The Naked Chef comes to Jozi

Private Property South Africa
Catherine Black

It’s been 20 years since Jamie Oliver burst onto the foodie scene and his empire now includes TV shows, cookbooks and 60 restaurants. His latest addition is a restaurant in Melrose Arch.

It’s been nearly two decades since a young, cheeky Jamie Oliver burst onto the TV cooking scene in the UK as The Naked Chef. Since then, Jamie has grown a business empire that today includes cooking shows, cookbooks, social improvement programmes and, most recently, his chain of Italian-inspired restaurants. Since the first Jamie’s Italian opened in Oxford in 2008, Oliver has gone on to open over 60 restaurants worldwide, and, as of December of last year, that now includes a Joburg branch as well.

Jamie’s Italian Restaurant exterior view of buidlingJamie’s Italian Restaurant

Located in Melrose Arch, the concept of the Joburg “Jamie’s” remains the same: serve fresh, simple Italian food inspired by Italian traditions and values in a relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere. The restaurant seats over 200 people across two floors: upstairs is a quieter, slightly fancier seating area leading onto a gorgeously lit cocktail bar, while the downstairs and outside seating is slightly more casual. All tables face onto the open kitchen so that patrons can watch the chefs hard at work – much like they’d watch Jamie cooking on TV.

The skilled chefs of Jamie’s Italian RestaurantThe skilled chefs of Jamie’s Italian Restaurant

As with other Jamie’s Italians worldwide, the Joburg restaurant’s decor and design nod to its local context: in this case, the touches of metal and gold are subtle references to the city’s industrial mining heritage. “Each restaurant is uniquely designed to incorporate the personality of the city, as well as creating an environment where the focus is on exceptional food, good company and the relaxed conviviality of the Italian table,” says Jamie.

The menu is simple and fresh, with ingredients carefully sourced from local suppliers. Juicy olives, fresh cured meats and artisan breads are arranged on wooden antipasti boards that balance on top of tomato cans, making you feel like you’re sitting in a rustic kitchen somewhere in Italy. The pizzas and pastas are made fresh daily on site, and the simple offerings include prawn linguine, spaghetti carbonara and pizzas like a “turbo-charged” Margherita with slow-roasted tomatoes, basil, the best buffalo mozzarella and aged Parmesan. For secondi, choose from options like chargrilled sirloin steak served with herby garlic butter and a crunchy fresh salad, or free-range marinated chicken with a wild mushroom sauce, rocket, crostini and Parmesan. If you have room, desserts like the decadent chocolate brownie, classic Italian tiramisu and a range of home-made ice creams are the perfect ending to your meal.

Over time, it’s inevitable that the menu and store will evolve, but its core concepts of creativity, simplicity, great quality and a genuine passion for Italian family food will remain. As Jamie puts it,

Jamie’s Italian was designed to be accessible and affordable – a neighbourhood restaurant where everyone is welcome and feels comfortable no matter what the occasion

The restaurant's uniquely designed seatingThe restaurant's uniquely designed seating

Taste it for yourself:

  • Jamie’s Italian | 010 007 4646 | jamieoliver.com/italian/south-africa/restaurants/melrose-arch

This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.

View more of the neighbourhood here:

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