CLOSED: Jamie's Italian (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 54 George Street
Type of Meal: Dinner 

I first knew Jamie Oliver as the Naked Chef, a cute looking blond British chef recognized for his down to earth shows and later his stance against processed foods in the American school system. So, although I’ve never had a desire to eat at one of his restaurants, when the opportunity presented itself I thought “his Italian food must be good, let’s do this!”  Unfortunately, I was dead wrong and eating at Jamie’s Italian was a disappointing experience.

Perhaps it all started with our dismal experience with being seated – yes something so simple left a bad taste in our mouth.  We walked in on a weeknight, after a couple of minutes of reviewing the computer system the hostess brought us to a table in a fairly empty dining room.  After settling in, another hostess approaches the table to tell us that we were seated in the wrong spot and had to be moved. So, we were ushered into the downstairs area with a more casual vibe.  Normally, it wouldn’t matter, but the situation was just handled so abruptly and awkwardly without an apology.

As we had a heavy multi-course lunch that day, everyone wanted smaller dishes.  My husband started first and requested the vegetable plank appetizer in which our waiter answered “is that all?” in a somewhat dissatisfied manner.  Certainly, I agree restaurants should sometimes try to up-sale customers to add extra items to their meal, but to be off putting about it is another story.

Usually, I could have overlooked these faux pas if it weren’t for the substandard dishes Jamie Oliver chooses to serve.  Honestly, my experiences with chains like Olive Garden and Alice Fazoolis was far better than what I had that night.   

To begin, the vegetable plank (£6.85) was pretty mediocre and something I could whip up at home.  The slices of grilled zucchini and eggplant topped with pickled peppers in the middle bowl were cold and uninspired tasting despite being “marinated”. A small piece of buffalo mozzarella was also bland despite being described as having “chilli, mint, pecorino and an amazing chilli jam”. 

Strangely, nothing came with the vegetables so he decided to order the Italian bread selection (£3.75) as an accompaniment.  Although the basket looked impressive, the bread was cold and unexceptional. Especially the focaccia which is normally known to be soft airy bread saturated with olive oil – how could it be so mealy and dry? Sadly, this is when I reminisced about how good the Olive Garden bread sticks could be.

Luckily, the vongole tagliolini (£11.25) I ordered was better.  The house-made pasta was nice and al dante and the olive oil sauce providing a decent flavour (mix of garlic, white wine and hint of chilli).  But, the clams were just so small and poorly cooked - to put size into perspective the red things you see are grape tomato halves.  They were overcooked and shrivelled into the shell so the meat ended up being the size of a caper and difficult to taste.  To make matters worse there were remnants of sand at the bottom of my dish likely as the clams were soaked long enough. 

In the end, if I were just having a dish of linguine with garlic olive oil it would have been palatable, but the fact that it’s marketed as clam pasta was disappointing.  The clam linguine I generally order at Alice Fazoolis, a Toronto chain, is loads better than the mediocre fare served at Jamie’s Italian.

But, my husband and I should have counted ourselves lucky as my mother-in-law complained her dish of free-range chicken (£13.25; not pictured) was so dry and overcooked that it half of it could not even be cut into.  Normally, she’s a person who’s quite forgiving in her expectation with dishes, so a basic grilled chicken should not be what stumps a kitchen.

I’m very disappointed to review Jamie’s Italian this poorly as I can’t begin to comprehend how the delightful Naked Chef shown on TV can serve something so mediocre.  Sadly, this experience has ruined my perception of Jamie Oliver as a chef and his brand in general.  As for his philosophy about chefs feeding the masses at reasonable prices, I will happily pay a few extra pounds to not eat such substandard quality food again.   

Overall mark - 3 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!