Restaurant Review: Jamie’s Italian

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Photo courtesy of Blacksheep UK.

Luckily, the majority of my weekend responsibilities are reserved for food-related decisions. On this particular lazy Friday we were on the prowl for comfort food. All I could think about was inhaling a plate of Chicken Pad Thai or a pot of Biryani and retiring to my sofa when my husband suggested we go to Jamie’s Italian.

I’ve recently developed an aversion to Italian food because there are just so many bad Italian restaurants out there. Considering the culinary empire that Jamie Oliver reigns over, I was worried his restaurant chain would be The Cheesecake Factory of celebrity chef Italian food. Since, admittedly I spend hours glued to the TV watching Jamie create feasts in just 15 minutes, I obliged. Let’s see if those meals are really as good as they look on my 55” TV. 

The chef took a chance on us when he opened his first venture outside of the UK in 2011 in Dubai. The restaurant is raw and rustic with a gorgeous seaside terrace at the Jumierah Beach Hotel. Mismatched furniture, from colorful industrial chairs and upholstered leather booths to marble tables and hardwood floors provide a bohemian yet industrial ambiance. A range of funky and eccentric light fixtures dangle among the exposed pipes above and the nooks and crannies are stocked with Jamie’s merchandise.

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Photo courtesy of Blacksheep UK.

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Photo courtesy of Blacksheep UK.

In need of some nutrients, the left side of my brain prompted me to order a Superfood Salad. True to its name, the salad packs many superfoods like avocado, fennel, asparagus, beet root and eggplant over a bed of black rice, quinoa and lentils. A cannellini bean hummus coated the bottom of the bowl for an earthy undertone while the toppings provided a fresh, crispy contrast. The salad was drizzled with fennel blossom harissa and garnished with pumpkin and pomegranate seeds, making it one of the best salads I’ve had in the Emirate so far.

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The right side of my brain, on the other hand, had me dreaming of carbohydrates doused in indulgent cheeses and creamy sauces. Notably, Italy’s signature dish, Pizza was absent from the menu as the restaurant didn’t have enough space for the wood-fired oven in their open kitchen. Nonetheless the menu had me mesmerized, I lingered over the Blue Swimmer Crab Spaghettini and the Beetroot-Cured Salmon Plank before settling on a couple of daily specials handwritten on a chalkboard.

The Oven Roasted Free-Range Chicken Breast and Thigh arrived in a piping hot clay skillet with slow roasted mixed Beets and Pumpkin layered beneath. The skin was slightly crisp, the roasted veggies aromatic and a cream sauce had melted into the bottom of the skillet. I found myself slowing down to savor every last bite of the hearty meal, this was comfort food at its best.

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Our other main, the Homemade Orecchiette Pasta, was just as indulgent as I had hoped. The ear-shaped pasta was coated in a creamy puree of sweet butternut squash and spicy roasted pumpkin. Bits of bresaola provided the salty contrast needed to balance out the pungent smoked mozzarella. A harmonious combination of ingredients rich enough that only a few bites did the trick.

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I find comfort in knowing that the next time Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals is on TV, I can just hop in my car and drive a few short miles to Jamie’s Italian to redeem my feast. The British mastermind has managed to update classic dishes with modern flavors in an unpretentious way and add a sophisticated twist. The foodie mogul’s small footprint in Dubai has left quite an impression on me, winning my taste buds over one bite at a time.