Jamie’s restaurant, Oxford

I first came under Jamie Oliver’s spell when he was sliding down bannisters and riding Vespa’s in his youth-orientated cookery programmes years ago and he has kept me entertained, interested and at times inspired by just about everything he has done in the name of food.

He also seems such a nice chap (which is more than can be said about that oaf  Gordon “C*nt Bollocks Big Boy F*ck you” Ramsay..thank you esteemed leader for that pithy description.. who has done more to put me off the human race than just about anyone!) and so when I paid a visit to Oxford on Thursday to see my absolute favourite nephew Geoff (eagle-eyed readers may remember he is the one with a double doctorate…one from Oxford, the other from Cambridge!) I was thrilled to be told we were going to visit his eponymous  restaurant in the centre of town!

The restaurant itself is perfect…airy and light…lively….buzzing with a small bar area to go and get a drink while your table is prepared (you are given some clever vibrating dongle thing (love that word and can’t think of another!) which if left in your pocket gives you something of a thrill when you can go and sit down, and where the barman mixed me a tomato juice with my usual obscene amounts of Lea and Perrins (it has to turn the tomato juice brown!) without so much as a raised eyebrow!

Oxford being Oxford, the clientele were a sophisticated mix of the downright clever-clogs variety (Oxford University) and the intellectually challenged  but heartbreakingly pretty/handsome (Oxford Brookes)  – and for the sake of balance here….I was too damned thick and ugly to get in anywhere (well, not quite actually but that’s another story!)….and when compared to some university towns I have been to where the students shamble around with their arses hanging loose from their trousers, the  general ambience in the town as well as the restaurant was rather smart!

We sat down and ordered. I started with a bruschetta with smashed (their word, not mine) peas and broad beans (fresh) unpasteurised rocotta and Amalfi Lemon with mint. It was historic. I mean faultless!  A large (bruschettas are so often so tiny that everything falls off!)  good quality toasted ciabatta, rubbed with olive oil and garlic and piled high with the ‘filling’  Geoff being young and energetic needed something more substantial and so had Farfalle (they were’nt!) with meatballs. I tasted his…again they were excellent, though I thought the sauce could have been a tad looser!

Mains came next (interspersed with another excellent Tomato juice bombe!)

I had a pasta (and if I was taking this seriously I would have written down what pasta-shape it was!) with a Carbonara sauce. Again utter perfection! I always considered myself a dab hand at Carbonara (having been taught by the great Maria Mazzetti!) but this was better…Damn…and in a restaurant ….and using fresh eggs – how brave is that in these days of ‘ealth and safety ?

The pasta (A sort of spaghetti but thicker) was inch pefect. Al dente to the very second. The sauce was with everything it should have – including JUST enough lemon rind..yes.. to make a difference. The bacon (not pancetta…slapped wrists) was copious and cut small..good idea.. so that each mouthful had some in it, and it didn’t just congregate on the bottom of the plate to be eaten all at once at the end. There were a few thin slivers of courgette, and a sprinkling of peppery rocket which gave it extra bite and just enough cream to make the whole thing rich enough to make you feel the £10 they charged for the dish wasn’t a tad expensive!

Geoff had a chicken-cooked-under-a-brick (don’t ask me, I haven’t a clue either!) but which seemed a grilled chicken leg (lots of it) with a herby sort of rub. Again, perfect! The chicken juicy and tender and served with a spicy tomato sauce (or being Jamie’s, a salsa!)  and a rocket salad.

For afters Geoff and I shared a Pannacotta (well, I had one spoonful, he scoffed the rest…bless!) with a Rhubarb coulis. The Pannacotta was clearly made on the premises, as opposed to bought in, as it was still quivering with freshness and the rhubarb added the necessary ‘interest’ to the dish…pannacotta on its own is too bland.

And so, for once a meal of unrivalled enjoyment in an excellent restaurant in a beautiful town full of  beautiful people, and all at a price which enables me to look forward not only to seeing Geoff again, but returning to Jamies often.


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