Jamie’s Italian in Exeter wows in opening week

18:30 09 February 2015

Crispy squid at Jamie's Italian.

Crispy squid at Jamie's Italian.

Archant

Jamie’s Italian opened recently in Exeter’s Princesshay. The latest in a growing chain of upmarket but informal restaurants, founded in 2008 by chef Jamie Oliver, it focuses on authentic, rustic Italian dishes, with a “Jamie twist”.

Lobster al forno at Jamie's Italian, Exeter.Lobster al forno at Jamie's Italian, Exeter.

The menu has been created by Jamie, his friend and mentor Gennaro Contaldo, and executive chefs Jules Hunt and Sam Elliott. The same dishes can be found throughout the chain, with daily specials at each branch. Ingredients are sourced in Italy and the UK, with the Exeter branch procuring its fish locally from Brixham and Cornwall.

My wife and I found the restaurant’s relaxed atmosphere, local artwork and chic, distressed look welcoming, and the bustling upstairs section was full of chatter.

We chose crispy music bread (£3.95), followed by crispy porcini mushroom arancini (£5.50) and crispy squid (£5.95). To accompany, my wife had a Campari and soda (£6.95), while I had a non-alcoholic Berry Blast (£3.50).

The music bread – with slices of pecorino Sardo and chilli jam and mostarda dots – was a pleasant appetiser, while the arrancini – fried balls of porcini risotto with fontina and mozzarella cheese and an arrabbiata sauce – was a winner, with a crispy coating and a luscious, smooth filling. Meanwhile the crispy squid were good with simple, bold flavours from the garlic mayo sauce, chilli and lemon.

Jamie’s famous prawn linguine at Jamie's Italian, Exeter.Jamie’s famous prawn linguine at Jamie's Italian, Exeter.

For our mains we chose Jamie’s famous prawn linguine (£13.50), Lobster al forno (£23.95) and a rocket side salad to share (£3.55). My wife enjoyed the linguine – with garlicky prawns, fennel, tomatoes, chilli and rocket – but felt it lacked chilli heat. My half a marinated and roasted lobster with Parmesan sauce and spaghetti pomodoro was terrific – almost two meals in one – with the delicate meat standing up surprisingly well amid some huge flavours.

We adored the desserts – sour cherry and almond tart (£5.45) and Almalfi lemon meringue cheesecake (£5.45) – finding both dishes gorgeous and moreish.

Our bill for two was nearly £80, but with more moderate dishes, a couple could enjoy a two-course meal here for around £50. Not an everyday eaterie, it’s a good addition to Exeter’s thriving restaurant scene, and would work well pre-theatre or show.

Jamie’s Italian, 20 Bedford Street, Exeter, EX1 1GJ (01392 348448). Sunday-Thursday noon-10pm; Friday-Saturday, noon-11pm.

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