I don’t know how many of you out there know that I hold a diploma in hotel management—which means I trained for three years in, among other subjects, what was technically known as Food Production. I may not have opted for a career as a chef, but I’ve always enjoyed food, and I (when I’m in the mood for it) enjoy cooking. Not the complicated recipes which call for a million ingredients and twenty thousand steps spread over three days, but simple recipes.
And among the chefs whose recipes I especially love is Jamie Oliver. Jamie’s broccoli and cauliflower cheese, chickpea salad, roasted vegetables, and gado-gado are among the recipes which have become so popular in my home that I end up making them every other week: they’re simple, nutritious—and delicious.
Not surprising that I got super-excited when I learnt that Jamie was finally opening a restaurant in Delhi. Yes, I’d heard very mixed reviews of his UK restaurants, but still. It’s been a few months since Jamie’s Italian opened in Delhi, but we—wise that we’ve got to the ways of both Delhi’s foodies as well as Delhi’s restaurants—realized that one should always wait a while after a restaurant’s opened before visiting it: it gives the restaurant time to get over whatever teething troubles it may have, and the crowds also (usually) thin out a bit as time passes.
So, this last Saturday, my husband, my daughter and I went off to Jamie’s Italian, which is on the third floor of the Ambience Mall in Vasant Kunj, right next door to the Asian restaurant, Kylin. The entrance has an eye-catching ‘chandelier’-like thing made of stacks of brightly coloured bangles, and beyond that is the restaurant and bar. The restaurant, first, which has booths (with sofas) down one side and tables and chairs over the rest.
There are framed photos of Jamie and his friends, Jamie and his food, and scenes of Italy on the walls. The ambience is relaxed, comfortable—and child-friendly (our daughter was offered a high chair, and later given a colouring set to help pass the time while her parents stuffed themselves).
The menu isn’t huge: there are only about six or seven items per section: breads, antipasti, mains, pastas, pizzas, salads, desserts. After some perusing (and wondering what we should get in order to get to taste as much as we possibly could), we settled for a shared antipasti, and two shared main courses. For the antipasti, we chose the smoked spinach croquettes; for the mains, a chicken pizzaiola pizza and a sausage pappardelle. My husband toyed briefly with ordering a glass of wine, then changed his mind and opted for plain old water, while I—always adventurous—ordered a ginger and mango mojito.
What came as a pleasant surprise was the speed with which our food and drinks arrived. We were preparing to sit back, look around, and chat—and there came my drink, and our first course.
The ginger and mango mojito was lovely, the sweetness of the mango juice beautifully balanced with the distinctive sharpness of the ginger, and all of it given further depth with lime juice, lime wedges, and mint leaves. And lots of ice. So good that my husband—who’s nursing a sore throat and was hemming and hawing about the ice when I offered him a sip—took a couple of gulps after he’d had the first sip.
The croquettes—four small ones, though cheesy and rich enough to make even that a substantial antipasti—were a mix of smoked spinach with cheese, crumb-fried and served, each of them on its own little pillow of basil mayo. I am a fan of basil, so this was right up my street: lovely and herby, and the croquettes—crisp on the outside, gooey and delicious on the inside—were, overall, excellent.
That speed of service, and that quality, was sustained through the mains as well. Within a few minutes of our antipasti being cleared, the pizza arrived. ‘Artisan pizzas’ is what it says on the menu, and this one looked it: beautifully thin crust, all crisp along the edge, with fresh rocket leaves scattered across the top after the pizza’d come out of the oven. The topping of the chicken pizzaiola consists of cooked chicken, capers, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella. Yes, in sparing quantities, and with the tomato sauce (subtly flavoured, this) also in restrained amounts. Very nice.
Even nicer was the sausage pappardelle. The meat sauce, cooked with tomatoes, wine and herbs, was just the right consistency, flavour, and amount. (An aside, here: I am a nut when it comes to sauces and pastas: I hate sauces where tomato rules. I like the tomato to provide a background note, not hold centrestage. I like plenty of sauce. I like the pasta to be al dente. Jamie’s sausage pappardelle ticked all the boxes).
In fact, this one ended up being such a generous quantity that we couldn’t finish it and had to ask for the rest of it to be packed for us.
… so, of course, we had room to order dessert!
After dithering between the almond tart and the pannacotta, we settled for the pannacotta, which we decided to share. It, too, arrived within about five minutes of being ordered. ‘Wobbly’, as described on the menu (I do love the way the menu has Jamie’s informal touch all over it—and, did I mention, there are also special kids’ menus? Healthy ones, too, not consisting of fries and other fast food: a reflection, I guess of Jamie’s commitment towards healthy food for children).
Anyway, back to the pannacotta. Gloriously smooth and creamy and vanilla-scented (the top all prettily speckled with vanilla bean seeds), with a sweet-tart-fruity strawberry compote to accompany it. Just enough to lend a contrast and not overwhelm the pannacotta.
There are coffees, teas (even ‘dessert cocktails’ and aperitifs), but we were so full by now, we just asked for the bill—and it arrived, again, within minutes. Rs 2,236, inclusive of all taxes and charges. Which, by Delhi standards (and taking into the account the quantity and quality of what we’d consumed) is pretty good value for money. Even before we left, my husband was saying, “Let’s come back sometime,” and I was agreeing.
T-301 A, 3rd Floor
Nelson Mandela Marg