British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Picture: REUTERS
British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Picture: REUTERS

Fans of celebrity British chef Jamie Oliver can now try out his "naked cuisine" at a franchise restaurant bearing his name in Johannesburg’s Melrose Arch.

The restaurant had a "soft" launch with guests dining there through December and began taking bookings on Monday.

The EatOut guide gives prices of R90-R120 for an average main meal and describes its ambience as "comfy and casual‚ contemporary cool".

Local food lovers who have eaten there are positive‚ so far.

Dan Parker rated Jamie’s Italian South Africa as 5-star‚ posting on Facebook, saying: "Absolutely divine dining experience. We started off with a meat plank‚ which our waiter‚ Bradley‚ explained with an in-depth knowledge of the selection as well as their origins and taste profiles.

"We complemented this with Italian nachos ... to die for. For mains‚ we had the prawn linguine and the Bolognese.

"The linguine was bursting with flavour while the bolognese was spiced to perfection and left me wanting more‚ this was my personal favourite on the night. Now‚ for desert‚ and from someone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth‚ the chocolate brownie must be the reason people get addicted to sweet treats... I may have had a foodgasm at first bite of this.

"In general‚ the portion sizes are perfect‚ generous without being gluttonous. The restaurant welcome‚ staff knowledge and Jamie’s Italian team were all exceptional. This restaurant is beautiful and reflective of a standard not yet experienced by South Africans‚ especially at this price point."

In his review, Nicholas Scott said: "What a great experience... Service was great‚ Lindiwe was very professional with great knowledge of the menu. Food was just as we’ve seen it in books and shows."

Marcel Malherbe posted‚ "What a great evening at the soft opening of this establishment. Coming in with a great reputation‚ this restaurant delivered. It was an experience thanks to the wonderful attentive managers and staff.

Judging its Italian authenticity by its pastas and pannacottas it was phenomenal — fresh‚ tasty and great for sharing. Spot on with the pricing .. I highly recommend this establishment for a great dining experience that is Italian personified with its hospitality. Melrose Arch has finally got some character."

Another rave review came from Lauren van den Bergh‚ who said: "Such a phenomenal evening. The food‚ wine‚ friendly staff‚ attentive managers‚ company and atmosphere... felt like a little part of Italy again. Such a welcoming feel to the place. PS The crispy squid‚ epic brownies‚ half portions pastas (for sharing and trying more variety) as well as the sexy wobble panacotta were heaven in a bowl. ? Well done chef Shane!"

In his review, Kevin Barrie Levy said: "Passion oozes from every single person working at this phenomenal restaurant — service is impeccable! Food is super delicious‚ fresh and fabulous! Restaurant is modern‚ spacious and sophisticated with a truly relaxed and family-friendly touch."

Chef Shane Smit’s brother Dale piled in with an encouragement to diners, saying: "As Shane’s brother‚ I can assure you that this WILL be the best restaurant you will ever visit. The amount of effort‚ love and passion that he’s putting into this is astounding. I can tell you so many wonderful stories and moments we’ve shared involving food‚ but words can’t describe it. Just GO! See for yourself and thank me later."

Shane Smit worked for a year at the first Jamie’s Italian restaurant in Oxford‚ which opened in 2008‚ learning about Italian cooking from Jamie and his team.

He said that while overseas he realised the South African food industry was "up there with best".

"The South African palate loves big flavours‚ yet still appreciates the food being fresh‚ healthy and ethically farmed‚" he told TshisaLive in an interview this year.

"I believe that South African chefs are truly talented and passionate about the industry and‚ together with amazing produce and gorgeous settings‚ South Africa can really be proud of what the food industry produces."

Smit, who comes from Springs in Gauteng, gave up the chance to become a lawyer to pursue his passion for food. Unlike many‚ he said, his family was receptive to the idea of him trading law school for the kitchen.

He said he hoped the South African restaurant would live up to Jamie Oliver’s developmental ethos.

"I want to ... create an environment where the chefs come to work inspired with a sense of belonging. I believe that leading a team with passion and inspiration; you will get so much more out of the individuals collectively‚ rather than being a dictator and ruling with fear‚" Smit said.

TMG Digital

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