The fanfare that came from an ever present cloud of hungry Perth diners snaking around the fringes of the One40William building could only mean one thing - the long awaited and highly anticipated Jamie's Italian had finally made it's way to the West. For a prominent and ever growing state, WA has been overlooked by global giants like Starbucks and Seven Eleven before. And now, I can understand why every Tom, Diane and Harriet who has ever heard of the iconic Jamie Oliver would want to head on down to his newly opened restaurant. It's all about local pride, experiencing something new and finding comfort in a much loved celebrity chef's positive food philosophy. However, look a little closer, and you'll quickly realise that it's a well played game of commercialisation. Having dined at Jamie's Italian's flagship restaurant in Sydney, I knew all too well of the excitement that came from dining at one of Jamie Oliver's restaurants. I had watched and learnt so much from the Naked Chef growing up and I was so starstruck by the possibility of dining at his restaurant. The enthusiastic punter in me even arrived for dinner at an eager 5:00pm on the dot (on a weeknight no less) and just managing to nab one of the last tables available. It was a different story as I left though, and after an extremely underwhelming dinner, many of us concluded that it just wasn't worth the hype. It wasn't a case of having too high of an expectation but more so it was overpriced, bad quality food, that would be unacceptable no matter whose name was on the door. I had my reservations that history would repeat itself again in their Perth store; I was very reluctant to visit and left it up to fate which would have sooner or later, lead me back to Jamie's Italian again.
I took a little break from writing during the last few days of my examination period, with the intention of tunnel visioning through the very last of study that I had to do. My housemates had been talking about Jamie's Italian for weeks and have been trying relentlessly to get a booking through multiple phone calls and walk-ins. During the last few weeks, they've been very gracious and kind to me during my exam time and I couldn't think of a better group to celebrate the end of exams with. They had decided to arrive at Jamie's mid afternoon in order to try and nab seats during the downtime lull. I had every intention of joining them until one errand led to another, and I found myself only being able to arrive shortly before desserts. I had tried desserts at Jamie's in Sydney and was left unimpressed - burnt espresso in the Affogato (which they kindly remade when we brought it to their attention), underpar Tiramisu which was overwhelmingly creamy and lacked any real coffee flavour and an overly dense, rubbery Pannacotta. Since I wasn't there for the whole meal, I'll only be drawing my conclusions based on the desserts and service I experienced that day.
Jamie's Italian had plenty of waitstaff on hand and yet when I walked in, nobody greeted me or brought me to any of the empty tables available. I managed to find and join my housemates at their table, and pulled up a chair from another empty table for myself. Normally if a restaurant is busy, I have no problems with seating myself - but it becomes an issue when waitstaff choose to stand around and chat to each other, rather than take notice and serve the customers that are walking into the restaurant. Whilst dessert orders were placed, I took a quick walk around the restaurant. It's such a warm, and inviting place but yet, I already had an inkling that I may have to be disappointed again. The main courses that my housemates had enjoyed earlier had left them underwhelmed, and I hoped for their sake that the desserts would save the day.
When "Warm Chocolate, Raspberry and Amaretto Brownie" is advertised, and all you provide is "Chocolate" and something that resembles brownie - it's already setting your customers up for disappointment. Set aside the fact that Jamie's Italian falls under the Jamie Oliver branding for a moment, and set aside the fact that Jamie Oliver himself probably makes a cracking brownie. I would still conclude that this is not that cracking brownie! Instead, this was a cold and dry slice that boasted cake box like properties. It unfortunately didn't accentuate any of the raspberry or amaretto flavours as promised and there was no luscious satisfaction that came from plunging your spoon into a warm, rich, fudgey brownie. This is definitely not a dish that warrants a $9 price tag, and it regrettably was the beginning of a disappointing dessert tasting.
This was definitely my favourite of the day; I love a good sour lemon tart that boasts a punchy lemon curd and a crisp, buttery pastry. The extravagant, beautifully blow torched meringue is definitely a food photographer's dream; but the height ending up just being hype and actually hindered the tart's overall flavour. The meringue was extremely sweet due to the supreme meringue to lemon curd ratio and we actually ended up knocking half of it off in order to enjoy the dish. It was a shame, as the pastry was quite crisp and the curd was enjoyably sour - I probably would have raved about it, if not for the unnecessary meringue mountain.
