Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Review - Jamie's Italian, Dundrum Town Centre

My opinion on Jamie Oliver has really changed in recent years. Having once not been able to grab the remote quickly enough to turn off the awful Naked Chef with his fake friends, I have grown to quite like the more mature, easy manner he displays on his 15 and 30 minute meal programmes (marvelling all the while at his ability to get through the guts of an entire bottle of olive oil in almost every episode).

Since Jamie's Italian opened in the Dundrum Town Centre back in September,  opinion online has been very varied with Menupages citing horror stories such as two hour waits for booked tables. And the consensus on the food hasn't always been favourable either.

There are Jamie's Italians all over the UK and beyond and I had previously visited the Angel branch in London which I found to be strangely industrial place with pretty unremarkable food. The people behind Jamie's do say, however, that all of the restaurants are unique and the Dundrum branch is certainly a nicer, brighter space in which to eat whilst retaining many of the same features as that particular English cousin,  namely the cute little blue and white teatowel-style napkins and a specials board written in Jamie-speak and general feeling of bish-bash-boshiness about the place.

We were both ravenous when we ate here a couple of Saturdays ago having not been able to get a reservation until 4pm. Even then there were very few vacant tables.  We both started with ravioli - his with buffalo ricotta, lemon and other nice things (a peek of which can be seen in the very top photo) and mine the 'Wild Mushroom Panzerotti  filled with porcini & brown caps, chilli, thyme ricotta and parmesan' (pictured above). This, the smaller starter portion (€9.50) was in fact very generous (the main course portion costs €14.75). It was also really cheesy and tasty with a rich thick sauce and,  eaten with the mixed bread selection we ordered (€3.95)  probably sufficient for a 'normal' lunch. But, true to form, we soldiered on.

I would generally never order turkey out. It just doesn't seem very 'special' but I was tempted by 'Jamie's Favourite Turkey Milanese stuffed with prosciutto, fontina, with a fried free-range egg & truffles' (€16.95) after seeing it featured on a fellow blogger's review. The portion was absolutely huge, much bigger than it appears above and though not unpleasant to eat,  was just a little bland and with no evidence of prosciutto.

With our mains, we ordered 'Funky Chips' (€4.25) which were just ok flavour-wise as well as being tooth-breakingly hard

and some belly-busting Polenta Chips (€4.50) which I was very fond of.

His burger (not pictured, €13.95) didn't receive a great reception, deemed to be "pretty dry with too many sweet onions." And service was a bit hit and miss with the waitress bringing our bread selection (ordered from the appetisers section) after the starter (and only then when prompted) whilst the second drink we ordered with our mains never arrived.

Nevertheless, I quite liked this Jamie's. It feels a bit frantic and would not be good for a romantic evening out but it offers decent food at decent prices and looks set to keep packing them in for some time to come.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Tayto Chocolate Bar with Cheese and Onion Crisps

Of course, combining sweet and savory flavours isn't a uniquely Irish thing but combining the mighty Tayto Cheese and Onion Crisp in the same mouthful as milk chocolate certainly is. It has always been Cadbury's Dairy Milk in my book but I have heard reports of Twirl and even Moro being the chocolate of choice.

For me, it was a love affair that kicked off in national school when it seemed particularly gluttonous and indulgent to not only have both a bag of Tayto and a Dairy Milk in the same break but to go further and shove them into my mouth together with gleeful abandon (this was, after all, a time when my daily junk budget didn't generally stretch beyond Stinger bars and Burger Bites). And our collective  reaction to the recent release of Tayto's very own chocolate bar studded with little morsels of Ireland's Pride and Joy would indicate that it is a combination many of us here still retain a great affection for. 

After seeing waves of (hugely divisive) opinion on the new bar flood the internet, I was on a mission to find one this afternoon (and eventually did in Spar on Lower Baggot St priced at €1.10).The bar itself is pretty unimpressive, a tiny slip of a thing. 

And the taste?All in all, pretty disappointing. Though I wasn't expecting the chocolate to be great it really is cloyingly sweet and tastes very cheap. But it's the chocolate-crisp ratio that really lets it down. The little crisp nuggets are absolutely tiny and there are not nearly enough of them.

In fact, I didn't get much of a  Cheese and Onion Taytoiness from it at all (instead more of a gentle generic saltiness.)My boyfriend, on the other hand, tasted a square 'blind' and instantly 'got' it. He is now upstairs smugly contemplating his 'superior palate' as I sit here feeling more than a bit deflated.

Ah Tayto, it could have been so good. However, should you consider teaming up with Cadbury and quadrupling the crisp volume we might just have something to talk about.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was never much of a biscuit/ cookie fan. They always seemed to present something of a wasted opportunity for me  - a big fat injection of sugar and calories but lacking the melting mouth-feel of a nice lump of cream-cake or a good bar of chocolate. 

But that was until I tried this fantastic and super easy basic cookie recipe from Rachel Allen  which has now grown to be one of my most used recipes. Incorporating just three ingredients(butter, sugar and flour), the basic recipe yields a dense buttery base-cookie which can be 'dressed up' with chopped nuts, a teaspoon of ginger, raisins,  chocolate chips, lemon zest...the possibilities are endless.  I usually add 100g of chocolate chips or chopped roasted hazelnuts( or 50g of each)

  They're surprisingly filling, too (though on reflection that could be because I've recently started cutting them as big as saucers.....) Rachel's are now my 'go to' biccies which I highly recommend.