If you’re familiar with Brit celebrity chef/professional geezer/saviour of school dinners Jamie Oliver’s TV shows, then you’ll probably already have some idea what to expect from his newly opened Tsim Sha Tsui restaurant. A million miles away from the usual celeb chef fare of foie, foam and fancy-schmancy plating, the food at Jamie’s is all about simple ingredients done right, served simply and with an emphasis on family dining – kind of fitting, given that the man himself is a dad of four.
With a professional chef for a dad and a mum who writes family cookbooks, I wistfully imagine mealtimes Chez Oliver to be a blissful affair, with their angelic-looking tribe cooing over radicchio and quinoa without so much of a hint of strop over “something greeeennnn in my pastaaaa” or the right-coloured cup (whichever colour isn’t currently on the table).
Still, for the rest of us there’s always the option of a visit to one of the two Hong Kong branches of Jamie’s Italian. This wildly successful chain now features 30 restaurants worldwide, with plans for even more over the next year. The new TST branch recently opened to, thankfully, slightly less fanfare than the original Hong Kong outpost in Causeway Bay, where three-hour queues were a regular occurrence in the first few frantic months of operation.
Sticking to the winning formula of simple, rustic Italian food in a casual setting, the vast Ocean Terminal space is an excellent choice for those eating with kids as it offers a variety of seating options (booths, standard tables, bar seating), loads of swanky (clean!) Stokke highchairs and best of all, a lovely outdoor terrace to enjoy once the weather has settled down a bit. The cool street art decor kept Master T-T interested and, when he got a bit antsy, we sauntered over to the open pizza oven to have a look at the chefs in action. There’s the usual colouring sheets and crayons, and the kids’ menu comes presented in a very cute Viewfinder (remember them?!), allowing The Boy a sneak preview of his lunch before we ordered.
And what we ordered was a fresh, healthy kids’ meal that I would have been very happy to eat myself. His “fish fingers” were actually delicious baked hunks of breaded salmon, served with fresh potato wedges, a homemade lemon yoghurt dip and a super-cute salad that comes presented in a mason jar with the rather Alice-like instruction to “shake me”. Of course, the little dude was soon gleefully shaking it like a Polaroid picture, although I can’t vouch for how much of the salad was actually ingested.
As for the adults, we decided to go for a “best of” selection to start, including the always winning combo of prosciutto and melon, served here with teeny balls of buffalo mozzarella and pesto (YUM), crispy squid with a lovely garlic mayo dip, and my favourite, the Portobello mushroom fritti – essentially big fat juicy slices of fungus, coated in breadcrumbs and served with, yep, more garlic mayo.
On to the mains and the Tsim Sha Tsui restaurant differs slightly from its Causeway Bay sister with its addition of the aforementioned pizza oven. We tried the funghi misti pizza, topped with an earthy truffle cream sauce on a super-thin base that was lovely and crispy, although I did find myself casting longing glances at the next table’s Fiorentina.
Next up was Jamie’s trademark pasta which was unfortunately less popular with our guinea pigs. We tried both the penne carbonara and the sausage pappardelle and found both a little too al dente to our tastes. We also felt that the carbonara could have done with a little more seasoning, although the fennel and parmesan flavours from the sausage dish were really nice and balanced.
However, the nut-and-seed-packed superfood salad was a HUGE hit at our table – so much so that it was devoured before I had time to snap a picture! This was definitely a stand-out dish, with an excellent balance of fresh flavours and textures making this a way more interesting option than a standard green side salad.
Also delicious was the heritage tomato salad with red onion and orange dressing, along with the beautifully crisp polenta chips, seasoned with an extremely moreish salt, rosemary and parmesan combo that I couldn’t stop munching.
Of course, there’s always room for dessert and the puds at Jamie’s certainly didn’t disappoint. Master T-T went for a classic vanilla ice cream, inhaled at light speed so that he could nab spoonfuls of our sweets.
First to bite the dust was my dad’s almond tart – a yummy frangipane confection on buttery pastry. My “Epic Brownie” more than lived up to its name; served with salted caramel ice cream and a stacked popcorn topping that The Boy nicked most of, this oozy chocolately indulgence is best shared.
However, the runaway winner was my mum’s lemon meringue cheesecake. This fluffy slice of creamy marscapone comes with a crumbly biscuit base accompanied by gorgeously tangy lemon curd and a crisp meringue topping. For a citrus fan like myself, this was the mother lode and I would happily return just to eat this again.
If you’re in Tsim Sha Tsui with kids and in need of a bite to eat, Jamie’s Italian is a solid option, offering fresh, healthy food at a reasonable price point in a setting that actively welcomes little people.
You might even say it’s pukka…
Opening hours: 11am to 11pm daily.
Costs: Kids’ menu $58; Starters and sides from $40 – $89; Mains from $88 – $328; Pastas from $85 – $188; Desserts from $60 – $78.
Jamie’s Italian, Shop 412, Level 4, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon; 3758 3333.
Please note that this meal was by invitation.