Sunday, November 08, 2009

Naked Disappointment

When I first started crushing on the Food Network, the first celebrity chef I stalked was Jamie Oliver. The Naked Chef created dishes that made my foodie mouth water, while even my picky eater husband thought his recipes were keepers. Over the years, I have purchased all of his books, even going so far as to have my brother send me them from England so I didn’t have to wait a year for their American release. I bought his latest book, Jamie’s America, on the day it was released.

When Hubby said we would need to spend a few days in London on our way to Inverness, the first words out of my mouth were, “We’re going to Jamie’s Fifteen! Yay!” I’d love to say that I gave Hubby input into this dining choice but he knows about my Jamie obsession and knew that our 48 hours in London would require a visit to this celebrity chef’s flagship restaurant.

We reviewed the website ahead of time and decided that since this was a once in a lifetime chance to drool over Jamie, we would forgo the trattoria upstairs and book ourselves into the dining room in the basement. Although the only offering was a prix fixe tasting menu, we weren’t worried as each course came with several options. Moreover, when we made our reservations online, there was even a spot to include Hubby’s food allergies so that changes could be made in advance for his selections.

The tables were close together but since it was a Monday night, the noise level wasn’t such that we could hear other diner’s conversations. Despite being still slightly drunk from our adventures at a local pub near our hotel, we decided to order a bottle of wine to accompany our meal. We perused the menu and found that with the exception of dessert, there were plenty of options for Hubby to choose from.

The tasty amuse bouche combined the flavours of citrus and pomegranate. The themes of fresh seasonal flavours would be present for the entire meal.

Hubby was delighted with his starter of a salad of prosciutto with figs, honey, and pea shoots. He repeatedly mentioned that the unusual combination of flavours worked well and looked forward to trying it at home in the future. My salad of a “gooey” mozzarella with peaches, almonds, and salad leaves was less interesting. It looked promising both on the menu and the plate but I found the flavours boring and uninspired.

I wasn’t willing to give up on my boy Jamie so it was with great excitement that we awaited our next course. Hubby ordered pasta in pork ragu finished with a gremolata and olive oil. Unbeknownst to him, I tried several bites of this mouthwatering dish when he was in the washroom. I’m glad I did though as my selection was yet another bust. I was torn between ordering the risotto and the “rotolo di pasta ripieno” – rolled pasta with spinach and ricotta served in a roasted pepper broth. I was convinced to order the latter and was devastated by the lack of power behind the flavours. There wasn’t a single bite that made me believe that the man whose cookbooks I so frequently turned to could have developed this boring recipe.

Our meat course was next up. Hubby ordered lamb with beans and beet leaves in a rosemary and anchovy dressing. This would be the first time all evening that Hubby felt his meal didn’t hit the mark. My roast pork loin aubergine with Swiss chard, and pan juices, on the other hand, was my first opportunity to enjoy a flavorsome dish. I was willing to overlook the somewhat greasy texture of the meat since I was too busy enjoying the contrast of flavours on my plate.

Dessert was the biggest disappointment of the evening for me. It wasn’t the long wait for our final course that bothered me (I enjoy a leisurely meal and loathe being rushed out of a restaurant), but the fact that there wasn’t a single option on the menu that Hubby could enjoy. Remember, we had told them ahead of time both in writing and over the phone that he was lactose intolerant. When it came time to order our dessert, the waitress seemed surprised by our dilemma and had to work with the kitchen to come up with a suitable option.

The fresh fruit with a scoop of lemon sorbet that was finally presented was nice if uninspired. Although I’m not typically a fan of panna cotta, I took a chance and ordered the heather honey panna cotta with apricot, smashed Amoretti biscuit, and shortbread. I made my selection based on what I had seen presented to other tables and was pleasantly surprised by the light flavours. The dessert was tasty but again suffered from what I had dubbed “Jamie’s one note-itis.”

To say that my experience was a disappointment would be an understatement. The service from the generically interchangeable waitresses was cold yet flawless. The d├ęcor and general atmosphere, on the other hand, was warm without actually being welcoming. I desperately wanted to love this restaurant and find every bite blissfully flawless for no other reason than my love of the man whose name is on the door. Instead, I had an expensive meal that served to not only diminish Jamie Oliver in my eyes but also prove the adage that celebrity restaurants are more about hype than quality.

41 comments:

Nicole said...

Nah, not my type of restaurant to begin with....
:/

Protege said...

I have been there. It is the hype, also perhaps as it carries a famous name, they can get away with less than perfect service.
The best places I have eaten were family owned business in villages at the end of the world.;)
Have a lovely Monday my friend,
xo

cat said...

Oh I love Jamie, and maybe, for that reason I should also avoid this restaurant.

Connie said...

oh! that is very sad!

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Corinne said...

It sounds like you paid for a five star and got an Applebee's! I take it back--I think the servers are actually rather nice at Applebee's.

Bummer to hear that the hype has taken over. I'm gradually starting to realize that we cook better meals at home than most local restaurants around here put out.

Susie said...

Ahhhhh...that is disappointing!! Everything you described sounded soooooo yummy and inviting. I am sorry that your experience was not:-(

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

You know, I hate this for you. And, to think, this restaurant had to EARN its low marks with you since you went in with such a preconceived applause. I agree with Protege's comment. Some of the fancy-schmancy "name" restaurants disappoint, and look down their nose while doing it. Thanks for the review, though. You should send a copy to Jamie! C

Gaston Studio said...

So sorry you were disappointed. Perhaps we allow our expectations to rule the roost.

Anonymous said...

