Prior to a recent trip to Cambridge I was reminded that a new branch of Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant had opened at the end of February so I added it to my list of lunch options. As I ended up in the right place at the right time I went to investigate. My heart sank a little as I rounded the corner and was confronted by a sizeable queue as I didn't have a great deal of time on my hands. However, it turned out that they had just opened for lunch and were just taking their time getting people seated so as not to swamp the kitchen (it's worth noting that they don't take bookings for parties of less than 8). So my wait turned out to be acceptably brief and I was soon seated, menued and ready to go.
The first thing that struck me were the pretty impressive surroundings. The restaurant is situated in a grade 2 listed building and the majority of tables sit in a marvellouslly high-ceilinged room with ornate columns dotted around the edges (no doubt there are more technial terms out there but an architect I am not!). One wall is devoted to the open plan kitchens, part of which are hung with dried and cured legs of meat and sausages where they prepare the antipasti. It all adds up to pretty much what you would expect from Mr O - a big combination of classic and modern. I guess some cynics might sniff at the marketing opportunities that have been taken advantage of - a note at the foot of the menu detailing branded items available to purchase, rows of Jamie's books tucked into alcoves here and there - but I didn't find it overly intrusive.
Before I carry on, I should apologise for the lack of photos - I know that from a blogging point of view this is Just Not On. I didn't have a camera with me though and, annoyingly, it didn't occur to me to dig out my mobile and use that. If you want some pictures have a look at the Jamie's Italian website - a link to the Cambridge page is here.
Anyway, if you take a look at the menu here you'll see why it took me so long to decide. In the end though I decided to stick with two classic dishes - Bucatini Carbonara and Mozarella and Tomato salad. Both turned out to be wonderful - the carbonara wasn't drowning in cream as some restaurants tend to do and the added courgette was a nice touch. The tomatoes in the salad were obviously well sourced as they were full of flavour and, combined with the mozzarella and a light dressing, made for a lovely side dish.
I wasn't planning on having a dessert however I decided that in the interests of my blog I should really make the effort and squeeze one in - it's a hard life! Again I went for a classic - chocolate brownie and ice cream. There are two things I expect from a brownie when served as a dessert - it should be fudgy in the middle and it should be slightly warm. Luckily this one scored on both counts. It also earned a few more brownie points (sorry) thanks to the addition of raspberries and amaretto biscuits. Gorgeous.
So, all in all I had a very enjoyable lunchtime experience and have every intention of returning when I get the chance. I'd recommend it to anyone who fancies some good, reasonably priced food in vibrant, lively surroundings.