Jamie’s Italian Sydney – Restaurant Review
107 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW, Australia 02 8240 9000
The titillating smells of fresh-baked bread coaxed my nose towards Jamie’s restaurant on Pitt Street in Sydney.
Didn’t need to step inside to quench my cravings—as I waited eagerly in line a chipper young chap bounded up, offering an array of antipasti; pecorino & Jamie’s famous chili jam on crispbread, some of the softest prosciutto I’ve ever tried, and a fine assortment of house-marinated olives. Delicious start to the evening! Post grazing, and moving up the line, I licked greases from my fingers, stepped inside, and was consumed by the buzzing ambience of this bustling laid back eatery. To the right, a carefully sculpted fresh pasta display, to the left a flock of bartenders lining up bellinis or straining bourbon, peach and elderflower concoctions. The old, the young, the hipster and the more modestly inclined all gather in this unpretentious bar and restaurant.
I looked over the balcony from my loft table for one at the potential plates that could be mine. Truffle tempted me, pork pulled me, and ragu called my name. The wait staff was personal, bright, friendly and knew their food. The menu offered a good-sized bowl of pasta for $18-28, and an entrée size of any dish for $12-16 (love that—you can taste around!). A friend who’s a regular diner there said ‘stick to the simple or classic things—it’s what they do best’. I tested that theory, ordering both classic and contemporary.
My contemporary entrée came first: bruschetta with eggplant purée, smoked buffalo mozzarella, chili, mint and lemon zest. I loved the idea of smoky eggplant flavors enhanced by smoked mozzarella, but the desired effect wasn’t achieved—the cheese overpowered the eggplant’s usual subtle smokiness. The airy bread lacked substance—I’d expected more ‘oomph’ from their home-mead loaf. The lemon zest was undetectable, and it needed a drizzle of fresh extra virgin oil. My discriminating palette wasn’t impressed with this bruschetta—room for improvement!
Next, they served a classic prawn linguine. The chewy but not tacky texture of linguini rocks my world—and this hand-made linguine trumped them all. Imagine the grainy quality of an old photograph transformed into a texture devourable within a strand of pasta—that’s the nostalgia of this rustic linguine. A bright cherry tomato sauce lightly and perfectly coated the pasta, with just the right amount of still-whole or halved cherry tomatoes for surprise. Chili, fennel and white wine proportions were perfect, and the super-fresh prawns took me dockside. I’d willingly return for Jamie’s prawn linguini.
Next came the classic Sausage Pappardelle, better-named—‘rich ragu of organic pork and beef’. The pappardelle’s intricate form and texture was like a wonderful octopus tentacle. And from the moment it landed on my tongue, the fine melting texture of the quality meat seduced me. As did the super-crispy herbed breadcrumbs mixed with the ragu. The flavor profile continued to change. I later discovered that an intriguing unidentified herb or spice scattered discreetly through the dish was fennel seed.
In retrospect, this fine rustic Italian dish paired with their pear and prosciutto salad would have been enough. Considering it was essentially a pork ragu, I was impressed that the octopus-tentacle-like pasta wasn’t swimming in pools of grease. What an incredible take on a contemporary yet rustic Bolognese.
So, do we listen to my friend’s advice? Yes. I long to return when I crave a really lush bowl of pasta, but I’m not sure I’d try the flavor-scapes of daring modern Italian cuisine again. And I’d highly recommend simply sitting down for a glass of wine with friends and enjoying the busy, fresh, exciting atmosphere in Jamie’s Italian Restaurant.
Rating: 4 stars
Review & photography by Megan McCulloch