Now i know that there are plenty of creative, edgy and independent restaurants in Leeds surely more worthy of Little Oliver’s consideration than Jamie’s Italian.
But since Gino D’Acampo, an actual Italian, has recently opened up his own place 10 strides away on Park Row amid much excitement, I felt a bit sorry for poor old Jamie. I felt so bad for his endangered bank balance that the urge to eat loads of really nice pasta simply overcame me.
And it does more veggie options than Gino’s, which swung it for my mate.
As we’re led through the lengthy restaurant I’m struck by how neat and well presented the place is, but also how much of an advertising opportunity its been made into.
Sauces, chopping boards, books, the lot, are all racked up on shelves to tempt diners.
However, service throughout is confident, efficient and humorous, showing that even if the commercial side of the place has you rolling your eyes, its staff are the real deal.
To start I go for the Smoked Salmon Bruschetta, which includes horseradish, ricotta, bronze fennel and lemon (£5.25).
Brought to me on a miniature chopping board, this was a really nice delicate dish and a great way to begin.
My friend went for the Margherita Arancini – crispy tomato risotto balls, stuffed with mozzarella and served with a tomato and basil sauce with garlic (£5.95). Having tried a bite of these, I was slightly jealous.
The atmosphere to begin with left something to be desired as we were taken right round to the back, though as the room soon filled up not even the lad party sat behind us could detract from the great food and service.
On to the mains, then, with a spicy sausage pappardelle for me. This was a delicious pasta, matted together with a pork and fennel ragù and Cobble Lane ‘nduja (Italian sausage), Calabrian chilli and pecorino. A really earthy and quite unusual dish. (This was £11.95 as a main rather than the £6.95 price if ordered as a smaller dish.)
For my friend, a Veggie Tagliatelle Bolognese – tomato, lentil and porcini ragù with garlic, pangrattato (bread crumbs) and veggie Parmesan (£5.55 or £9.95, depending how big you want it).
She enjoyed it, enthusing about the freshness of the pasta but was a bit put off by how it stuck together.
I was then put through the pain of watching her demolish an ‘Epic Chocolate Brownie’ (£5.75), which is topped with salted caramel popcorn gelato and caramelised popcorn – after thanklessly passing it up for a latte (£2.95).
Jamie needn’t fear for his empire – his waiters and chefs have it all in hand.