I don't normally review chain restaurants, but for Jamie's Italian, I will make an exception. Cynics may criticise Mr. Oliver for his tireless campaigning, primarily for the education of children in how to lead healthier lifestyles, but it is this drive for quality and culinary diversity which makes his recipes so appealing, and his restaurant chain so special.
I have already visited the Jamie's in Leeds, so visiting on in a different city was a nice change. The Norwich incarnation is located in the beautiful Royal Arcade, a stunning Belle Epoque colonnade of shops and restaurants. The layout of Jamie's restaurants follows the same theme: a contemporary take on classic Italian decor. The openness of the food-making processes, such as the pasta machines situated close to the eating area, creates a welcoming environment.
Our trip to Jamie's Italian in Norwich was a family affair, our ages ranging between 16 and 91. The irrevocably lovely staff were very caring, and were only happy to help my grandmother, the eldest of our party, with the lift to the second floor. Their knowledge of the menu and composition of the food was also very impressive, and their attentiveness to customer's needs (our jug of water was replaced twice after being emptied) means that you always feel relaxed and happy.
My mother and father shared an Italian Feast between them, which comes to £15 a head. Included in their feast was a selection of assorted Italian antipasti, and little plates of mushroom risotto and a tomato and aubergine spaghetti. My suggested starters are the Crispy Squid or the Braised Tuscan Beans, both beautifully simple but absolutely delicious. For mains: the Game Meatball or the Baked Salmon. The polenta served with the Game Meatball isn't a particularly good consistency (a little too runny), but the tenderness and flavour of the meat more than make up for it. For sides, the crispy polenta chips offer a refreshing alternative to standard sides.
At first glance, the menu is unutterably exciting. The range of dishes (all traditional Italian, but with a unique take that Jamie is so famous for) seems hard to whittle down to just one or two, but speaking from personal experience: after your first visit, you will most definitely be returning, and your desire to try multiple dishes will inevitably be satisfied!