Despite living in Nottingham for many years, we had never visited Jamie’s Italian until now. We hadn’t heard great things, but Sexy Mamma in Hockley isn’t living up to it’s initial levels of ‘wowzer’ of late, and we had an O2 Priority voucher code for a second main course for a quid. We decided to check it out before heading to the cinema.
The restaurant itself is smaller than I imagined it would be inside and is decorated in the default decor for Italian eateries: shabby chic, chunky wooden furniture, cutlery in empty food cans and decorative jars of sauce/olives/anchovies on every available surface. What did surprise us was the large garden out the back. Everyone knows that Nottingham is lacking places with sunny outside drinking space (if you don’t want to squeeze outside the Castle-side bars, or get swept up in a hen do along Foreman St), so we were hoping it would be good enough to visit again in the summer and have some vino on the large, south-facing patio.
I had already checked out the menu, and was eyeing up the octopus ravioli with black squid ink pasta, topped with crab. Other options include the usual suspects of pretty unhealthy sounding pasta & pizza and healthy salads (including a new vegan and veggie menu), but I decided to go with my first instinct and ordered the octopus ravis. Emily went for the king prawn spaghetti (a dish we know well as Emily cooks a mean version at home).
The food turned up really promptly, and my initial reaction was surprise at how many raviolis I was presented with, the portion size was generous. A lot of places think they can get away with 3 pasta parcels, but here I got many, all topped with a generous amount of tomato-based sauce and white crab meat. Emily’s dish didn’t look as impressive, but the prawns were huge!
Until now I didn’t believe that squid ink pasta existed outside of Masterchef. Emily the Wise informed me that it is most often used for seafood pasta dishes as it lends a deeper flavour of the sea. As usual, I nodded along pretending I knew what this meant, all the time thinking it would just taste salty, and it did. Not offensively salty, but I wouldn’t complain about it being under-seasoned. The filling was almost like a seafood puree, not horrible but no individual pieces of octopus were identifiable within the mush which was a shame. The texture of octopus is amazing when cooked well so i would have like some little tentacles to munch on. The tomato sauce that it swam in packed a flavour punch. It was fresh and tangy and not too sweet, which I appreciated. The crab topping was nice and flaky, and although clearly tinned and not fresh was a welcome addition to the dish, boosting that seafood flavour further. I appreciate that expecting fresh octopus and crab on a £15 plate of food in a landlocked city is optimistic verging on cheeky, but there you go.
Emily’s main was £1 with our voucher which clearly made it fantastic value!
The marinara sauce was sweet with some acidity to complement the peppery rocket garnish and prawns, which were plentiful and large. Although a little watery and oily, the sauce still had some good flavour – a squeeze of lemon and some fish stock in the tomato sauce would have lifted the whole dish, but the pasta was cooked al dente and it was enjoyable enough – didn’t beat Emily’s homemade version though!
So after paying the bill of just £16 we walked out satisfied with considerably more cash in our wallets than previous date nights. Obviously, there are much better independent Italian restaurants around (try Sexy Mamma’s or La Storia in Westy B). We’re not pretending it’s the next big thing, beautiful authentic Italian or our new regular haunt but, for the money, it was better than the Zizzi’s and Prezzo’s of this world, and may even challenge Carluccio’s which has so far been our favourite Italian chain (though hit and miss!) If you have a voucher and need something quick, satisfying and good value before a cinema date then we can recommend Jamie’s this time. If not, pop round ours and we’ll whip you up a cracking prawn linguine!
Emily and Stu
Value: 9/10 (with voucher)
Atmosphere and surroundings: 7/10