Recently opened, I thought it’d be a good idea to try out Jamie Oliver’s new restaurant in Cambridge. The immediate impact is the astonishing beauty of the place itself. It’s in part of one of the council buildings (tidy profit for the government, no doubt) and it must have previously been a very grand hall for something, with a magnificent dome at the top of the main room. It is, however, a very wildly varying restaurant, with several spaces. On a personal note, I knew it must be an excellent place, as it was full of all the people I know to be the best service staff in the city from long experience.
We started by sharing a plate of ‘Italian nachos’ (see above, and sorry about the darkness of the picture – the restaurant is perfectly easy to see in, but the camera was a terrible phone camera), but this is a deceptive name, as the rest of the description explains: crispy fried four cheese ravioli with “angry” arrabbiata sauce. It was truly crispy, and the sauce was tomato-based. The two together, with the parmesan grated on top, was magnificent.
For my main course, I chose the ‘My Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad’. The chicken was variously breast and leg meat (in the latter case, still on the bone). There was romaine lettuce, red chicory, crunchy croutons and creamy parmesan dressing. (I was rather surprised to learn I’d lost weight in the morning!) My dining companion decided to have a steak. It was called ‘Jamie’s Flash Steak’. According to the menu description, it was ‘wafer thin’ (not quite true, of course) and pounded with sage and prosciutto, with a spicy tomato, basil and chilli salsa. ‘Flash’ because it’s flash grilled. I thought mine excellent, although I couldn’t eat all of the generous portion, and I was told the other was magnificent, too.
The wine we drank was ‘Sauvignon Blanc di Friuli’, from 2007, and reasonably priced at £4.95 per (admittedly 175ml) glass. I had two, my friend had one, as he was driving. We were given free table water and it was refilled almost the moment it had run out, without us having to ask. There was never a moment more than 30 seconds long when we couldn’t attract attention from a waiter. The background sounds were good – the right level, decent music.
Frankly, if this guy knows restaurants this well, he’s going to be easily competing with Gordon Ramsay in a few years!