Sunday, 15 August 2010

Jamie's Italian, Leeds.

Look, I know it's not a fashionable opinion, but I like Jamie Oliver's media persona. I think he's a good cook, genuinely curious about food, and has his heart in the right place. So bear with me, there is a beery theme to this post, but it comes a bit further on.

We went out for lunch today, to Jamie's Italian in Leeds, and with a 20 month old nipper in tow, you get used to eating a bit early - say, midday. He likes to have a nap early afternoon, and so we can either (a) eat while he's asleep or (b) lounge around reading the papers while he's asleep. Needless to say, (b) usually wins, and being of Spanish descent, I'm quite militant about taking well-behaved kids to restaurants. We got there just after midday, and we were about the fifth young-childed family into the place. Hey, they have high chairs, so that means they welcome families. Just for the record, a few weeks ago, we went to North Bar while he was asleep in his pushchair. As parents, we know what's appropriate.

Overall, the food was pretty good. There were a few minor blips, and service was a tad slow, but I'd happily go back. The main surprise came when the starters were cleared and we were asked if we wanted more drinks with our main course. I asked what beers they had, and was told "We have Stella and mwahmwahmwah". Not recognising the second, I asked the waitress to repeat what they had. "We have Stella and mwahmwahmwah. Oh, and we also have a bottled real ale". Ignoring what mwahmwahmwah might actually be (I saw it being carried around, but didn't recognise it), I said "Great, I'll have a real ale". I didn't even ask what it was - I was just so delighted that they had some real ale in a bottle that I plumped for it. Well, you have to send the right message, don't you?

I had plenty of time to speculate about what it might be - there was a slightly-too-long fifteen minute gap between starter and main, which with a toddler may as well have been a week. Might it be a celebrity beer brand? A local classic? A modern icon? Surely it wouldn't actually be, like, proper bottle-conditioned beer? But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is our waitress, and our beer is.... Cropton Yorkshire Warrior.

I hadn't tried this previously, and to be honest, I don't mind it. It's an ordinary brown beer par excellence. In fact, an OBB deluxe - it had a lovely full-bodied nutty character that I really enjoyed. But crucially, it didn't do anything for the food we were eating. And I'm not sure it would have done anything for any of the dishes on the menu. And I'm not sure which part of the restaurant's demographic it was aimed at. In short, it was a great gesture at putting a locally-sourced quality product on the menu, but one that fell a bit short of actually delivering. For my money, a better bet might have been one of the low %abv golden ales from Ilkley Brewery - beers that are both accessible to the real ale fans, and would also compliment almost any food you care to name.

But still, it was great to find someone in a chain restaurant saying the words "bottled real ale". File under: "the revolution continues"


  1. Tbh I love some of jamies food! I've got all his books and most of his new mags! Some of it's a bot plain but it's easy to spice up. I can see why he winds pple up but without him o reckon the world
    Would be a more miserable place. He brings decent home cooking with a bit of a twist to peoples homes and is a damn sight less irritating than Anthony w whatever and ainsley ready meal harriot!

    As or the cropton Yorkshire warrier I like that one, it's nowt remarkable but like you say its a great OBB,ive knocked cropton a fair bit in the past because their bottles can be a bit ropey and/or bland and uninspiring but on the other hand i love their brewpub.

    Its in a lovely little village with some great walking to be had, the food is top notch pub food and the beers are always in tip top conditon, they do do some interesting stouts and some great session beers, excluding the stuff they pedal for morissey fox which is usually beyond bland.

  2. I have no experience of the chain, but I have just been reading about their purchase of a St Albans pub, much to the dismay of the local CAMRA branch:

  3. At this point I must ask.... Avery, how hard are you?? I think you're harder than you'll admit on this blog. I'm questioning if you could hang with me on a night out on the ale though. Prescotti I believe could probably hang with me. I think he'd do quite well. Being you're a family man and all, I'm suspicious that you may be a bit of a candy ass. Can you put the pedal to the metal on a night out?? Before I pass(which is hopefully a ways off) I'd like to go out drinking with you, Bell, Peter Alexander, Prescotti, and a certain Australian. How rich would that be??

    Peace, love, togetherness,

    Keehn, South County

  4. I like Jamie. I don't always buy in to his campaigns - but I do own a couple of his cook books, and they have led to me trying new food, new ingredients etc.

    He has got a bit of a kicking from the local Italians, who like to point out that a lot of his dishes would never be served in Italy - but they miss the point. We all know that a Chicken Tikka Massala is not a native Indian dish (added to the fact that in Leeds you more likely to have it made in a Bangladeshi or Pakistani run restaurant).

    What seems to have confused people is the use of the '.

    I don't take it to mean Jamie's Italian restaurant - more Jamie's take on Italian food.

    The Porchetta i had there had sultanas in. Now i've eaten Roman Porchetta and Tuscan Porchetta - and have about three or four recipes at home for it - none of which use sultanas. However, type porchetta and sultanas in to google and you get a recipe from Gennaro Contaldo (Jamie's Italian mentor). Can't exactly beat Jamie with that stick.

