“Tinseltown in the Rain” – Jamie’s Italian, Glasgow

So what do Glasgow’s The Blue Nile and a wet day in that same city have in common – at best they’re both decidedly dreich!

"Tinseltown in the Rain"

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“Tinseltown in the Rain” – The Blue Nile

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I stared out of the tall windows of “Jamie’s” as the wind driven rain swept relentlessly across a drenched George Square. It was only 3pm but the Christmas lights were on, pathetic whimpering dots of washed out colour against the leaden November afternoon sky. Tinseltown in the rain. It said it all.

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While outside it was miserable and noisy; inside it was brash and even noisier. This is a Phil Spector restaurant, its full on “wall of sound” slapping you in the face as you walk in the door. Once Glasgow’s main Post Office, the vast open space inside resembles an up market motorway service station cafe. I was instantly intimidated…I am not fond of this style of eatery. Oddly it reminds me of a time in the 60’s when the big department stores had their huge cafe/restaurants with the accompanying atmosphere of a school dining hall. Admittedly the enormous array of cured pig legs, vegetables and bread that gave the far wall the impression of an Italian deli raised it above the level of your average in-store eatery. Above our heads music thumped on relentlessly. At least I assume it was music, drowned out as it was by the cacophony of the predominantly female Saturday shopping clientele. All that was audible above the hubbub of voices was a series of miscellaneous drumbeats which could have been part of a song or alternatively the efforts of a rhythmic plumber.

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But I wasn’t here for the ambience: I wanted to sample the food. It proved to be a day of mixed results.

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We started with a glass of perfectly acceptable Prosecco and…

WORLD’S BEST OLIVES ON ICE
£3.75
Large green olives, black olive tapenade and crispy “music bread”.

This was excellent! Amazing olives – dark green – similar to (if not the same as) the Sicilian Nocellara Del Belice variety. Best tapenade I’ve had, the freshness and hint of chilli the big plus points. The paper thin “music bread” I liked but it was a real bugger trying to pick up the tapenade on it without it splintering. Top marks all the same.

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We moved on to…

FAMOUS CRISPY POLENTA CHIPS
with rosemary salt and Parmesan £3.45

Pretty good but the intensity of taste diminished the bigger the chunks of polenta.  The rosemary salt I had, somewhat irritating, to keep picking out of the bottom of the bowl (with fingers) to sprinkle over.  An “almost” dish.

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BURRATA MOZZARELLA
Creamy mozzarella with chilli and mint £6.25
J had this. I nibbled a couple of pieces but was disappointed that the taste of the chilli and mint was barely discernable above the lemon in the dressing. There was just the suspicion that large pieces of both had been sprinkled over but not fully integrated into the dish. J enjoyed it but I reckoned it didn’t do what was intended.

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As a main…

We both chose one of the specials – a thin spaghetti with a sauce comprising tomatoes, parmesan, chopped almonds and garlic with a rocket dressing.
Sadly it tasted nothing of tomato (which was I assume from the menu to be the main ingredient) but tasted mainly of garlic and parmesan without any freshness that I assume would have come from the tomato. It was ok…but a bit “Blue Nile”.

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We ordered espressos and ice cream…

J went for vanilla with butterscotch sauce and seasonal fruit – and I ordered the Italian Ice cream Bombe.

ICE CREAMS
£4.50
Three delicious scoops of ice cream (ask your waiter for today’s selection) Served with any two of these toppings:

smashed honeycomb
crushed nuts and seeds
seasonal fruit
butterscotch sauce

ITALIAN ICE CREAM BOMBE
£4.95
Panettone, candied fruit, ricotta & ice cream with hot chocolate sauce

It started off well enough with the espressos arriving almost in the blink of an eye. Then we waited…and waited…

I feel obliged to point out that service up until now had been not just very good…but excellent, with our man from “the North” (Northern Ireland) proving to be very knowledgeable about the menu. I suppose the arrival of the food was marginally slower than I would consider normal, but this was a packed brasserie and we weren’t in a hurry.  Our man from “the North” appeared, head bowed and only one bent knee short of a grovel. Profuse apologies…the whole restaurant had ordered puddy at the same time…would we like another espresso…on the house. We smiled.

Eventually our desserts arrived as did our freebie espressos.

Not so much to say about the desserts.  The slice of “Bombe” was really good…and ice cream was…um…ice cream.

By the time the bill arrived our man from “The North” had not only apologised again for the delay but had chalked off the cost of the first espressos as well, thus proving that keeping the customer sweet is both good for ensuring repeat custom…and a decent gratuity.

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Verdict…

“I DON’T KNOW!” he wailed.

It was a meal of highs (the olives and tapenade…and the quality of the serving staff), lows (the interminable noise) and “what ifs?” (the unfortunately slow provision of puddy) from the restaurant, balanced by a mistake on my part in not quizzing “our man” more closely about the spaghetti dish which, if I’d appreciated what it would taste like, I would never have considered after the fried polenta.  I’m afraid, therefore, that the jury is still out on Glasgow’s “Jamie’s Italian”.

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2 thoughts on ““Tinseltown in the Rain” – Jamie’s Italian, Glasgow”

  1. I read your review of Jamie’s just before my wife went to meet some friends for a late Sunday lunch there, Ken. I told her about the olives and tapenade which she tried and thought were wonderful. Overall she thought it was OK and not overpriced.
    I have just finished re-reading Bill Bryson’s “Down Under ” book about Australia. He tells a story in it about restaurant service which you might already know. In the 1950s in a hotel in Queensland an American tourist asked for some salad with his cold meat and potatoes. The waitress turned round to the other diners and said, “This guy thinks its fucking Christmas.” At least you don’t get that in Jamie’s.

    1. Thanks for letting me know Russell 😀 . I am now officially a food critic 😆 – someone has followed my recommendation…and lived. Just relieved she agreed! Prices are pretty good…especially for a city and a famous name.

      J and her sister were back in Jamie’s on Saturday. She said they had on a better pasta dish as a special than the one we had the week before.

      Read that book years ago…can’t remember a thing about it now. Must give it another look. Great extract! 😆

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