I promised the shortbread-lover that I'd start this post with a little shout-out, so here goes:
"Hello, Dominic Lam!"
May has always been a big birthday month for us -three girls, three birthdays, three bulls. Ever since I can remember, May has also always been the month for exams so birthday celebrations have always been a bit of a jigsaw puzzle for us. One of my pieces of the puzzle this year was a rather early birthday celebration at a little Italian place that I had been wanting to visit for awhile now.
Churchill Place Mall,
London, E14 5RB
There's definitely a novelty that comes with eating at a restaurant owned by a celebrity chef. The travel and food channel has always been a favourite of mine and I remember when it started airing some of Jamie Oliver's cooking shows - unlike most other cooking shows that time, these episodes featured a laidback, rather scruffy looking Englishman that made cooking look incredibly easy. Nothing ever seemed overly complicated with him. I suppose I identified with that, being someone who loves the freedom of just tossing anything and everything into the pan to see what happens.
The first thing you'd notice when you step into the restaurant is the relaxed vibe that it exudes - it's warm and inviting but without any of the stiffness that sometimes comes with the fancier restaurants.
After a rather extensive session of "hmmming" and "harrring", we finally order, some of us choosing to start with some antipasti.
Pumpkin and burrata with chilli, sage and herby shoots.
Truffle Salami - artisan salami, mildly flavoured with truffle and black pepper
Diana and I couldn't resist ordering some crsipy fried squid with garlicky mayo, something we picked out even before it was recommended by our waiter. We both loved the "really garlicky mayo" that was an excellent complement to the crsipy squid. My only gripe is that I wished the portion of squid was a little larger.
Rabbit Ragu Pappardelle. I have to admit, I'm the type of person who likes to take a quick look at a restaurant's website before I visit it and this was the dish that stood out for me when I took a look at the menu on the website. I wasn't disappointed - the slow-cooked rabbit was tender and flavourful but not overpowering and one cannot help but be a little amused by the curly pasta.
Seafood linguine. The restaurant also runs a daily specials menu and we picked this one off it.
The very aptly named Fish in a Bag
Some other pasta dishes and mains that made it to our table were the wild truffle risotto and the lamb chops.
Nothing, however, prepared me for dessert.
When they brought out this gorgeous looking cake, I couldn't believe that it was homemade. I cannot think of anything better - a cake made out of frozen yoghurt in my favourite flavour (green tea!) and some of my favourite toppings (strawberries and chocolate brownies!). Absolutely perfect. The fact that my friends had thought up something like that (and proceeded to produce such a divine cake) made me feel extremely loved. I'm probably not the most sentimental person by nature, but oh boy was I touched.
Jamie's Italian is good for special occasions - food is of a high quality, service is pleasant and while it's perhaps a little pricier than the average Italian restaurant, there's that added novelty of sitting down to a meal at a celebrity chef restaurant. The menu seems to be seasonal as the last time I checked, some of the things we had aren't on the menu anymore but any form of seafood linguine or ragu pasta would be a good way to go. What I'll remember most about the visit though won't be the food or the service but the way good company managed to take my mind of a less-than-pleasant first final exam and make me feel like I was queen of the world.