Melrose Arch is one of those places I seldom go to. But I might go back soon after my last visit, which was to accept an invitation for lunch at Jamie’s Italian. It’s the first of Jamie Oliver’s restaurants to open in South Africa, and one of 60 outside the UK. Six have closed in the UK in the last month, as they couldn’t pull off the 3000 covers a month needed to make them profitable.
It is my second lunch at one of these franchises, and I am happy to report that it was far better than the Shepherd’s Bush one I ate at in London a year ago – an underwhelming, over salted seafood pasta. At Melrose Arch I tucked into a delicious creamy porcini mushroom linguine, preceded by a spectacular antipasti spread including cured and steamed meats, scrumptious green olives, Italian cheeses and a crunchy cabbage salad. The pudding was salted caramel ice cream (worth the trip on its own merits) and a rich liquid-centred chocolate pudding. The polenta chips recommended by the waiter were the stuff of comfort food legend – so don’t miss out.
The kiddies menu is presented through a view finder (remember those?) and is a manageable R50 a meal. A plank of antipasti is around R130 to share, the pastas and pizzas are in the region of R100, the puddings around R55 and the meat courses are around R150 – so on par with other good Italian restaurants.
The staff are well trained and everyone in the restaurant was getting good service – not only us as the invited press. Maureen Baloyi, who was putting together the planks, is a graduate of HTA culinary school and this job is her first as she starts her journey towards her own kitchen. She was representative of the whole staff, friendly and efficient – everyone got the dish they ordered rather than the waiter guessing and simply plonking food down anywhere, which is my personal restaurant bugbear.
Hint: Look out for Jamie Oliver and family’s logo in each of the toilet bowls, which says “nice buns”.
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