    The rest of the meal was a steady 6 at best - the antipasti meat lacked the real taste of somewhere like Salvo's Salumeria - which we'd picked up to eat at home the night before. Wine was supermarket high end quality, bread was lovely - little girl (15 months) destroyed the olives and med veg and the Mrs had a nice piece of fish.

    If I was in town, was with a group and fancied an easy to pick lunch - then i'd go again.

    That said - for really good Italian food with an emphasis on family friendly, you will struggle to beat Cafe Marinetti in Horsforth or Diva Italia in Pudsey. Definitely worth checking out - if you haven't done so already.

  5. I went to the Gordon Ramsay restaurant in New York two year ago, and I was pleasantly surprised by the beer list. Hand picked beers on tap and in bottles, about a dozen in total. Beers from Belgium, England as well as US micros. The range of styles made it easy to pair with various menu items.

  6. I like Jamie Oliver a lot too. Not afraid to admit it. When I was about 14 he was in no small part responsible for inspiring me about food and cooking. His enthusiasm for food is infectious and despite some of his campaigns being a bit annoying, his heart is always in the right place.

  7. BR Andy - I agree with you, he generally gets it right, and now he's beyond the Vespa-and-drum-kit stage, I actually quite like what he's doing.

    ChrisM - I don't really know much about The Bell, but you can find some info about it on BeerInTheEvening and they also have a Facebook group for the pub. I'd venture that its heyday was behind it when it was purchased for development.

    Chris King - thanks for the thoughtful comments. It might not be my choice for an evening meal, but for an easy and wholesome lunch with family, I thought it was good, and of course, as with everything on this blog, the beer was the focus. I agree that Salvo's Salumeria is good too - I've not tried the others you mention

    Knut - I remember that being newsworthy when the restaurant opened.

    Mark(BBB) - my sentiments precisely

  8. Monty - as ever, you cut through the flim-flam and get right to the heart of what matters. I have to admit that these days I'm something of a lightweight, although I'm fairly sure that it's nothing that a good meal and a week of uninterrupted sleep and late lie-ins couldn't fix. As for making a night of it - well, certainly most of your wishlist (you included, I believe) might have a weight advantage over me, but then I lost all shame about ordering half-pints a long time ago, and I'm happy to stand my round regardless, so I'm sure it would be a fun night.

  9. Beer reviews aside - do give Diva or Cafe Marinetti a try. Family is the focus... i've a 15 month old, and they are always up to the table making sure we, but more importantly she is ok.

    You'll be lucky to get anything other than Peroni (either Red or Nastro) in there - but I do tend to prefer wine with dinner anyway.


    Chris (@NorthernWrites)

  10. The o/h pointed out to me at just how long jamie has been around and how young i was when he 1st appeared on the scene and how that most weeks we have something from one of his books or magazines, or at least something that has been inspired by one of his recipes.

    she also reminded me that there was a nice piece on beer and food in the latest jo magazine along with an article on leeds that mentioned north bar...

  11. I respect Jamie Oliver enormously. His food is accessible, easy but has a bit of adventure about it.

    I've seen complete non-cooks (i.e, my wife) pick up one of his books and say 'yep, I can cook that, and dammit, I'm going to.'

    For this alone, he deserves a huge amount of admiration.

    I've eaten in the Jamie's Italian down in Brighton, also with a couple of nippers, and aside from one of said nippers choosing that particular time slot to decide that he'd never liked pasta with a tomato sauce anyway, we had a great meal. Certainly above average and definitely better than Nando's...

    I'm somehow not surprised that they're serving a half decent beer at the Leeds branch. Jamie Oliver is nothing if not a consummate won't be an accident. Probably more of an experiment.

  12. I want to know what the mwahmwahmwah beer is! And Jamie Oliver rocks.

  13. FWIW, I like Jamie too. Just saying - no beer content.

  14. Chris K - it's a bit of a hike from where we live (south of Leeds), but I'll make a note of it.

    Rich - I agree with what you're saying, but would also add that half-decent is only half good enough - it's an odd choice of (perfectly decent) beer, but it just doesn't fit with the rest of the feel of the place.

    Mark - it might have been one of the innumerable Moretti/Perotti/Vespetti clones - it was an ordinary Italian lager.

    Tandleman - it seems that EVERYONE likes Jamie.

  15. We are a pro Jamie family. Sarah actually gave me Jamie At Home for our 6 month anniversary several years ago. It seems its a step in the right direction.

  16. Closet Jamie fan without the closet also, watched his TV show from Greece the other night, remove the cheesy production and you have a man passionate about fresh food. And his books taught me to make the best scrambled egg known to man.

  17. I feel like I've opened a secret space on the blogosphere where everyone can profess their love for Jamie.

  18. The lagers served at Jamie's Italian are Messina and Castello.

    The Leeds restaurant is the only one to serve the Yorkshire Warrior (or any ale for that matter) and this was chosen by the bar manager, not only for the flavour (5000 customers served p/week, it was believed that this beer ticked more boxes than most and was relatively inoffensive) but for the charity aspect of the beer- a percentage goes back to the Yorkshire Regiment Benevolent Fund.


Sorry about the word verification - the blog was getting spammed to bits.