Apologies, people; this was written over two weeks ago when I was – you’ve guessed it – in Glasgow. I’m keeping it in the present tense because I like the immediacy of it all, but I just thought that I’d come clean and make it clear that I’m not currently in Glasgow in my hotel room, slightly pissed!
“I have just returned to my hotel room (number 629, in case you’re interested) after a rather filling and fulfilling three course dinner at Jamie’s Italian. In case the above title didn’t give you enough clues, I am, in fact, in Glasgow. And very nice it is too. I have meandered about for a good few hours and have not been mugged, set-upon or had my alloy wheels nicked (all things I was warned against. Although, being on foot I had no alloy wheels to nick…)
It’s difficult eating alone in a restaurant. Most people who travel often for business will know all about the lone-diner dilemma. Do you call in room service and eat sitting next to your bed; thus forcing yourself to sleep upon pillows that smell of boiled garlic and steamed broccoli…or do you slink down to the hotel restaurant and eat a hasty meal-for-one alongside the other self-conscious ‘guests on business’?
Me being me, I heeded (sorry, headed) out into rainy Glasgow in search of some dinner wearing Uggs, a huge anorak and war-paint from my job trowelled on about five inches thick. (I’m so tempted to say that ‘I fit right in’ but a) there are at least four Glaswegians reading this page and b) I would be lying, the ladies here are a stylish lot.) I kind of knew my final destination would always be Jamie’s Italian because @katiechutzpah had recommended it, and what she says goes, but I still did a little wandering before making my way there. The restaurant is on George Square, right next to all of the busiest shopping streets and so I did a little window shopping before the need to eat rendered me incapable of sensible thought and movement.
Inside the restaurant the atmosphere was absolutely perfect. I’m not sure whether or not it was down to the Glasweigians, who all seem like a lovely, friendly lot, or the clever layout of the restaurant; it was rather like a posh canteen. There was a constant happy roar of chatter and clatter of knives and forks yet the noise was never annoying or uncomfortable; it was like being at a giant dinner party, or wedding – except that I was seated alone, and didn’t know anyone.
I stayed for three hours at Jamie’s, which I think is pretty good going considering I was – as I think I have mentioned? – alone. I drank three glasses of a lovely Soave Classico at £4.35 per glass and I ate three courses, spending a total of £30 exactly, and not at any point did I feel uncomfortable or self-aware. Service was attentive but not smothering and – considering that the restaurant was ram-packed – pretty sharp. My waiter, Adam (hi there!) had a good knowledge of the menu and made recommendations when I asked for them.
I started with a vegetarian antipasto ‘plank’ that was precariously balanced on two tins of tomatoes (slightly odd touch) but delightful none the less. The antipasto was well thought out, balanced, just the right ratio of healthy-raw-veg-to-fatty-nice-cheese and well-priced per-person. One (me) suspects that you get a very good deal if you eat alone, rather than getting the ‘pro rated’ version for one and more. Although I have no way of verifying that; I only saw my own plate. There were a variety of roasted vegetables; artichoke, asparagus, peppers and onions, all well-seasoned and charred to just the right, fashionable degree. (Why do I feel like Greg Wallace writing this?) The buffalo mozzarella was milky and fresh, and the pecorino cheese came already heaped with a fiery chilli jam. The ‘plank’ also included an aubergine caponata, a variety of tasty olives and a crunchy salad of shaved root veg. Totally my kind of starter – a bit of everything – and perfect for the indecisive. £6.65.
Next came the pasta, and I had opted for a ‘small’ plate rather than a large, being conscious of my already expanding waistline (I just walked back with my jeans undone under my coat!). I think that ‘small plate’ options are pure genius – most women I know can’t manage a huge plate of pasta as part of a full-on meal, and the ‘small’ plate isn’t actually that small. It’s probably the same amount that I’d dish up at home as a standalone meal! My Turbo Fusilli Arrabiata was great – rustic, rough and fiery. An intense, spicy tomato sauce sprinkled with parmesan, breadcrumbs and chopped scotch bonnet chillis! I’m a chilli-fiend and had asked for the hottest dish going, so this didn’t disappoint. The pasta was perfectly al dente and the dish did exactly what it said on the tin – it was a robust, cheery experience. £5.95.
Dessert was a selection of ice-creams – because I think that you can tell a lot about a place by the ice cream that they serve. This was comfort food at its best; ice cream with smashed up honeycomb, caramel, butterscotch. Nursery food, basically, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed every little bit. The ice cream selection (three scoops with a selection of toppings) was £4.35.
I’m having trouble typing now, over my huge belly – it seems to be expanding at an alarming rate here, so I’m going to wrap this up and try and manoeuvre myself into a horizontal position – although without the use of a forklift truck and a safety harness, I have no idea how I’m going to remove myself from this chair. Let me finish by saying how impressed I am by Jamie’s Italian – I’m wondering whether all branches are as pleasant? Certainly I know that the menu is the same throughout all the branches, and I think that it’s a good, hearty, fun menu with options for even the most pernickety eater. Everything is well-priced – you could pop in for a glass of red and a plate of pasta and leave having spent under a tenner. Anywhere that can keep a lone diner feeling comfortable enough to stay for three hours has got to be doing something very, very right.”
Jamie’s Italian, Glasgow – www.jamieoliver.com/italian/glasgow