Jamie’s Italian, Various UK, AU

Jamie's Italian Polenta Chips

Jamie’s Italian Polenta Chips

Jamie Oliver’s chain of Italian restaurants, although each restaurant follows the same formula and serves nearly, if not completely identical menus, manages to avoid all of the flaws of a formulaic chain restaurant.  The food here is made fresh from fresh ingredients.  The staff are generally friendly and attentive, and the food is top-notch.

I’ve visited outlets in London, Cardiff, Sydney and Perth.  There are dozens of outlets in the UK, and a smattering of outlets across Australia, Ireland, Russia, Singapore, Turkey and the UAE.  Each one is as good as the next.  As an Italian-American who enjoys cooking and eating, I can say that Jamie’s team has the formula pretty well designed!  I’m just hoping for an outlet in the USA.

My particular favorites include…

Polenta chips (pictured above): Crispy on the outside, creamy in the middle, covered liberally in shredded parmigano reggiano and rosemary leaves.

Wagyu breasola salad (pictured below): Fresh, crisp, clean flavors of the salad nicely complement the rich, salty breasola served carpaccio style as a base for the mountain of salad.

If I’m in a city with a Jamie’s Italian, and I don’t have something new & unusual on my calendar for a given meal, I know I can always get some top-notch Italian food.

Jamie's Italian Wagyu Breasola Salad

Jamie’s Italian Wagyu Breasola Salad

Visit http://www.jamieoliver.com/italian/restaurants for locations in the UK and http://www.jamieoliver.com/italian/international for locations elsewhere.


St. John Bread and Wine, London

St. John Bread & Wine, Spitalfields

St. John Bread & Wine, Spitalfields

A cute, rustic venue, St. John Bread & Wine is acclaimed chef and author Fergus Henderson’s dining room specializing in simple classic british foods that may have been in danger of being forgotten amongst the celebrity chef emporiums and guerrilla popup restaurants that are common in today’s London.

Open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and supper, the menu changes as the day wears on.  You can enjoy a simple bacon sandwich for breakfast (easily big enough for two unless you’re in training or manual labor), amongst other simple options, at a reasonable price.  If you like, and your morning commute/wander will take you past St. John, you can phone ahead the night before to order your bacon sandwich for take away the next morning.  Lunch and supper dishes often include organ meats and offal, which stands to reason seeing as Henderson is the author of The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating (Amazon affiliate link).  Daily menus vary, but are known to include items such as foie gras and duck liver toast, bone marrow, and my personal favorite, the super-rich blood cake.  If you like black pudding or other blood sausages, it’s a must!  The blood cake is so rich that a fried egg with its runny yolk is used to cut through the richness.

Another favorite and British regional specialty that Henderson is reintroducing to London foodies to is Eccles cake.  Similar to a mincemeat pie (Aussies, it’s not meat, but fruit – ask a Brit or American), and named for the town of Eccles where they were creates and are still served in small bake shops.  Eccles cakes are a flaky pastry dome with a spiced and brandied filling of currants. The cake is usually paired with another hard-to-find-outside-of-England-item, Lancashire cheese – sort of similar to Cheshire or Wensleydale, but unique in its own right.

Of course, as the name suggests, you should absolutely try the breads and wine.  The bakery produces all manner of baked goods, which may just make you want to include St. John in your grocery shopping routine.  Aside from Eccles cakes, St. John has crusty rustic loaves and fresh madelines on offer.

The restaurant sits opposite Old Spitalfields Market and makes for a glorious pre-or post shopping meal or snack.  The address is 94-96 Commercial Street London E1 6LZ.

Breakfast dishes will set you back about £5.  Entrees (appetizers to my fellow Americans) tend to run about £9 and mains £18.  Order ahead for a whole suckling pig that will set you back £420 and feed 50 people.  If you want to put together a suckling pig party, call me anytime!