Last week, I was invited to review the new Festive Menu at Jamie's Italian in Newcastle. I like Jamie's and was definitely up for it, especially as it would serve as a nice holiday send-off dinner before I left for Canada the next day for Christmas. We were seated upstairs in the main restaurant and before long the friendly server had placed two glasses of fizz and crackers in front of us - they come with the Festive Menus - and a juice cocktail for my daughter.
From the Early Week Festive Menu, which is a choice of two courses plus the fizz and crackers for £19.95, we ordered the Smoked Salmon Pate with tangy chive butter and toasted paysan, and the Fritto Misto, a basket of crispy fried sustainable fish, squid & prawns tossed in fennel-spiced flour with garlic & lemon aioli. Both were substantial portions for starters and really tasty. The Fritto Misto had good-sized chunks of perfectly cooked fish and the batter was very light, so it didn't feel heavy or greasy, and there was no skimping on the fish.
Between the starter and the main, we pulled the Christmas crackers, and inside found some rather handy kitchen accessories, a mini grater (perfect for grating nutmeg into egg nog or hot chocolate) and a mini whisk, alongside the paper hat and requisite corny joke. It also came with a voucher for £10 off your next meal which was a nice treat and went straight into my purse for safe keeping.
Next up were the mains, which arrived at the right time just as our starters had settled. We ordered the Oxtail Casarecce, a homemade pasta with 12-hour slow-cooked oxtail, Chianti & rosemary ragù, topped with aged pecorino, and the Cracker Ravioli, spinach pasta parcels filled with buffalo ricotta, squash & chestnuts, served in a clementine butter sauce with crispy sage. Both were rich in their own way, with the ravioli being a particularly festive blend of seasonal flavours. And I love crispy sage. The portions were perfect - we were full but not uncomfortable. (My daughter had a Marguerita pizza and I admit we finished off what she left behind, Jamie's pizzas are super delish).
So, we now were left to decide if we wanted dessert. Well, it was more of a question of whether we could fit it in our full bellies. (If you chose starters and mains for your two courses, you can add a third for £5.) For my daughter, there is no such thing as being too full for dessert even if she can't finish her pizza, so she had the Hot Fudge Sundae off the main menu which was very similar to the festive offering, topped with caramelized cinnamon popcorn, but a chocolate sauce minus the booze and chocolate ice cream in place of Christmas pudding ice cream.
Full or not, I had to have something - you cannot pass on dessert at a festive meal! Panna Cotta is my absolute favourite pudding, so I ordered Jamie's Black Forest Panna Cotta, but it must have been wildly popular and I was told that it was sold out. We all had a laugh because that happens to me every single time I order panna cotta at a restaurant. But I'm also a lover of citrus, so I went for the Clementine Sorbet with caramelized orange and pomegranate. It was nice and light and fruity without being overly sweet. However, the one person who firmly declined dessert could not keep his spoon out of my daughter's sundae! My sorbet was safe but I struggled a bit to finish it all as it was a very generous serving, so my daughter took over. It was musical desserts which is the best way to do it anyway, I think!
It was a really lovely night and I think the first time I've ever had a festive dinner out. Possibly a new holiday tradition has begun?