Story by Kevan Watson
The last thing you’d expect to find in Leeds’ newest Italian restaurant is a warrior, and a Yorkshire one at that. But the Yorkshire Warrior bottled beer demonstrates the attention to detail that makes Jamie’s Italian special. Very special indeed. This, I decided immediately, is what an Italian is supposed to be, it’s what happens when a major, major chef does authentic – and does it damn well.
Jamie’s Italian has just landed in Leeds at what must be one of the most attractive buildings in the city; look upwards wherever you are inside. Previously a bank, the restaurant has rescued the building’s reputation and a whole lot more. Overlooking the iconic Lloyds’ wire-sculpture horse, this is the latest eaterie to arrive on Park Row (hot on the heels of Gaucho) and in one fell swoop, Jamie’s arrival has re affirmed Leeds’ insatiable appetite for good food and great service.
A squad of ‘meet and greeters’ made our lively party superbly welcome and after a quick introduction to the drinks menu we were served with a fine Prosecco Rustico and an army of the said Yorkshire Warriors. Later with food, a Pinot Grigio and a Montepulciano D’Abruzzo didn’t fail to satisfy even though they struggled for space on our table which was bursting with fantastic antipasti.
Voluminous olives on ice, polenta chips and the lightest calamari fritti starters were overshadowed quite literally by a couple of planks. No, not my fellow diners, but ‘Antipasti planks’. Wooden planks fashioned into long platters and balanced delicately on tins of tomatoes (another example of a fine twist on detail) were pretty spectacular. Designed for sharing ours featured Tuscan cured meat, seasonal vegetables, fine cheese and pickles that tasted just-made.
And it was the detail that brought our mains to life. Tiny croutons shot through the risotto gave light relief to what can be a heavy dish. Capers were a fine if not strong surprise in the fish in a bag – another detail that makes Jamie’s feel real. Our steak and burger connoisseurs (who are quite tough to impress) gave a huge thumbs up and the pasta carbonara was described as the best ever! Posh chips, funky chips, (plus a return visit for the polenta chips) and the greenest, highest-stacked salad impressed us even more.
Even a trip to the loo didn’t bring a pause in the detail “¦ they are exquisitely finished and must feature the fastest, blastiest hand driers ever. And I’m guessing, but if the ladies’ has the same hand driers as the gents then girls hang onto your bling and make sure your nail vanish is dry or it could all end up somewhere where you least expect.
With chefs, kitchen staff and cooking all on view, Jamie’s Italian really does feel fresh and authentic. Many of the ingredients and the detail of the dishes are on open view which only heightens the anticipation. To really get Tykes on side and make an almost perfect dining experience even better, the restaurant would benefit from some big round tables. Not for would be knights, but for real Yorkshire warriors who appreciate nothing more than a good old feast in the round.
About the author: Kevan Watson is a keen “foodie” and Managing Director of The Smarter Consultancy in Leeds