I can count on less than one hand the number of restaurants owned and operated by famous television chefs I have eaten at in my lifetime. There was Nola’s by Emeril Lagasse 1998 and…I am thinking, thinking, well Jamie’s Italian in 2012. I think that I have made it clear that I am not a groupie for television chefs. Despite not being known to try restaurants operated by television chefs, I will admit that if it was not for the fact that Jamie Oliver owned the restaurant Jamie’s Italian in Leeds, England I probably would not have even considered trying the food. Dare I say Roman culinary influence on the British Isles ended over fifteen hundred years ago?
I walked in and for whatever reason; it was exactly laid out the way that I expected. It was a combination of communal bar tables, a kitchen partially open to the diners to view the activity and then a portion of the restaurant with tables set close together. If one was to describe the décor, you could say that it was modern rustic, with a lot of wood being used.
Recently I have been focused on sampling a variety of appetizers offered by a restaurant versus taking all of my chances with ordering a single entrée. In some ways, I am creating my own tapas experience by sticking with the appetizers regardless of the type of restaurant I have chosen. For the first appetizer, it has been recommended to me that I start with the Meat Plank.
The Meat Plank is selection of quality cured meats sliced thin served with a small sampling of Italian cheeses, a variety of pickled vegetables and a small useless crunchy salad. Overall it was enjoyable with the cured meat being exceptional and the pickled green chili being great.
I also ordered a “basket” of bread for no bread was included with the Meat Plant. In my opinion, this was a low point of the evening. I understand the need to charge for bread, but to charge $6 for slices of bread that were not all that good is just fleecing the customer.
The next appetizer that I ordered was the Brixham Bay Sardine Bruschetta; thick pickled sardine fillets with pine nuts, sultanas, served with a parsley and mint salad. Wow! This was an amazing appetizer. I am not sure if there was a parsley and mint salad served with the bruschetta, but the pickled onions that topped the sardines were perfect. I would order this appetizer again and again and will even try to make it at home. Brixham Bay is located in southwest England in the county of Devon for those interested.
Since I thought I was not completely full, I selected the Crispy Stuffed Risotto Balls which were described as a smoked mozzarella and porcini arancini (fried rice ball covered in bread crumbs). They were pleasant and enjoyable, but as a third plate of appetizers to sample it was too heavy. The small dish of marinara sauce that came with the risotto balls was a total waste. Too acidic, too strong and when tried with the risotto balls, complete overpowered the subtlety of the smoke mozzarella and mushroom.
With the meal I enjoyed two Moretti beers. It does appear to be difficult to impossible to order a local or even a British beer in restaurants in Leeds. Overall, I am glad that I went to Jamie’s Italian at 35 Park Row in Leeds, but I can honestly say that I am not sure if I would go back again on my own. Yes, the Brixham Bay Sardine Bruschetta was amazing, but the overall experience was not exceptional enough for the price of the meal at $48 for one person.