Jamie’s Italian in Cambridge
The restaurant is in the old library opposite the Corn Exchange, but there is nothing of the cloistral quiet of a library about it. As soon as you open the door, your ears feel as if you’d stepped into a very noisy swimming baths. Presumably because of the building’s status, all the wiring to wall lights is very visible, encased in metal tubing. Not attractive. The beautiful marble pillars have modern light fittings attached which is not a happy combination. The serving bar at one side of the room has a collection of hams and salamis hanging over it, which does not really blend in with the decor.
We arrived before our reservation time, but the table was ready for us. But then a napkin with a knife and fork on bare wood does not take much setting-up. We had our apéritif at the table – vastly overpriced, as was everything else. One should not have to pay the same for a glass of prosecco as one would pay for a bottle in a wine merchants. I know about mark ups, but … You wouldn’t pay that on the Riviera!
The starters were good; not too large a portion and served promptly. The selection of breads and olive oil for dipping was a nice touch – or would have been if we had not had to order and pay for it. BTW Jamie, good olive oil does not need soy sauce added. Still, the bread kept us from complaining about the length of time we had to wait for the main course. There were two parties of 12 nearby, but the kitchen should have been prepared for these bookings and not have kept other customers waiting so long. Our waitress – a nice little girl who came from near Cracow - got in a slight panic and had a struggle with the wine waiter as to which of them was going to put the glasses and wine on our table. The ice bucket came perilously close to husband’s head. Because I knew about the time limit, I did keep looking at my watch. An hour at table and no main course in sight. Apparently the booking system was introduced when the “walk-in” became the “turn up and queue”.
All the food was fresh and well cooked, but none of the dishes included vegetables of any sort. Having ordered side dishes, we were then overwhelmed by the size of the portions. Suggestion to Mr Oliver: cut the size of the meat/fish portion and include some vegetables or salad. Of course we are not starving students, but I doubt if many of them eat there regularly.
We definitely overstayed our one hour and a half, but no one attempted to eject us and I saw no other diners being summarily removed. Nevertheless the time limit does hang over one rather, slightly spoiling the experience. We left knowing that we would never go back of our own accord. (This, by the way, is a frequent occurence when we are invited out. We say thank you nicely, while vowing silently never to set foot in the place again.) I should be interested to try the new Carluccio’s which is only a few steps away.
It may be because English pub and restaurant food has improved so much over the last ten years or so that we found Jamie’s a bit “yuppie” yet behind the times. Or it may be that two months eating out in Germany, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia has accustomed us to excellent food at more reasonable prices.