I recently had the pleasure of eating in Jamie’s Italian in Dundrum, something I have been meaning to do for ages, but for some reason hadn’t gotten around to. It was my Mum’s birthday and because she is such a huge fan of Jamie Oliver, I brought her out for an early dinner. She was so excited and for some unknown reason kept asking all the staff if Jamie was there that night – you can’t take her anywhere! But I knew she’d appreciate it, whether Jamie magically appeared or not. You can book online if you give yourself plenty of time, but I ended up ringing them the day before and booking a table for 6pm. I know it’s a chain, but I still had high hopes, as one of my good friends had raved about it a few months ago. And having visited his standalone barbecue restaurant Barbecoa last year in London, I really hoped that Jamie’s Italian would live up to the same high standard.
We were about 10 minutes late (this may become a frequent occurrence on the blog whenever I review a restaurant), and even though I had tried ringing to make sure they didn’t give away our table, I couldn’t get through. But when we finally got there, we were greeted warmly and brought to our table straight away. I have to say that all the staff were very warm, friendly and professional, and have obviously been carefully chosen and well trained. Bravo team Jamie!
The menu is extensive and a bit overwhelming (a good problem to have), so we ordered a little nibbly plate of crispy fried gnocchi with arrabiata sauce to share and two glasses of prosecco, while we tried to decide what to have. The gnocchi were really crunchy, quite salty and very tasty! The sauce they sat on was nice and spicy and together with the prosecco, they whetted our appetites well.
We finally settled on our starters and main courses. I ordered arancini, little rice balls, filled with gooey mozzarella rolled in breadcrumbs and fried until golden. I think I had them for the first time in Rome earlier this year. I can’t remember having them here before that, but since then I’ve ordered them whenever I spot them on the menu. They were served on a very garlic, peppery tomato sauce which was delicious! I already felt a cold coming on, so I was glad to see so much sliced garlic in the sauce. The whole dish was very savoury and moreish and the photo below doesn’t do it justice.
I am not a mushroom fan, but Mum ordered baked chestnut mushrooms, which came out in a shallow terracotta dish lined with crispy “music bread” a thin and crispy pastry-like bread, filled with sliced mushrooms, smoky mozzarella and a giant bunch of thyme as garnish! Even though I am not normally a mushroom fan, I had to taste this. So I managed to take a piece without them and it was delicious! Very smoky and herby, with the bread flaking apart easily and the cheese holding the whole thing together. Mum couldn’t finish it, so the waitress kindly whisked it away and brought it back in a proper plastic box, which I thought was a nice touch.
On to the main courses. When I called the waitress over to take our orders, I think I was so excited by the sheer amount of options, I had forgotten to actually pick a main course! So the first one to catch my eye was the wild rabbit ragu, with what I think was fettuccine. When it arrived I was pleased to see it didn’t have a huge amount of sauce, in fact the sauce was very subtle and not too creamy, even though there was mascarpone in there, it wasn’t heavy in the slightest. The whole dish was packed full of flavour, and tasted as though it had been stewing away for days. The pasta was delicate and light and balanced out the rich meaty ragu perfectly. It was topped with some crunchy lemon-scented breadcrumbs. The portion was generous, and I honestly can’t understand some of the comments online about the portions here being too small, as I had to leave a fair bit on my plate to make sure I had enough room for desert!
Mum’s main course was the special, rolled stuffed free range pork belly or porchetta if you want to give it its proper name, served with a rich gravy and more herby stuffing rolled into a ball and fried til crispy. It also came with some homemade style fries on the side, with the skins still on. The whole dish was extremely tasty and even though Mum had planned to leave some of it for another doggy bag, she ended up polishing the whole thing off! If you like pork belly, you’ll love this.
One of the many things l appreciated about the restaurant, just as in Barbacoa, was the option to order a carafe of wine with our meal. I love a bit of red wine with my food, but sometimes a whole bottle of red, even when there’s two of you sharing, is enough to make me very snoozy by the end of the meal. We ended up going for a carafe of Montelpulciano D’Abruzzo, which sounded vaguely familiar and didn’t disappoint. I don’t know a lot about Italian wine but I thought it was excellent value for money at €20, and complemented both our dishes well.
At this stage in the meal, we were both reaching our limit, so we decided to split a dessert. We settled on an epic brownie, which was supposed to be served with amoretto ice-cream and amoretti toffee popcorn. But our faithful waitress kindly suggested that it might go even better with vanilla ice cream instead, and I think she was right! I had told the staff when I booked that it was Mum’s birthday, so she was pleasantly surprised to get a little, glittery candle on her brownie. The brownie was very rich but not cloying, and the caramelised popcorn worked really well to add a great crunch, although I couldn’t really taste any of the amoretti, but I didn’t miss it.
I have to say I was genuinely impressed with Jamie’s Italian. Ideally I’d like them to open another branch in the city centre, but if you’re a Jamie fan, you won’t regret making your way out to Dundrum for a visit. I noticed the table beside us had two small kids, and they were happily entertained with some crayons and colouring-in sheets that the restaurant had provided, so it’s obviously welcoming and prepared for young families too. The whole place has a very warm, relaxed atmosphere. You would feel equally welcome here after a day of hard shopping nearby or on a romantic dinner date. The whole bill came to about €99, which while not the cheapest, is I think excellent value for money considering the quality of everything on offer. I am already planning my next visit there and trying not to drool too much over the menu. Now I my only problem will be trying to narrow it down to just three courses…