Saturday, March 2, 2013
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food & drink
In a pickle with burger eating out M
with Mark Anstead
Jamie’s Italian is celebrating its third anniversary in the city. Sounds like the perfect excuse for a return visit, says ELLA WALKER.
Every week the founder of Cambridgeshire Wine School seeks out the best wines to go with Living’s recipes. BREAKFAST in bed is a Mother’s Day treat. But no matter how charming the children, many mums still look forward to unwinding in the evening with a nice glass of wine. If you want to make sure it’s a glass of something special, until tomorrow M&S are offering 25% off when you buy any 6 wines. Supermarkets only do this briefly, so being forewarned is key. That offer will open again on the evening of Thursday, March 7, when I will be upstairs in the M&S café conducting a free tasting of M&S wines from 6.30pm. We’ll be sampling the wines with M&S food to get an idea of what to match with them, so it’s the perfect chance to try before you buy (with no obligation). If you want to come along, just contact the store by email to let them know: cambridge.selling @marks-and-spencer.com. You could use the opportunity to pick up Decanter trophy-award winning Secano Rose from Chile, normally £8.99 but £6.74 with the discount. Being pink it would be great for Mother’s Day. Or use the 25% off to trade up and grab gold-award winning Ridgeview Marksman English sparkling wine. English wines are expensive (we can’t produce large volumes), but with the discount this goes from £22 to £16.50. I Wine Tasting Gift Vouchers for Mother’s Day: www.Cambridgeshire WineSchool.com.
OME might not like the canteen-feel, and Jamie’s is definitely not the place to go for a quiet conversation, unless you fancy battling the buzz of chatter, clattering chairs and sounds from the open kitchen. But even if the food was shockingly bad – which obviously it isn’t, Jamie, I promise – I’d eat anything regardless, just to sit inside the building.
Grade II-listed, with amazing light streaming in from the beautiful domed ceiling, the bar is lovely for a quick drink before the theatre, or to sidle into before a gig at the Corn Exchange. But this time we were making up for a week spent apart (oh, the trials of a long distance relationship), which meant going all out on the food front. I nabbed the seat with the best view of the dome and marble columns, while my boyfriend Sam was stuck looking at my face and the specials board. Poor thing. I had been daydreaming all day about the breadcrumbed mushroom slivers with garlic mayonnaise, only to discover the whole menu had changed since my last visit! You should know: I adore mushrooms, so tears were only avoided by ordering the posh garlic mushrooms on toast to start (£7.95). It arrived on a huge plate – a platter really – delicately dotted with wild fungi, chopped red chilli and a smattering of parsley. The charred wholemeal bread centrepiece was doused in garlic and olive oil, and was crunchy on the edges but soft in the middle. It was good but a bit of cream sauce or a dash of balsamic would have made a nice addition; luckily Sam didn’t mind me snagging some of his mayonnaise. Just a thought Jamie, but perhaps mushrooms on toast don’t need to be poshed up? A bit of grated cheese and some red onion would have transformed it. But then, I always go overboard when it comes to toast. And mushrooms. Sam picked the cured and crispy fish plank (£7.50 per person) which, as you’d expect, appeared on a massive chopping board, supported by two tins of tomatoes. It was loaded with goodies: beetroot-cured salmon perched on a bed of ice, smoked mackerel pâté generously smeared on a hunk of bread and mini deep fried snippets of fish to dunk in said stolen mayonnaise. If that wasn’t enough, there was also pecorino cheese on a wafer-thin crispy cracker with chilli jam, pickles, green chillies and olives (that Sam quickly discovered weren’t
DOME FROM HOME: And tomato ketchup isn’t frowned on
pitted), plus a salad of shredded carrot, beets and lemon juice. Let’s just say I had slight food envy. But then, I think I won with the main event. I opted for the sausage pappardelle (£10.95) which was a cosy bowl of hearty fennel and sausage ragù topped with a crunchy concoction of parmesan and herby breadcrumbs. It all vanished rather swiftly . . . After fretting that going for a burger was boring, Sam of course went for the burger. It came in freshbaked ciabatta stashed with mozzarella, onions, tomato, pickles, chillies and a wedge of lettuce. And it was practically impossible to eat. The skewer through the middle attempted – and failed – to help, leaving the whole thing too tall to pin into a mouth-sized portion. Knocking it over, squashing it down – nothing worked. Knives and forks sadly had to be engaged. I also made the mistake of ordering chips (£3.25), to go with Sam’s burger, obviously, not because I was being gluttonous. They were amazing slathered in salt, parsley and ketchup (I love that however fancy Jamie’s pretends to be, the waiting staff still don’t frown if you go to put ketchup on your pasta), but it was just too much food. We slogged away, jaws aching and finally surrendered, only to then go and order pudding anyway. Our only defence is that we had entered some kind of food stupor by this point, where only more food could be considered a cure. I went for the tiramisu (£4.95) and it was lovely light, creamy with a tang of orange and a dollop of thick mascarpone. Sam in the meantime fought through an incredibly rich ‘tutti frutti lemon meringue pie’ (£4.95). No, it was not topped with crushed, multicoloured tutti frutti sweets (much to my disappointment), instead it had chips of pistachio brittle scattered all over. By the end we could barely speak and a walk home in practically Arctic conditions was the only way to revive us from our food coma. We possibly went too far on the food front after all.
Jamie’s Italian, The Old Library, Wheeler Street, Cambridge, CB2 3QJ Telephone: (01223) 654 094 Website: www.jamieoliver.com/ita lian /cambridge Restaurant opening hours: Monday – Saturday: noo n11pm Sunday: noon-10.30pm Cost: Dinner for two, including drinks, cam e to £55.80 Food: $$$ Service: $$$$ Atmosphere: $$$$$ Value: $$$$