Last month we bundled up the kids for a family dinner at Jamie’s Italian, one of famed British chef Jamie Oliver’s many Italian restaurants scattered throughout the UK. I’ve long admired Jamie’s no-fuss, simple approach to fresh food and family-style eating, and it just so happened that we’d been meaning to check out the Westfield Shopping Center near our house. Westfield is basically the closest thing that London has to an American-style mall, and sometimes you just really need an Orange Julius.
From the second we entered the restaurant, I knew our kids were going to LOVE. IT. HERE. A shelf behind the hostess stand was stacked with paper bags filled with kid’s activities, from a “color your own” vegetable garden and a small gift packet of seeds to plant when we got home. We hit a little lull in activity when the hubby and deliberated over the menu, and the staff picked up on the kids’ growing restlessness and brought over special Jamie’s Italian viewfinders to keep them occupied. Score!
Everything on the menu at Jamie’s Italian is in line with his philosophy about cooking; food should focus on fresh ingredients without being too fussy or overcomplicated. One of our picks for the night was the Julieta pizza (£12), named after Jamie’s wife, Jools. The pizza arrived at our table piping hot, smothered with zesty tomato sauce and dotted with oven-blistered tomatoes. The crust had a nice chew factor to it, and our kids devoured it in what seemed like seconds.
We also picked the oxtail lasagne (£13.95), a saucy concoction with oh-so-tender bits of braised oxtail slathered between layers of fresh lasagna. I really liked how the menu was full of classic Italian favorites, but with a little bit of a twist to challenge little palates, like the cauliflower cheese gnocchi (£11.95), which had not only a rich blue cheese sauce but also chunks of fresh cauliflower woven throughout.
Conveniently (or dangerously, depending on how bad you are at impulse buys), a range of Jamie Oliver products are also available right inside the front entrance for purchase, ranging from his classic Christmas Cookbook to olivewood cheeseboards. Since moving to London I’ve acquired a few Jamie Oliver cookbooks, and I love that his recipes are geared with families in mind, too. For example, his 30 Minute Meals doesn’t organize recipes in a traditional format, with a recipe for each dish individually. Instead, his instructions are listed in chronological order so that at the end of a half an hour, you have 2-3 dishes that comprise a full meal for a family. It’s genius!
And of course, we can’t forget dessert. The Epic Chocolate Brownie (£5.95) is a fudgy concoction topped with salted caramel gelato and caramelized popcorn. Our kids dove right in while the hubby and I congratulated ourselves on a fun, stress-free night out.
Yeah, I’d say we’ll be back.