Restaurant Review: Jamie's Italian Bristol

I visited Jamie's Italian in Park Street, Bristol to celebrate my birthday last night and thought I'd do a little review! The restaurant is at the top of Park Street so I started off feeling exhilarated after the uphill walk! The restaurant looks really smart from the outside and I was really excited.

We were greeted at the door and told there would be an hour and a quarter wait for a table! We arrived at 8:40pm, so were very hungry already! When I had looked at previous reviews the wait was 45 minutes during the opening week, so this really did seem excessive. You can't book in advance unless you have a party of 8 or more people.

I had phoned in advance, once two weeks before to enquire about whether there was anything vegan on the menu, and once on the day (as they suggested) to let them know I was coming. When I rang on the day the staff member I spoke to was extremely helpful on the phone, and said they would let the manager and the head chef know that I was coming so they could prepare and there would definitely be something I could eat.   I was really happy and impressed, particularly that they knew what 'vegan' was and that they were going out of their way to be helpful, and so I had high expectations. 

When we arrived we told the front of house I was vegan and they made a note next to our table. All the staff were smartly dressed.

We waited in the bar area which had a lively atmosphere and was full of young, beautiful Cliftonites. I felt common and like I should put on my posh voice! One barman was friendly and one was a bit snobby and told us to move to a different bit of the bar if we wanted to be served! We started a tab and got some drinks, and got a table.When we started the tab our card was locked into a safe box which was reassuring. I started to feel relaxed and comfortable and enjoyed looking round at the decor whilst chatting to my friends and boyfriend Alex, and after a little while were offered free nibbles - There was proscuitto, an Italian cheese, and the one vegan option - ciabatta with gremolata which was absolutely delicious and I'd recommend this to anyone. I'm going to look up Jamie's gremolata recipe so I can make this, as it was fantastic. We also ordered some of Jamie's 'Best Olives in the World' and they were actually really good and yummy - huge and garlicky, and served with olive tapenade and crisp, thin slices of a bread. 

After an hour our table was ready so we went through to the back of the restaurant where there are three storeys. On each floor there was an open kitchen area, with hanging produce (a bit off putting for me as there were giant animal legs hanging up and dead fish on ice) The basement area was alot more spacious compared to the upper two storeys (we were sat on the upper storey) which felt quite crowded as the tables were very close together. The interior design of the restaurant was beautiful, a great mix of old and new, lots of muted green, natural textures like wood and brick offset with gold, purple spray-painted chairs, perspex chandeliers and metal tables. I really loved it. The tables were lit with old fashioned desk lamps and candles, which gave a flattering light.

When we got to our table we were greeted by our waitress, who was friendly and professional to start with, and she took our tab number, entered it into the electronic pad and was ready to take our order.  She also knew alot of information about the Specials. She knew I was vegan and mentioned this, and let me know that the head chef could do either a pasta, though she did not specify which, or the prosciutto, pear and pecorino salad (without the proscuitto and pecorino!) for me. We were given menus and though the light was flattering and atmospheric it was quite dark so I had to hold my menu quite close to the candles to read it! The food sounded really original and interesting, much better than your average Italian where all I can usually have is Bruschetta and Spaghetti Neapolitana. I ordered polenta chips for my starter and the Cockle linguine minus the cockles for my main course as the sauce sounded the best out of all the the problems started! The waitress was a bit confused about whether I wanted cockles with my pasta, and I had to explain a few times that I just wanted it to be vegan, and in the end I asked for just any pasta as long as it was vegan please!

After about half an hour our starters arrived, and I was at this point absolutely ravenous as it was so late! I normally go to bed at 10pm because of Eric! Unfortunately though my polenta chips arrived covered in parmesan, and the waitress had scarpered so I spent five minutes trying to catch someone's eye so I could get some without cheese on top. I finally managed to grab a (VERY handsome!) waiter and he explained that there is also cheese inside the polenta mix of the chips. I have no idea why our original waitress did not tell me this as she clearly knew I was vegan, as we had just been talking about it and there was a note against the table number! The male waiter was helpful, apologetic and extremely professional. He took the chips back to the kitchen and asked if I would like something else instead, so I ordered 'any chips or in fact anything at all as long as they are vegan'. My boyfriend and our friends finished their starters and I had to wait another 15-20 minutes for my replacement starter. I received Jamie's 'Funky Chips', which were ok, kind of like chips you'd make at home, with garlic and parsley. They were slightly underseasoned and undercooked, but they were ok. The presentation was really good. Alex had Smokey Mozarella Arancini which he really enjoyed.

I nipped to the loo and they were brilliant. Spotlessly clean and really well decorated. 

After this we waited another 20 minutes or so for our main course, it was about 10:30pm when we got our mains. Unfortunately the first dish I was given was full of prawns! So I AGAIN had to send it back! Luckily this time it was just a serving issue where the wrong one had been picked up, so I didn't have to wait long at all to get the correct pasta. The pasta was cooked to perfection and the dish looked really colourful and appetising. Instead of just a plain pasta with tomato sauce like the usual fare people unfortunately prepare in many Italian restaurants the dish was imaginitive and packed full of seasonal veg like courgette and asparagus, and a sauce with garlic, tomatoes, chilli and rocket which was tasty, although slightly salty and overseasoned! But only slightly :) The one thing missing for me was a bit of protein, and I think fagioli beans would have worked really well in the dish. Alex had gnocchi which he said was excellent but that he could have eaten half of the amount again. It was a really small serving. When the waitress arrived to clear the table she dropped cutlery on me THREE times! Which honestly was quite ridiculous! 

I was excited about the pudding as it's my favourite course! To start with when I asked what desserts were vegan the waitress suggested panna cotta (a wobbly set cream dessert, and I think the name actually means 'cooked cream'!) but when I asked she thought about it and realised it wouldn't be vegan, so she went to check with the chef what would be suitable. There were two things on the menu which were vegan already and so didn't need to be changed or anything for me (I am always happy when something on the menu is already vegan, and sadly there are often no vegan pudding options): fruit sorbet or pineapple carpaccio. I ordered the pineapple and was really excited, as it was an unusual and interesting option. When it arrived (fairly quickly this time, probably because most of the other diners had finished and were off home to bed!) it didn't disappoint. There were thin slices of pineapple with mint and chilli, and a blood orange sorbet. Fantastic. It was visually beautiful and I couldn't wait to eat it, and it did taste really, really good. If I had to criticise then I would say that there was slightly too much mint which became a bit dominant, and the pineapple could have been a bit riper. Less mint and riper pineapple and it would have been perfectly balanced, and a dish I am going to copy at home.

One last issue we had was when we asked to get the bill.  The waitress brought over the itemised receipt and we gave her the tab key so she could get our card. She then came back with the card and a second receipt on which she had added all the items we had put on the tab at the bar again, even though they had been automatically added on when she took the tab number and entered it into her handheld electronic pad! This added an extra £30 onto the bill, and had we not already checked the items we had ordered off of the first receipt we were given we may have thought this was right and paid the extra, which really is unacceptable.

The food itself was (mostly) very tasty and quite reasonably priced, and were it not for the issues mentioned it would have been a perfect evening! As I had spoken twice to the restaurant in advance and they had seemed so helpful about providing vegan dishes I expected a bit more, for example veganism to have been explained to waiting staff so they would know what food is suitable and for the chef to have planned some dishes in advance that he could have communicated to the waitress as they had made a 'vegan' note to our table etc. Without the problems with staff and the extremely long waiting time I would have given 8/10 based on the brilliant atmosphere, simple, tasty and original food and lovely decor, but due to the problems I will give 6/10

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