“For a stress-free meal with kids”, Jamie O’s “bright and bustling” Italian chain – promising, in its early days – is still tipped as a “fun” option; increasingly, however, it’s a case of “all hype and no delivery”, with far too many reports nowadays of “absent-minded” staff and “airline-quality” food.
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The critic visits the Naked Chef’s chain-prototype, and – surprise, surprise – finds it “overconceptualised”. “We laugh at our Seventies selves. And yet, in truth, there really is little in terms of conception to separate this place from those old trattorias with their bottles of cheap Chianti in wicker baskets and pepper grinders the size of donkeys' cocks. It is just as contrived. But in one regard it is much, much better, and happily – even allowing for the occasional overadornment – that’s the food.”
The critic takes up much of his review with a critique of another, unnamed reviewer – that would be Feargus O’Sullivan of thelondonpaper, then – who saw him allegedly receiving special treatment at another restaurant (although whether O’Sullivan really quite made him “the centrepiece of his review” is rather more open to question).
David Sexton (7th August 2008)
“Jamie Oliver has long been the main ethical justification of the revolting phenomenon of the TV celebrity chef”, the critic opines (dubiously). “He has used his influence purposefully in many different areas, attempting to demystify good eating and cooking for all. Now he’s put his own money where his mouth is. Without a single press release or TV tie-in, he’s launched a chain of restaurants of his own, aiming to deliver ‘brilliant, simple, rustic Italian food’ at modest prices, in approachable settings.”
Matthew Norman (28th July 2008)
This is the week of inversion, it seems. The Telegraph’s man develops a social conscience, and the Guardian’s drops in the fact that he read Greats at Oxford. In fact, it’s worse than that: he plays the ‘critic’ card to jump the unmoving queue outside Jamie Oliver’s new Italian chain prototype. Tsk. Tsk.
Richard Vines (7th July 2008)
The financial news service’s man gets a day out in his Oxford Geburtsplatz, and finds that a trip to Oliver’s new restaurant is “a pleasant way to spend a day”.
Jasper Gerard (7th July 2008)
Another review where it’s not really quite clear how the ratings stack up with the comments. We learn that the model for Jamie’s new chain – of which the Oxford branch is the first – “is Carluccio’s with its buzzy mood and affordable Italian tucker”, that results are currently “mixed”, and that “there is [still] so much to improve”.
Tracey MacLeod (23rd June 2008)
Food 4/5 stars, Service 3/5 stars, Ambience 4/5 stars
“[T]he stakes are high”, notes the critic . Jamie Oliver is putting his own money to the “first serious commercial test”, with the opening of the prototype of his ‘neighbourhood’ chain, in a former pub on a “busy high street” (not some “trendy, studenty area”).
Terry Durack (23rd June 2008)
“[C]heeky, practical, good-natured, unpretentious and quality-driven” – that, in short, is the critic’s take on Jamie’s newcomer. “Jamie's Italian redesigns and rewrites the chain restaurant in his own image: messy, eager, exuberant, family-oriented… [I]t shows you can mass-produce the flavours of Italy for the happiness of the high street”. Well, let’s hope, but an early-days prototype is rather different from a fully-fledged chain…