Last year we found ourselves in Glasgow on a wet and windy evening. Hungry as we were, there was no chance we were going to join the dozens of folk queuing outside the recently opened Jamie’s Italian restaurant on Glasgow’s George Square. Apparently the prize on offer for surviving the battering outside was entrance to the downstairs bar area to wait for a table in the restaurant proper! I don’t think any restaurant on earth would be worth such effort, but many evidently did. But last week we managed to find a seat in Jamie’s Italian at 3pm, without a reservation - though it was still busy; such is the lure of a chain restaurant (over 20 UK outlets and counting) with celebrity chef’s Jamie Oliver’s name above the door.
The restaurant has covers galore, so for this place to be full means a serious amount of diners. To help me digest the single page menu I ordered a bottle of the Messian Italian beer, which was delivered to the table minus a glass. After glancing around everyone else seemed to be drinking out of the bottle, so I played along - I can imagine this ’swig your beer’ being a genuine Jamie Oliver touch. Talking of which, I don’t know if people come here expecting to see the man himself, but the overwhelming odds are you will be bitterly disappointed, with the website’s FAQ stressing how busy he is. The service was prompt and polished enough and, in our case, authentic with an Italian waiter.
With no interest in ordering bread (¬£3.75) for starters we jumped straight into the mains. While ordering the meatball carbonara (¬£11.25) I was informed that the meatballs were very small by our waiter - presumably some Glaswegians must have taken offence when presented with a bowl of pasta and barely visible meatballs. Our waiter assured me that there was 100 grams of meat though. The dish was a little underwhelming - the sauce was ok, but not memorable and the pasta was cooked well. But the profit on this dish must be absurd. And there must be a pretty good mark up on the wild mushroom panzerotti (¬£10.35) too. Again it was ok, though take away the Jamie Oliver name and there is no reason to choose this place over anywhere else. We ordered our favourite Italian dessert - tiramisu (¬£4.95). This was a generous portion, but with orange flavoured mascapone. I thought it tasted great, but the expert on the matter sat opposite thought it was a little too heavy.
There’s nothing wrong with Jamie’s Italian per se. I actually quite like the restaurant’s interior, but as my dining partner said after finishing her meal: “I’ve been to better Italians”. Infact I’ve been to lots of better Italians - better value, better food and better authenticity. And on leaving Jamie’s Italian I felt a little sadness at the trade some of Glasgow’s fantastic Italian restaurants will have missed out on - all because of Jamie Oliver’s supermarket sized chain restaurant. Though, in fairness, where else can you buy a tea towel (¬£10) to remember your meal?
Jamie’s Italian is located at Jamie’s Italian, 1 George Square, Glasgow, G1 1HL
Telephone: 0141 404 2690