reviewed by : Ken Barrett
23 February 2017
Jamie Oliver is one of the United Kingdom’s best-known celebrity chefs, seldom off the TV or the bookshelves, and indeed the newspapers, for he can be controversial.
Would he though have enough oomph in Bangkok, a town in which one trips over Italian restaurants, to fill a restaurant that is dedicated to Italian food? In a spirit of curiosity, we went along to find out.
Jamie’s Italian has a location that any restaurateur would kill for, a huge acreage on the ground floor of the newly revamped Siam Discovery, a 600-pound gorilla of a restaurant that almost grabs you by the neck and drags you in.
The restaurant smothers you in Italian love, a warm rustic tavern that resuscitates anyone who has shop-dropped in the mall, with an open kitchen, a bar, views through the windows to Siam Square, and despite seating almost 200 people, a jolly cosiness with a few quiet niches for those that prefer less of a hubbub.
For all of these reasons, and despite having opened only in November, the restaurant was doing very good business. And there are two other reasons: food and pricing.
First off, pricing. Even if you have melted your credit card in a shopping frenzy, you can still afford a meal at Jamie’s: the average food check is between 500 and 700 baht.
Then there is the food. Now, Jamie is not Italian: he is as British as fish’n’chips. But he studied under Gennaro Contaldo, who is, and the two of them founded the Jamie’s Italian chain in 2008, in Oxford. There are now 42 outlets in the UK, and 25 overseas.
The food is good Italian comfort food.
We were four people. We started with a plank of smoked meats (1,180 baht for four), heaped with fennel salami, mortadella, prosciutto and Wagyu bresaola, the plank balanced on four tins of tomato (the tins are always within the sell-by date because there have been instances of customers opening them and eating the contents).
A salad of avocado, roasted beets, and mixed pulses and grains (360 baht) had a generous helping of smoked salmon added for 120 baht.
Chicken al mattone (520 baht) was free-range chicken that had been marinated overnight and served with a creamy mushroom sauce and a big slice of lemon.
There are five pizzas on the menu, and we shared a pizza funghi (340 baht), the base covered with a porcini mushroom sauce, roasted herby mushrooms, mozzarella, and a pungent sprinkling of cracked black pepper.
One of our group expressed a curiosity to try the mushroom risotto (360 baht), and although we were wilting by this time, we agreed that it was one of the outstanding dishes of the evening, a powerfully savoury yet light concoction of carnaroli rice and roasted mushrooms. To finish, shared portions of panna cotta (210 baht) and chocolate brownie (230 baht).
Jamie must be happy: he is already planning a fine dining restaurant in Bangkok.