And you made me get (some of) his books...! Actually I like his recipes but we'll go with your verdict on this restaurant.
The food looked good but that is only a small part of the whole picture. :(
Merthyrmum

Kat said...

That is so wild that your stop at Jamie's would be disappointing...but having sushi in Delhi would be out of this world :-)

We have never had the budget to be foodies. Even in Vegas we never ate out of the food court :-)

Caution Flag said...

I look at your word choices in your writing, I hear your writer's voice, and I think, "Cairo Typ0 needs her own food show."

blueviolet said...

It's too bad that it wasn't what you were hoping for. :(

I have been to that type of restaurant about 3 times in my life and I've finally come to realize that I don't enjoy it. It takes way too long, it's too expensive, and I'm always disappointed.

Stacy (the Random Cool Chick) said...

So sorry it ended up being a disappointment! I love Jaime, too, so I think I'll follow cat and avoid that restaurant so I can keep disappointment at bay. ;)

Marie-Jolie said...

I, too, am a Food Network stalker. Being a vegetarian, however, I stalk at arm's length and revise any recipe I get excited about to fit our style of eating. Nevertheless, I obsessively watch the cooking competitions, and enjoy the likes of many-a FN star.

I've always thought the world of Jamie Oliver...too sad about his restaurant. Sometimes the expectation of a thing is lost to the reality of it. Poo!

Christine Gram said...

I don't buy many cookbooks but I LOVE my only Jamie Oliver cook book, Jamie at Home. I have never missed the mark when working from one of these recipes. And I'm not particularly known for my cooking. What a bummer that his restaurant doesn't live up to his name.

Lydia said...

Well, I've never been to a celebrity restaurant; but I'll never try a Jamie Oliver one! Though compared to a lemon dessert that comes with instructions, dessert would be hard to live up to! I hate it when I want to like something and it just falls flat!

San said...

Awww.. he is my fave celeb chef too! So sorry your experience turned out so underwhelming. :(

Betty Manousos:cutand-dry.blogspot.com said...

So sorry you werw diasapponted.
The dishes look so yummy. I couldn't think of it.
hugshugs

Voracious, T said...

What a disappointment! I've been lucky with food lately (hello, California!) but I can pinpoint my biggest let-down: dessert at Cyrus, a two-star Michelin joint in Sonoma. I never would've thought someone could mess up dessert, but my "warm gianduja doughnuts with caramelized banana and avocado" [!!!] was a bomb. Foodie husband and I are beginning to judge restaurants based on the early courses!

The Blonde Duck said...

This is so sad! It's like reading about a kid whose birthday cake fell on the floor.

I shall send you a pie.

Grand Pooba said...

Oh how sad! My husband and I love trying new restaurants, we love trying new food and wine. How dissapointing your experience was, too bad!

staceyjwarner said...

What a bummer, but I get the sense you still had a great time with your hubby!

much love

Little P said...

Awww, I'm sorry it wasn't so good! :( I did like his place in Oxford, but can see how my impression could change depending on the different dishes...

sprinkles said...

So sad you had to pay so much only to be so disappointed. :(

Thank you for your kind words and the Christmas gift ideas you left on my blog. Much appreciated!

Karen said...

I'm so sorry that your experience was so disappointing! Perhaps you'd have had better luck upstairs!

I guess I know something NOT to do when I go to London.

Bluefish said...

Sorry about your bad experience. My husband and I went to a famous 'Micheline' restaurant for our anniversary, and we were not disappointed at all. It was fancy and super expensive, but we enjoyed the meal so much.

Perhaps next time you can check up those well known restaurants. :)

Sharon said...

Aghh! What a big disappointment! And an expensive one, no doubt. Grrr... hard lesson to learn -- stick with his cookbooks. Bet you could have done better on your own!!

Mayhem and Moxie said...

I love, love, love that you crush on the Food Network. I do believe that is a strong connection between the two of us!

Oh, and sorry about the disappointing experience. Definitely had my fair share of those at over-priced restaurants. Keep the faith, though. Some meals are definitely worth the price tag!

Fruitful Vine2 said...

Oh oh. So sorry about your disappointing experience.

WhisperingWriter said...

That's too bad.

I've never liked fancy food to begin with. Give me a huge cheeseburger and fries any day.

Betty said...

I´m so sorry it was such a disappointment! Your last sentence says it all! Too much hype to live up to....

Fida said...

Again, I enjoyed your writing very much, and I am sorry, that your experience was less than satisfying.

I have my share of experiences and avoid to eat in places where the famous Chef is only present in letters ;-)

Melissa B. said...

Ella Numera Dos loves Giana from TFN. I think I'm going to give Jamie a try, though. Looking for something beyond The Joy of Cooking!

Roxane said...

Oh no! I would hate to be so disappointed with a fancy meal :/

Pearl said...

The way you talk about it, I suspect you know more than the average diner. :-) Too bad the pics weren't scratch-n-sniff -- they LOOKED fantastic, anyway!

Pearl

Gabrielle said...

This is stunning, oh the love of food!!

Brenda said...

Its so disappointing to look forward to eating somewhere and then not have it live up to your expectations. So sad. . .

The Redhead Riter said...

Wow! Everything always looks so yummy on TV and in his cookbooks. This posting really shocked me.

Found you on SITS today :o)

Sandy said...

What a shame! So much anticipation.

WhiteSockGirl said...

Sorry to hear that. Not much of a Jamie fan. More of a Nigella girl. I can't cook. But my mother gave me a couple of her books as presents.So, I made an effort to watch her shows. And I just fell in love with her. She makes wanna try the cooking thing.

bettyl said...

I guess TV always makes it better than it really is. So sorry for your disappointment.