Restaurants Brighton Reviewer, Lyndsey Stoner, February 2017
Jamie Oliver’s famous Italian restaurant chain has always been a firm date night favourite for my husband and I. I have treasured pre-kid dinner and Mojito’s-at-the-bar memories from a time long forgotten.
We hadn’t ever thought to take our kids to our go-to haunt until last weekend, when we realised we have been missing a trick for years…
Tiny details – big difference
It should come as no surprise that Jamie Oliver, dad of five, has designed his restaurants and menus to welcome children with open arms. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that tiny details, often ignored in other restaurant chains, appear here in abundance. It shouldn’t be a surprise – but somehow it was. A very pleasant surprise.
Jamie’s Italian in Brighton is tucked away on Black Lion Street, just a stones throw from the beach, in the midst of the trendy lanes. The restaurant itself is huge, but has been cleverly designed to feel cosy and bustling, not busy.
The bar area is a welcome sight to walk into; sumptuous leather sculpted high chairs surround a collection of mahogany tables in front of a long marble top bar. Ah, good, Mojitos for lunch it is!
Plenty to keep the kids entertained
The main restaurant is on the ground floor and has a mixture of booths and tables all set around an open kitchen area with a huge pizza oven sitting in pride of place. Cured ham, strings of dried chillies, fresh breads and garlic hang from the ceiling of this open space. I love to see the food on display in this way. It makes me relax, and often is the start of many a “Why” conversation with our girls. Today’s meal was no exception. Once we were seated, the fascination with the chef was almost immediate! It was great to show the kids how the pizzas were made, it got them involved in way that many restaurants aren’t able to offer.
A little pack of fun
Our 3 year old insisted on squeezing herself into a highchair, where she sat and happily discovered what goodies were waiting for her inside the ‘Little Pack of Fun’ that the children were given. That, together with the bread selection kept our toddler amused until our main courses arrived!
There is a little pot of heaven which arrives with this bread basket – tapenade. This sun dried tomato, garlic, olive paste is a sensation. Don’t overlook the bread basket!!
The kids menu is so refreshing, not a sausage ‘n chip combo in sight. What a relief! Instead, tuna, salmon, chicken, organic burgers and meatballs (all served with a fresh shake-me salad) dare to whet your Tiny’s appetites.
Plenty of choice for the kids
Our girls had their iron-will turned up to full on this particular day and requested a child portion of carbonara instead. Thankfully our waitress saved us a pair of tantrums and obliged, adding they are always happy to serve a child’s portion of an adult meal where possible. Big tick for providing the kids cutlery too. Winner winner.
You know what the best bit is? This February half term with every adult meal, a child eats completely FREE!
The menu for us bigger folk didn’t disappoint either. This is a menu oozing heart and soul, from pork belly stuffed with garlic and herbs, to Sicilian chicken and steak. The ‘Secondi’ options are mouth-watering.
If it wasn’t hard enough to choose, there is the added complication of fresh authentic pizzas, which are made in front of your eyes. Delicious toppings of black truffle, Cobble Lane spicy pork, free range eggs and buffalo mozzarella ensure that the choice is very tough!
Of course if pizza isn’t your thing, you could always select one of the eleven pasta dishes. A classic lasagne, tagliatelle, tortellini – you name it, it’s probably been given the Jamie Oliver treatment.
The proof was in the pudding
Oh my goodness, the pudding! We devoured the chocolate brownie, with toffee popcorn and salted caramel ice cream. Yes, that’s right. That dessert actually exists… alongside the melt in the middle praline chocolate bomb of deliciousness. If ever there was a reason to save room for pud, this was it. I am already plotting our return on the basis that I simply can’t go on for too long without another dose of this praline heaven in my life.
The buzz of this place is infectious – the waiting staff are so friendly, and carry a wealth of knowledge, ready to answer any menu questions. The specials change daily and are recited by your server. The Italian canteen feel creates a relaxed atmosphere which absolutely lends itself to family dining.
I think it’s fair to say that Jamie and his team are quite simply, nailing it.