The last of the four novels we studied during our time in London was Angela Carter’s Wise Children. I’d previously read a few selected stories from The Bloody Chamber, so I was excited to delve into Carter’s curious world of magic realism. To be honest, I preferred The Bloody Chamber, as there’s something about reimagined fairy tales that really sparks my interest. Anyways, as part of our tour of the neighbourhood in which Wise Children takes place, we had lunch at Jamie Oliver’s Diner, a pop-up restaurant on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue. It was a decent meal, but nothing memorable.
Then fast forward a couple weeks to one night in Oxford. The girls decided to try out Jamie’s Italian, another of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant ventures. Due to the size of our group, we were seated at two different tables, but served by the same waiter. I’m not sure how to describe the waiter, except to say that we honestly didn’t like him. He was quite awkward and seemed disappointed that some of us only ordered drinks or appetizers. Sure, I realize that you need your tips, but to overtly express disappointment isn’t going to help you, right?
Katy wasn’t too hungry, so she just had the Crab and Avocado Bruschetta (£6.50), grilled sourdough topped with Start Bay crab, avocado, and Yeo Valley yoghurt, with apple matchsticks, chili, mint, lemon, and olive oil. Despite the decadence of that description, Katy found her bruschetta a bit unappetizing, as it was served quite cold, which she didn’t enjoy.
Chantallyhoo and Shawarma both had the Tagliatelle Bolognese (£9.95), with a ragu of British beef and pork, with herbs, chianti, Parmesan, and crunchy, herby breadcrumbs. Again, a decadent description, but the dish didn’t live up to it. The pasta was undercooked, being quite clumpy and hard to chew, while the sauce was underwhelming and very bland. It needed a lot of pepper to be somewhat enjoyable. Also, we were all surprised by the small portions. The items mostly came in two sizes (a smaller “entree” size and a larger portion), but even the larger portions were quite small. I had no idea, but apparently outside of North America, “entree” means a small course served before the main course. Having spent most of my life on the West Coast, this was a rather strange concept to me, and one that actually impacted our enjoyment of our meal here overall. When some of us accidentally ordered entree-sized portions without realizing that “entree” doesn’t mean the same thing it does in North America, the waiter reacted by condescendingly informing us of the difference, as opposed to offering us the larger portions. Considering how awkwardly he recounted the specials, I think that he was relatively new at his job, but wouldn’t it be common sense to try and make a customer feel happy as opposed to stupid?
As for me, I had the Seaside Risotto (£12.50), with clams, mussels, prawns, cockles, gurnard, chili, and white wine. I found the risotto to be a tad undercooked, but I believe that’s personal preference, as I generally prefer my pasta to be softer than al dente as well (blasphemous, I know). The fish was well-prepared, being moist throughout, and the mussels were plump and briney, exactly the way they should be. However, I thought that the risotto itself could have been creamier; perhaps more cheese would have helped? I also was dissatisfied with the portion size, especially considering the price tag.
Madeline’s Fish Stew (£13.50), which was on special that night, was comprised of the same seafood as my risotto, although in a tomato-based broth. Although the seafood was well-prepared, with plump and juicy clams and mussels, she commented that she wished she’d ordered a pasta instead, which would have been much more filling. It was a pricey dish, probably due to the amount of seafood included. I feel like it would have worked well as a risotto, pretty much the same as mine above but with a tomato-based sauce.
Overall, we were all quite disappointed with our experience at Jamie’s Italian, especially considering its association with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. The food was mediocre, and the service was startlingly inept, awkward, and even condescending. Based on the two experiences I had with Jamie Oliver’s restaurants during my time in the UK, I probably would not return.
24-26 George Street
Oxford, United Kingdom OX1 2
Jimoco is a pasta place on Austin Ave. in Coquitlam, across from this Safeway that seriously needs a renovation. (They don’t have any self-checkout or customer service counter…what??) It’s a pretty small restaurant (maybe narrow is a better word), with booth seating as well as tables. The one thing I find odd about Jimoco is that the chef is Korean, much of the clintele is Korean, and yet the owner only hires Caucasian servers…I’m not sure if he did this to avoid the stereotype that Asian servers are rude. To be honest, I find the service here rather brusque and unprofessional…maybe it’s simply because this restaurant is ALWAYS busy. My most recent visit was on a random Thursday afternoon, around 2pm, and we had to wait for a table.
The real attraction of Jimoco is the prices. They have this “Grand Opening Special” (they’ve been open for a couple of years now, I think) where you can get two pastas for the price of one! Their pastas are priced around $15 or so, so technically a meal for two will cost around $20 including tax and tip! Not a bad deal at all. Well, on to the food…
Like a lot of pasta places, the meal starts off with complimentary bread. I’d rather get more than two slices of bread, but at these prices I guess you can’t complain. The bread is not baked in-house, but bought (as you can tell from the photo). It’s basically just two slices of bread toasted with garlic butter. It was toasted nicely, but really nothing special. I went with my dad this time and he wanted to save his slice of bread to eat with his pasta, but by then the bread was stone cold….
On this trip, my dad had the Linguini Soul. The picture’s a little blurry, I got too excited about the food…anyways. This is linguini in a rather spicy tomato sauce, with seafood (mussels, clams, squid, shrimp, baby scallops, etc.), served in a hot bowl. I believe this is one of the most popular dishes here. Well, for one thing, my parents have this every single time we come, and I’ve seen many other customers order it as well. It caters to the Korean customers–my parents often compare it to the Jambong at Korean-Chinese restaurants. This dish is definitely worth your money, considering how much seafood is included. The noodles were cooked al dente.
I had the Penne Alla Bombay. As the name suggests, this is penne served in a curry sauce, with bite-size pieces of chicken and diced tomatoes. I’ve had this a couple of times and always enjoy it. For one thing, the chicken is moist and flavourful, and not too dry. The pasta itself was cooked al dente, again. The serving size might look small, but I actually was unable to finish it myself (my dad ate the rest). I don’t think this is one of their most popular dishes, but it’s my personal favourite! I would have liked some fresh ground pepper though…
On a separate, earlier trip, my brother had the Risotto al Frutti di Mare. (We also had calamari on that visit–you can see it in the background, but I didn’t bother taking a photo of it. Pretty much an average and forgettable calamari). In any case, this is also one of the most popular dishes here, consisting of risotto cooked in a choice of tomato, cream, or saffron sauce (shown here in the cream) with mussels and other seafood. I believe the ingredients are the same as the Linguini Soul, not exactly sure…this also arrives in the hot bowl. It’s quite rich and creamy, and can get to be a bit too much once you’re about halfway through. Personally I love cream sauce so I don’t really mind, though, I guess it all depends on personal preferences! But once again, I really feel like fresh ground pepper would help, no idea why we weren’t offered any…
So to summarize. Jimoco is a bit out of your way unless you live in the area like I do, and the service leaves much to be desired. Still, the prices are too good to pass up–a decent and filling meal for two people for a round $20. Definitely worth a visit!
Jimoco Cafe & Pasta
1046A Austin Ave