Unfortunately, Jamies Italian Canberra has now closed.
Family friendly dining at Jamie Oliver's restuarant
Jamie's Italian is a restaurant that is overseen by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. There are six of his restaurants located in Australia and Canberra's outlet is located on the busy Bunda Street, in the middle of the CBD. As the same suggests, this modern family restaurant has traditional Italian fare with Jamie's signature twist and recipes. The food is gutsy, flavoursome, rustic and simply delicious. When our family first moved to Canberra we heard a few negative reviews about the service when this restaurant opened in 2013, however we were still keen to give it a try and see for ourselves. On our first visit we went on a weeknight and we were instantly impressed. We received a warm welcome, our daughter was inundated with stickers, she picked her kid's meal from a toy viewfinder and she was given a badge when she ate her greens. The service and food was impeccable. It was clear that any initial bumps they had when they first opened had been ironed out.
Recently we went back to see if the restaurant lived up to our memories of the previous visit. We booked online, requested a booth and on our arrival we were welcomed into the bustling and busy restaurant, with tantalising aroma's coming out of the kitchen. With pizzas getting taken to almost every table and leaving delicious smells in their wake, it wasn't hard to decide what to order first.
The Parma - Crushed tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil, prosciutto di parma, rocket & parmesan ($24.50)
Our family visited on a Saturday night and it was simply heaving. The staff were happy and jovial, but obviously under the pump. Every last table was booked out or occupied, with more people waiting at the door. There were families, couples, groups, hens nights, teenagers and diners of all ages enjoying the atmosphere and Italian fare. I imagine if Jamie Oliver was to walk into this restaurant on a Saturday night, it would be everything that he had hoped for and more. At the time of writing, the hospitality group which has been running the business has gone into receivership, however, the restaurant continues on, "business as usual", until a new group takes over.
The interior of the restaurant has high ceilings, an impressive chandelier, deli meats hanging from the Italian servery and an open kitchen so you can see the chefs at work. The combination is modern, welcoming and impressive and with a variety of colourful booth and table seating available. On a starry night, the outside seating area would also be a romantic place to dine, watching the city life go by.
Popular booth seating. Source: Jamie's Italian website
The menu has a choice of pizzas, pastas, Italian mains, breads, salads, nibbles and antipasti. Everything is priced as you would expect from a city restaurant - it is pricey, but not overpriced because it is a Jamie Oliver restaurant. We started off the meal with garlic bread on a delicious soft brioche bun and every last crumb and dribble of garlic butter was devoured. We also ordered Pizza and JI Super Food Salads to share and our daughter enjoyed the Mini Spaghetti and Meatballs off the Kid's Menu. The menu choices are ideal for a family night out - the only sound that could be heard around the table, from all ages, was "Yum".
Judging by the popularity of the restaurant, Jamie's Italian has cemented itself in the Canberra restaurant scene. It is also open for lunch, where a lunchtime special is usually available. Whenever you visit, ensure you book to avoid disappointment - especially on a Saturday night. I must admit, although the Saturday night crowd created a fun atmosphere, we did prefer our first visit on a weeknight when we had more personalised service and the atmosphere was a little quieter so we could talk. Our daughter was disappointed that the stickers, badge and view finder menu weren't on offer this visit, however we still thoroughly enjoyed the night and look forward to our next visit.
Lastly, ensure you leave some room for dessert, as the multitude of ice cream flavours, cheesecake, brownie and dessert items will leave you wanting more. When you go to Jamie's Italian one thing is for sure - you won't be hearing your stomach rumble on the way home.