Jamie’s Italian (140 William Street, Perth)
You have about $30. You’re wandering down the Perth side of William Street. At this point you have two options – get a Supremo Chicken Burger with a regular side, drink, Perinaise and chocolate mousse from Nando’s. Or you can go to Jamie’s Italian, get a selection of cured meats, cheeses, pickles, a crunchy salad and black truffle risotto. A hangover might tell you otherwise, but trust me, you want what Jamie’s got to sell.
Unless you booked months ahead, your time at Jamie’s Italian will inevitably start with a wait. This isn’t a “waiting through trailers at the start of a movie” sort of wait. This is “I went to Disneyland during peak season at peak hour and tried to ride Space Mountain” stuff. My dining partner, Fairy Lamington, and I rocked up at about 11:45 on a Friday morning. It was a working day, so surely we’d be in within minutes? Looking at the line that started at the counter, went out the door, continued around the restaurant and meandered into the alley by the sushi place next door told us otherwise.
We ended up waiting 45 minutes to get to the counter after being told it would be 20. We put our names into the queue and were informed we’d be called for a table after a one and three quarter to two-hour wait. Two hours and fifteen minutes passed… still no call. We decided to go back and ask what was wrong. We were told we’d be the next table, then had to wait at the bar for another 15 minutes. So, after being informed we’d have to wait a total of two hours and twenty minutes, then in fact waiting three hours and fifteen minutes, we were in a cold, dark, hungry place.
But it was all sunshine and lollipops when the food arrived.
Things started with, quite literally, a plank: a piece of wood covered in cured meats, cheeses, pickles and a crunchy grated vegie salad. It was ever so simple, but the produce has obviously been carefully sourced, sliced and prepared – delicious. We also sampled some mozzarella and porcini arancini balls ($9.50) and squid ($12). Both were crispy on the outside, cooked to flavoursome perfection on the inside, and accompanied by a tangy tomato jam and smooth garlic mayonnaise respectively. No faults here.
We stuck to the famed pastas for our main courses. I had a main-size Black Angel Spaghetti ($22), and Fairy had an entrée-size Sausage Pappardelle ($12, no bullshit). All pastas are made in house, generously portioned, perfectly seasoned, and cooked al dente: with that little bit of bite that tells you it’s just the way the Italians like it. The squid-ink pasta, scallops, anchovy and caper blend of the Black Angel Spaghetti was an awesome take on the classic seafood and caper combo, wonderfully salty flavours offset by the zing of the berries and the sweet scallops. The Sausage Pappardelle was straight out of a Jamie Oliver cookbook, with a super fennel sausage braised in a rich ragu – fresh, wholesome and as Jamie would say, packing “bags of flavour”. The crunchy herbed breadcrumbs were a unique touch that added a welcome crunch.
The side we ordered was so good I could’ve ordered three and just eaten them as the main: Polenta Chips ($8.50). These little polenta pillows were like clouds on the inside, Heaven- flavoured clouds. Outside they were crispy and topped with a touch of grated Parmesan. You won’t ever want normal chips again.
We opted for a Chocolate & Vin Santo Pot ($9) and a Tutti Frutti Lemon Meringue Pie ($8.50) to finish. The Pot was probably the weakest dish of the night, which is fair… it is, after all, chocolate mousse, and tasted exactly like a chocolate mousse should: chocolatey. It was well-executed though, but the Vin Santo, the Italian wine which features in the dessert, wasn’t apparent enough to make the dish anything other than a superb mousse. The Lemon Meringue Pie, on the other hand, is up there with the best pie desserts you can find, and for it’s price, I can just about guarantee it’s the single best sweet food you can buy in the world for under a blue note. The meringue was fluffy yet perfectly caramelized to give it that little touch of bitterness, the lemon component was sharp but sweet, and the crunchy pistachio and limoncello biscuit on top of the meringue (the Tutti Frutti) was the unique twist that set it apart from the rest. Texture, balance in the flavours and presentation to match.
To drink I got beer. Castello to be exact. It’s a solid Italian beer, not the best, or the worst. Moving right along.
Fairy got a couple of cocktails. The first was a Rosemary and Grapefruit Collins ($15). Packed with fresh rosemary, ginger, grapefruit and spirits, it was the best punch in the face I’ve ever sampled, an explosively amazing mix of powerful ingredients. The Amalfi Punch ($15.50) on the other hand was a gentle caress. It was a smooth, sweet zesty blend of strawberry and lemon flavours.
The ambience was eclectic. Exposed pipes, multi-coloured tiles, natural woods… it was all clash, but warm at the same time, creating an undeniably happy environment. This was complemented by the staff, who dance and sing between giving casual but effective and friendly service. The music they were dancing and singing to was atrocious though. I heard Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe, Rihanna’s Diamonds, and even some Jet (remember them?). It was a diverse playlist to say the least, but one unified in the crapness of each song. Please, Mr Manager, turn it down or off.
Italians will say it’s not Italian enough, foodies will say it’s not inventive enough, but I’m as average as Joes get, and I say this. If you can get past a shocking playlist and near-crippling wait times if you don’t book, you’ll find a diner that’s just about flawless across the board, from start to finish. And as an added bonus, it’s so cheap you practically profit when you dine there.