Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Jamie's Italian Restaurant - Glasgow

I will admit, we ended up in Jamie Oliver's Italian in George Square in Glasgow by accident.

Mam and I had been wandering around the city for a while on a Saturday night, the 17th September, looking for somewhere to eat. Searching on my iPhone I found Prezzo's just around the corner, but as we walked through the Square we passed Jamie Oliver's restaurant.

We took one look at it, situated in a big, grand old Glaswegian building, and dismissed it as "too expensive", but I had a look at the menu on the wall outside anyway, "for a laugh".

What I saw surprised me: under the not-so-good lighting in the white text on the pink background, I thought I could see two prices for the pasta dishes, presumably the ones for £6-£8 were half portions.

We went inside and were told we may have to wait up to an hour for a table, but we decided to treat ourselves, not having had a proper meal since Thursday due to going to the Davis Cup tennis at Braehead on Friday and Saturday.

Inside, the restaurant was one huge open-plan room, full of tables, but not crowded. It was noisy, but in a bustling, chatting way; not like a pub or bar with loud pounding music that prevented any conversation.

We went downstairs to the bar for a drink while we waited for a table. A G+T and a ginger and lemongrass presse (basically ginger beer with a hint of lemongrass) was just under £8.

The bar was smaller and noisier than the restaurant, but we could still talk easily enough. The number of people waiting for a table encouraged us: it must be good if there are this many people wanting to eat here!

Scouring the menu again, we settled on two half portions of spaghetti bolognese, and a bowl of crispy polenta chips between us.

By the time we had read the menu cover to cover and had a bit chat, our table was ready, maybe about 45 minutes after we arrived.

The decor was kind of modern-rustic, if you get my drift. The chairs were bright red, and would not have looked out of place outside some charismatic little European bistro. The tables were dark wood, and although the lights were low it was still light enough to see what you were eating.

The place had character, it had a buzz about it. Lots of satisfied, happy people filling their bellies with good food, and lots of people waiting patiently for their turn.

Our orders did not take long to arrive, but when they did, being half-portions, they looked tiny. But, when you're used to getting huge platters of food in restaurants, small portions are going to look small.

However once we started eating, it was surprising how filling the food was. Although just a humble spag-bol, it tasted doubly delicious after living on fast food and quick bites that could not even be called snacks for the previous two days.

As I ate I could not help but wonder what it would be like to eat Jamie-inspired cooking every day. There would probably be more food in a meal, but it would also fill the stomach, potentially stop you from snacking and so would be healthier as well as tastier.

I even managed to clear my plate of the bolognese sauce. Usually I only eat whatever sauce happens to stick to the spaghetti and end up with half a plate of mince left over. This time there were only two or three forkfuls left, and it was worth finishing.

We could have gone to Prezzo, to a chain that has the same restaurant with the same menu in every major city and paid £10 each for a meal I would not have been able to finish due to it's size, but we tried something that was different yet familiar, that was just enough to comfortably fill the stomach despite its diminutive appearance, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

The chips were a large potato chopped into six pieces, cooked, and topped with rosemary and Parmesan cheese, they too were scrumptious. This, to me, is the way to go with vegetables. All my life my parents have simply chopped the veg into a pressure cooker and boiled them in nothing but hot water. Boring. Boring. BORING!

When I move into my own house, I won't even own a pressure cooker, they're evil things. I once followed Jamie's 30-minute Sunday Roast recipe when I was home alone; simply cooking the potatoes then sautéing them with some garlic and rosemary made all the difference, as did cooking the carrots with a spoonful of sugar, which certainly helped the medicine go down. For once I actually enjoyed eating the vegetables, and not just the cheat's roasties.

Now I might just have to add Jamie's Italian cookbook to my copies of 30-Minute Meals and Ministry of Food.