Jamie Oliver’s Restaurant has Come to Town
2Magazine explores hassle-free Italian food at Jamie’s Italian, Bangkok
February 06, 2017
“Chewing the Fat” is 2Magazine’s chance to meet and discuss a restaurant and its dishes with the person who knows the establishment and offerings best: the chef. In the case of Jamie’s Italian, while the chef was not available for IRL interaction, from the moment you step inside the establishment you are given an instant sense of the chef’s presence.
Jamie’s Italian Bangkok opened its doors in November: just in time for end-of-year celebrations and the warm-weather influx of visitors to Bangkok. The food-loving local population responded exactly as Siam Center likely hoped: appearing in droves to taste cuisine presided over by the affable celebrity chef.
The experience of sitting down to a meal at Jamie’s Italian is, it is assumed, the same as that of dining in Jamie Oliver’s home. The presentation, philosophy, ingredients, and recipes are all created and directed by the charming British chef himself. Jamie’s Italian in Bangkok is one of a fast-growing number of similar, if not identical, openings across the world that bears the Jamie Oliver name. The Jamie Oliver Enterprise network of restaurants aims to decrease the border between mass-production and home cooking. It’s a contradictory experience on the one hand, and a winning formula on the other.
The term hanging over all aspects of Jamie’s Italian is “handmade”. From the mismatched furniture to the shop-front pasta station through to the antipasto platters served from a plank perched atop two canned tomatoes tins, the restaurant’s only glaring indication of impersonality comes from the shelves of Jamie Oliver merchandise: a small selection of kitchen utensils, books, and food products bearing the signature or face of Jamie himself. Despite not yet having made a personal appearance in the venue, Oliver’s physical presence is felt both directly and indirectly.
A menu of Italian staples was selected for the Bangkok edition from the grand cookbook of Jamie’s Italian, a near-mythical tome of some 1,000 recipes created by the chef’s central kitchen in the UK. The fare is an accessible departure from Oliver’s tuition at the great London Italian institution, The River Café —a rapid skirmish through the largest culinary regions of Italy without ever feeling tokenistic.
The few dozen dishes, spanning pasta, pizza, antipasti, grilled meats, sweets, sides, and cocktails make use of local ingredients wherever practical: a feat that played a major role in the determination of suitable local menu selections. Market vegetables, free range meats from Northern farms, sustainable seafood from the Gulf, and even dairy from nearby producers help the kitchen retain much of the ethos of Jamie Oliver cuisine: fresh, local, and low-impact. An Italian kitchen in the heart of metropolitan Thailand must naturally make some imported compromises in order to enable authentic flavors, and no attempt is made to hide these ingredients from diners: an array of cured meats, cheeses, and spices are proudly hung in the antipasto preparation kitchen for all to admire.
The local palate has forced some brazen trade-offs in the way Jamie’s food is prepared, however: pastas are cooked beyond al dente to satisfy diners’ complaints of linguine arriving “undercooked”, and chili is incorporated into some dishes it would otherwise have no business appearing. The results are a few flavors that sit somewhere beyond the Italian regions from where they originated.
Jamie Oliver’s representatives don’t spend time mentioning invisible character behind the restaurant’s name, choosing instead to trade on his ethos and process rather than celebrity. But with all the effort focused on fit-out, performance, interaction, and ‘homeliness’, the food remains the single greatest attraction at Jamie’s Italian. Fresh, fast, and impeccably rehearsed, each dish arrives in rapid succession with little repetition. The antipasto ‘meat plank’ (starting at 590B) offers cured meats from all corners. The signature prawn linguine (300B/390B) is a pile of well-dressed fresh pasta surrounding plump, garlic-rich prawns. The Chicken al Mattone (520B) is a smoky, sweet chunk of marinated free-range chicken grilled under a brick, and served with mushroom sauce, rocket, and parmesan as a juicy secondo platto worth bragging about.
Washed away with a round of punchy, fruit-forward cocktails such as the raspberry mule —a pretty, raspberry-laden concoction with a light ginger finish— a meal at Jamie’s Italian lets you step inside the kitchen of one of the most-recognizable faces in food, via the far-flung producers of Thailand, at an accessible price point. Pending a visit from the man himself, Jamie’s Italian is an easy way to explore Italian food created with fresh local ingredients, without hassle, by hand, in a lush and comfortable setting.
Jamie's Italian is located on G floor of Siam Discovery, Rama 1 Road, Bangkok.
Monday - Sunday 10:00am–10:00pm. Contact (+66) 22 555 222.