Because of Jamie Oliver's reputation as fantastic chef, I had very high expectations of his Italian restaurant in Kingston. I was however, in some ways, disappointed. Price-wise the restaurant is not too bad considering Jamie's popularity. Sadly I felt that the experimentation with food sometimes went a little too far and didn't work, and the place itself certainty didn't resemble a romantic Italian restaurant.
The interior of the restaurant is strange, like a cross between a canteen, a grocery store and a posh garden shed. There wasn't much in the way of Italian ambience to say the least. However, I found it much more comfortable sitting in one of the booths in the room at the back, as it felt rather exposed at the front, and recommend these if you are as picky as me when it comes to seating. I also gathered that this may not be the best place to be if it is busy, if every seat was filled it would have definitely felt over crowded.
The food itself was generally very impressive, the menu goes through seasonal changes and consists of quite a large variety of interesting dishes, a lot of them Italian style with a twist. It must be said however that the wine list was surprisingly small. I also felt that some of the more experimental dishes did not work, such as the meatball dish, which consists of one large meatball in a tasteless, pasta-like sauce. I do however highly recommend 'Jamie's Italian Burger' with a side of 'funky chips', a culinary experiment that works wonderfully and is beautifully presented. I also recommend the 'risotto balls', firstly for their originality and secondly, for their great taste, although this is not one to share, portions are small and addiction rate is high. The same goes for the olives, which, it must be said, are probably the biggest and best I've ever had, but were hindered again by the small portions.
It might be an idea to try the 'proper Italian feast', served between 2pm and 6pm, which would hopefully do the name justice and at £15 per person, it sounded like a good deal.
The staff at Jamie's couldn't have been better; they made us feel very welcome, were extremely efficient and highlighted the best things on the menu (which can be a little tough to decipher for yourself due to the layout). The waiting staff's balance between friendly and formality created an atmosphere which compensated for the downright strange surroundings. My final grumble is the fact that there was no cheese board available on the dessert menu. I was highly disappointed by this as I was expecting a variety of Italian cheeses to be available.
Overall, if you want to enjoy the experimental cooking of Jamie Oliver, then this is the perfect place for a relaxed dinner with friends, however if it's an romantic meal with an authentic taste of Italy you are looking for, then look elsewhere.