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Super service, Jamie, shame about the food

YOU know you have made it when everyone knows you by just one name -- Naomi, Nigella, Cher, Hitler, and Jamie -- just say that one word and everyone knows who you mean.

Well, Jamie is here now, in Dublin, in Dundrum just at the end of the Green Luas line. Well, OK, Jamie isn't actually here, but his name is in big letters over a restaurant beside Nandos and below Hamleys toy shop.

Jamie's Italian was launched in 2008 and there are now over 30 restaurants of this name in places as diverse as Glasgow and Guildford, Portsmouth and Dubai.

The Dundrum venture has made some local concessions (thanks to an Irish business partner) with much of the produce sourced here, including excellent Porterhouse Hop Head pale ale on draft. The menus will, however, always come from London and wines are supplied by Liberty (a UK company with an office here).

I visited with an Italian friend who works as a wine importer and (highly sought after) personal chef. Bookings are limited so we simply turned up last Wednesday and after a wait of around 20 minutes a table was free.



Impeccable

As we passed the open kitchen, we could see the array of pasta-making equipment and busy chefs and I have to admit I was immediately impressed by the busy and buzzy atmosphere.

Our waitress had us charmed within about 20 seconds and convinced us to order the house red -- a light and perfectly serviceable Sangiovese from Abruzzo. Service in general was impeccable with a spilled wine glass cleaned up by a team of three in under 30 seconds.

All the pasta is made on site and just like in my Italian friend's house growing up, whatever is left over in the kitchen is fried in oil and served as antipasti.

Sicilian spaghetti fritters with ricotta and tomatoes had good home-made flavours but the fried ravioli ("Italian nachos") were less successful, tasting dry and rather floury. Fried polenta chips were also dry and rather mealy and lacking the depth of nutty flavour to be found in good home-made polenta.

The aggressive and rather undercooked arrabiata sauce served on the side was also not much help but our ever-observant waitress picked up on our dissatisfaction and brought us garlic mayonnaise as a substitute.

My main course of veal saltimbocca was much better, marinated in oil and topped with roasted peppers and tomatoes and singing with flavour -- exactly the kind of dish that made Jamie famous.

Pumpkin ravioli was sweet and rich, the 'funky chips' were crispy and garlicky and the strands of linguine I stole from the table next to ours were al dente and tasty.

Sicilian cheesecake with peppy candied citrus zest was excellent but the tiramisu was exceedingly bland and far too light.

Including two good limoncellos, our bill came to a very reasonable €95, which we both felt was a very fair price. The little folder containing the bill encourages you to "TAKE A PIECE OF JAMIE HOME WITH YOU" (capitals are theirs) but we declined.

So if you find yourself in Dundrum and hungry after your shopping spree, a visit to planet Jamie won't leave you disappointed or too out of pocket -- just remember to exit through the gift-shop and you can pick up a Jamie Oliver Moustache Man Apron for €19.75.


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