Restaurant Review: Jamie’s Pizzeria, Lower Parel
Jamie Oliver’s love for food is infectious. Whether he’s hosting TV shows, churning out recipe books, expanding his restaurant empire or leading a ‘food revolution‘, the British celebrity chef has a singular focus: celebrating food. Fans though we are of his tireless enthusiasm, we could muster none for Jamie’s Pizzeria, which opened in Lower Parel two weeks ago.
The first Indian branch of his casual-dining chain was launched in Delhi in October last year. In July, signage announcing its Mumbai opening appeared in Phoenix Mills prompting excitement among Oliver’s legions of fans. We were among the thrilled hordes until we ate there. At the restaurant, which was previously an outlet of Haagen-Dazs, the Indian franchisees Carnation Hospitality (owners of Wendy’s and Barista, the burger and coffee chains respectively) have not wasted any chance to assert brand Oliver. The chef’s cheerful mug is framed in photographs scattered across their walls, his many cookbooks are stacked for sale and a flat-screen TV shows his videos. Oliver appears to be watching from everywhere, but on the menu, where his presence counts most, his absence is palpable.
In India, Jamie’s Pizzeria is in the same bracket as Pizza Express, that is between a high-end restaurant and a fast-food joint. It’s notably cheaper than the fellow UK-based chain, but middling in terms of its food. Here, the menu has been tailored in two ways: they have tweaked toppings by introducing chilli and garlic on their 11 inch pies, and priced their pizzas under Rs500 in a bid to appeal to the target group of Domino’s. At Jamie’s they’ve kept the rustic Italian thin crust as the standard base. The semi crisp slices are quick to fold at the tip and have knobbly, firm edges.
Four of out of their 15 pizzas are heavy on spice and served with due warnings by the staff. The chicken alla diavola (Rs429) is fit to star in a chilli eating contest. The pie was inundated with sliced jalapenos, lethal inch-long red chillies and a fiery “secret chilli sauce” that will compel you to order dessert or a sweet beverage. Well-cooked chicken pieces were buried under this load of chilli, a forest of mint leaves and dollops of mint-flavoured yoghurt that couldn’t balance out the spice. The mint and yoghurt only compounded the Indian flavour of the senselessly hot pie. Even with a similarly high chilli content, the spicy meatball pizza (Rs469) studded with moist green-chilli flecked mutton meatballs wasn’t as one dimensional as the diavola, which was simply an assembly of chillies. In the former, the tomato sauce slathered over the dough was elevated by the spice and garlic and had absorbed the juice of the first-rate meatballs.
To break from the chilli and carb overdose, we got a salad of local seasonal greens (Rs149) only to find it garnished with a sliced green chilli and heaped with sauteed garlic. The olive oil-soaked beans and broccoli in the salad both had bite, but the dish only heightened our chilli burn. While it was mercifully chilli-free, the red rocket pizza (Rs399) was disappointingly dull. Topped with rocket, briny olives and sun-dried tomatoes, the under-seasoned pizza was let down by bland tomato sauce. Respite from the chilli came in the form of a creamy, coffee-drenched tiramisu (Rs299), which was perfect barring the orange zest whipped into the mascarpone. It tasted boozy like Cointreau, but the citrus flavour was somewhat at odds with the coffee.
At this stage when it’s new, Jamie’s Pizzeria won’t have any trouble filling up. The restaurant, with its flashy signboard, warm green and red interiors, trendy checkered flooring, attractive pricing and lofty name, is perfectly inviting. But one average meal was enough to deter us from returning unless Oliver intervenes and overhauls the pedestrian menu. Until that event, our pizza loyalty will remain with Indigo Deli and its delicious wafer-thin gourmet pies, which are available just across the door from Jamie’s Pizzeria in Phoenix Mills.
Get: Spicy meatball pizza (Rs469).
Skip: Red rocket (Rs399); tiramisu (Rs299).
Prices exclude taxes. This review was conducted anonymously.
It is our policy to wait at least a week after an establishment has opened before we review it.
Jamie’s Pizzeria by Jamie Oliver, opposite PVR Cinema, next to Starbucks, High Street Phoenix, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel. Tel: 022 3015 1441. Open daily, from noon to 11pm. Get directions here.