Honestly, after my disappointing Tiramisu experience at Jamie's in Sydney, I really wasn't expecting much. The tiramisu that I had tried previously was extremely thick and creamy; tasting more of orange mascarpone and chocolate, rather than espresso. In this case, I would have definitely preferred the former, as the slab of tiramisu we got was inundated with the bitter and unpleasant taste of burnt coffee. The tiramisu being not to our taste is still borderline acceptable; this is also an expensive trifle and it didn't taste great, but how the staff at Jamie's handled the incident afterwards was what truly made our experience there appalling.
One of my housemates' brother was visiting from overseas, and he had decided to take one for the team and mention to a waitstaff in passing by that the espresso used in the tiramisu was burnt. Jamie's Italian uses Fiori beans; they're one of my favourite artisan roasters and I've enjoyed many a coffees from the Fiori Family around Perth. Judging by what I tried, the espresso used to make the Tiramisu did taste extremely burnt. It was unpleasant, and we made our opinions known for the sake of giving feedback. The dish was taken away, with the waiter stating that he'd mention it to the chefs. He came back soon after, put the dish back on our table and informed us that the chefs had tasted it and were pretty happy with the dessert. He then went on to say that they used "quality dark chocolate and a rich espresso", insisting that this was the flavour that it was suppose to have, and this was how an authentic tiramisu was suppose to taste like. With regards to my own opinion; this was not authentic tiramisu, nor was it even a good tiramisu; the quality of the ingredients used were just not there. But, like I mentioned earlier, I was expecting disappointment and had no intention of expressing my feelings there and then.
Sending food back is always an area of grey when eating out at restaurants; depending on their ethics and practises, most places will replace your meal, take the dish off your bill or both if you express your dissatisfaction. We weren't hoping for any of these things in this case - at no point did we ask that the dish be taken back and we would have appreciated our opinions being heard and valued, rather than being talked down to. I was observing the entire conversation and was surprised that such a condescending attitude still existed within the forefront of such a highly coveted, newly opened restaurant. I've definitely had better service from a drive-thru at McDonalds. When a customer expresses their opinions civilly, it's up to the front of house members to represent the restaurant in taking the criticism given, as well as they would if it were praise. What made the matter worse was that after the Tiramisu incident, our bill was placed on the table and staff came back to collect our payment before we were ready to leave. Good food will entice appreciation from your customers, but it is consistently good service that will keep them coming back.
I respect that chefs have a right to take pride in their food; if they conceptualise the way that a particular dish should be, then they have every right to stand behind it. However, it is up to the waitstaff to aid in the relaying of a chef's vision, rather than make customers feel unwelcome and insignificant. The service at Jamie's in Perth had been unkindly since I walked in, and it had become unacceptable by the time we were all ready to walk out. The desserts themselves were below average, overpriced and would be deemed unsatisfactory by the standards upheld in any other restaurant. Unfortunately, Perth diners have fallen victim to the Jamie Oliver brand equity scheme and whilst I'm sure that there are some aspects of the extensive menu that have pleased customers, the general consensus is that the quality of the food does not compensate for the extreme 3 to 4 hour waiting periods. I confirmed this over Instagram after posting my initial reaction, with many fellow users chiming in over their negative experiences. Every new restaurant deserves a chance to make it's own mark, and unfortunately bygones couldn't be bygones in the case of Jamie's Italian. I could definitely enjoy beautiful, authentic Italian food that wasn't so overly commercialised at a more reasonable price in Perth, and would definitely choose to do so in future. However, it is unlikely that the commercialisation of food through globalised branding would stop here. I'm sure Jamie's Italian makes tens of thousands of dollars in profit on a daily basis, and it's unfortunate in this case that creating revenue trumps creating food out of respect for the produce and passion for the industry.
Opening Hours: Daily, from 11am - 10:30pm