REVIEW: Jamie’s Italian, Monument Mall, Newcastle

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It’s not often you spot an SAFC footballer in an NUFC shop.

Thankfully, this site has undergone a mammoth revamp as part of the new developments at Monument Mall, so Lee Cattermole’s presence was acceptable.

Long gone are the black and white babygrows of the building’s former guise, to be replaced by the latest branch in Jamie Oliver’s chain of Italian eateries.

The SAFC midfielder was one of scores of diners we spotted pouring through the door of the restaurant, which has generated much hype since its recent opening.

I’ve dined in other branches of this chain and they’re all much of a muchness – exposed industrial chic fittings meets rustic Italian fare.

There’s much to be said for good basic ingredients done well and this chain certainly has that down pat. Though some dishes offer better value for money than others.

Take our starters. We’d gone for one of the trendy plank options where your food is presented on a wooden slab, perched on retro cans of tomato sauce.

It all looked pretty enough and the morsels – salami, pistachio mortadella, prosciutto and schiacciata piccante with Italian cheeses, mozzarella, chilli jam, pickles and salad – were certainly tasty.

But I expected more for a board supposed to be for two people sharing, especially at £6.95 a head. With only a conker-sized ball of mozzarella each and a minuscule salad, this was a sharing board for people with a sparrow’s appetite.

My main meal was a more filling affair. At £10.75 for a main portion of penne carbonara, one of many classic Italian dishes on the menu, it’s a little pricier than other Italian restaurants, but you get a large portion for your pounds.

Not too rich, it had been prepared perfectly with pasta as good as I’ve eaten in Italy, in a light but flavoursome blend of lemon and cream parmesan sauce with pancetta and leeks.

Katy Wheeler