian. Since we are both fans and I have managed to follow his Italian recipes churning out some truly tantalising food (not so much a testament to my cooking abilities but to the recipes themselves) it seemed inevitable that even a glimpse at the place was needed. Thanks to a lovely local lady who gave us some helpful directions (without whom we would never have found the place), we made our way to Milsom Place, a very plush and intricately laid out shopping centre thankfully devoid of any high street chains that seemed to have graced the Southgate Shopping Centre.

The first thing that strikes you when you are greeted at the entrance of 
Jamie's Italian is the decor which is an interesting blend of rustic wooden floor and wall panels combined with chrome and white metallic furniture. The shelves and window ledges of the building are strewn with all sorts of Jamie related memorabilia in particular of course his library of books but also that of his Italian father Gennaro Contaldo. The main level has a bar and also a Deli counter with an assortment of breads and cold meats hanging over the counter, which will no doubt have to be sampled on the next visit.

There is indoor seating available on two levels and of course there is the open rooftop for alfresco dining on a dry bright spring or summer's day making for a pleasant dining experience accompanied by views of Bath’s historic and modern buildings. However it is recommended that if you do make it to the rooftop be sure you are armed with hats and sun cream as the location is a veritable sun trap which coupled with the rays reflected off the white metallic tables  may leave one vulnerable to getting sunburned.

To Kick Things Off

Whilst there is an assortment of tempting starters there was only one that caught our eye: the Season Meat Antipasti Plank priced at £6.65 per head. This consists of a selection of prosciutto ham, salami assortment, mortodela ham, and pecorino cheese with a dollop of chilli jam sitting on top of some crispy flat bread. Accompanying the meat are some pickled green chillies, a sprinkle of fresh olives (not marinade or pickled) and two small terracotta dishes, one containing shredded fennel, carrot and red cabbage in an olive and mint dressing, and the other, two small mozzarella balls coated in herbs. All of these are presented on a long wooden board (antipasti is traditionally served on wood) resting on a tin of tomato puree on either side.There is no questioning the quality of the food or its presentation.

The meat is tasty and full of flavour although the slices are very thin so they almost seem to evaporate in your mouth. However with the accompaniments, this makes for a truly delightful start to the meal and beautifully presented. The shredded root vegetables with the oil and mint are the perfect summer appetiser, fresh and invigorating. Given the variety of items on the board there is something there for every one (and even a Vegetarian Antipasti). The price may seem a little steep given the quantity of food presented, however this is more than made up in quality, especially the meats which have a far superior taste than the plastic slabs you might find in your local supermarket.

The Main Event

Seafood lovers looking for extravagance should try the Shell Roasted Brixham Scallops. Basically you are presented with four grilled king scallops wrapped in crispy pancetta, and a crunchy fennel and lemon salad with salsa rosso crudo. With a price at £15.25 this might seem steep but this is about the same price you would expect to pay for a scallop dish in any sea food outlet. Each scallop is presented in its shell, all lying on a bed of salt presented on a white oblong dish. The scallops are tasty and packed with flavour but seem overpowered by the chilli contained within the dish, leaving nothing but heat lingering on the palate. However by disassembling the scallops from the rest of the dish, and eating the components separately this allows one to enjoy the sweetness of the scallops and the salty chilli heated pancetta without one overpowering the other. If you prefer something simple and more conventionally Italian then Jamie’s Italian Spaghetti Bolognese is the one for you.

This may seem a little simplistic and unimaginative however rest assured this Italian classic is several dimensions removed from the perceived image of the British “Spag – Bol” and you can have a small serving for £6.45 or the larger dish for £9.95. Jamie’s Bolognese consists of ground pork and beef (not mince), cooked in a herby ragu sauce with breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and chianti wine all mixed in with a generous helping of perfectly cooked al dente spaghetti. The ragu sauce is rich and tasty. The blend of tomato and herbs with the saltiness of the parmesan and fruity undertones of the wine makes it a simply divine dish. The serving is not skimpy on the meat which is tasty and tender and of course the spaghetti pasta completes the dish. This is as authentic an Italian taste as you are likely to get outside of Italy (or a top Italian restaurant). So while your accompanying guests may mock your boring choice, the flavour will remain long after the plate is empty.

A Sweet Finish

If after all that indulgent dining you feel the irresistible call of your sweet tooth then by all means tuck into what the menu describes as “Our Special Tiramisu”. There is a distinct absence of the booze one would expect from this classic Italian dessert but it is the only disappointment as all the other flavours are there, chocolate, coffee and creamy mascarpone. Although lacking a moorish element one might expect from such a decadent dessert, it is delicious in a dreamy way and one in which you are happy to take your time devouring. The Tiramisu rounds off any meal perfectly and at £4.95 is a reasonably priced dessert. Also highly recommended are the fruity house Sorbets which come in three flavours: apple, lemon, and orange.

Again this may seem like another dull and unimaginative choice but considering it was a hot day proved to be a very wise selection. Perhaps the most disappointing of the trio was the orange simply because it lacked the strong fruit taste the other two possessed in droves. A taste of the lemon flavour and the palate is instantly awash with an ice cold sea of sharp and sweet, whilst the apple is sweet and refreshing. However when you combine the tri-colour of flavours it’s as if there is an apple orchard and citrus grove having a party in your mouth. The crisp fruity flavours combined with the ice cold not only cleanse the palate but also leave those pleasure centres of the brain well and truly satisfied, a bargain delight at only £3.95 for three scoops.

The Culinary Conclusion

The service at Jamie’s Italian is very friendly, and the waiting staff very knowledgeable about the food they serve which is to be expected. There was a notable lack of efficiency however as the wait between courses simply seemed a little too long given that the place was not overrun with customers. This would have aggravated any visitor on a strict timetable for which waiting would simply have not been an option. Yet all in all it was enjoyable with a return visit most definitely on the cards. It all made for a memorable experience with some delightful food overall and two sunburned faces.

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