Excellent food, terrible service
I ate at J on Saturday night with 3 friends and had a very mixed evening.
It was evidently busy, but we were seated very quickly, which was good, right by the service area not so good. We dined to the tune of loudly clattering crockery and cutlery and an irritatingly pingy dumb waiter. Now I know that one has to expect a degree of banging and crashing around but our incredibly surly and disinterested waitress did seem, at times, to be hurling plates to the bar in a fit of rage.
Now, the food was just excellent, I have to give them that.
Two of us started with some sweet, succulent prawns cooked in garlic and chilli (enough to add some spice but not so much as to mar the other flavours. A common mistake, no?) My mouth is watering profusely at the recollection. The other two shared a delicious looking aubergine baked in tomato sauce.
For my main course I had a sirloin steak. Don't pull that face. They do have beef in Italy as well you know! And it was the most exquisite sirloin steak I have ever tasted. Tender, juicy, a real depth of flavour from the crisp, char grilled welts on top to the rare, almost creamy centre. Just amazing. It was served on a modest rocket salad with a sticky sweet balsamic dressing. A beautifully constructed and balanced dish.
One of my fellow diners also had steak, this one drowned in Gorgonzola sauce. I have to say, I would have thought that it would have been a bit over powering, but I was assured that it was spot on. The Gorgonzola sauce was certainly very nice. A little bit tart, salty, and very creamy.
The girls both had pizzas which were very nice. I find it hard to enthuse about pizza too much. Pizza is either good or bad in my book. These were good. The base was crispy and tasted of pizza rather than flour, the tomato sauce tasted fresh and well balanced not too sweet nor drowned in salt or herbs, and they were dressed modestly and well. (An overloaded pizza is, frankly, as bad as a scantily clad one. Quality and balance are the key, not quantity and variety.)
I'm not really a dessert eater to be honest with you but I do like a good tiramisu. On the basis of the meal thus far, I figured that I was more than likely to get a good tiramisu here. (I also half expected it to be hurled into my lap by the waitress as she screamed at me for having the audacity to order food. In a restaurant. From a waitress. I must be a terrible bastard.) And I was half right. The tiramisu was excellent. I could bang on about how the perfect tiramisu should be moist, but not too damp, the coffee should be to the fore, and the booze a pleasant undertone, but I shan't or you'll get thoroughly bored of me. But this was the kind of tiramisu on which I could base such a monologue.
We have, therefore, established that the food was outstanding. I would like to make it quite clear though that the service was utterly, utterly atrocious. I appreciate that restaurants get busy on a Saturday, I know all too well that being a waiter/waitress can be very stressful especially towards the end of a busy shift, but a man who leaves the City to farm pigs cannot complain about the smell. By which I mean WIND YOUR NECK IN YOU MISERABLE HARRIDAN. IT'S YOUR JOB!!! It's not even as if we're rude customers. In fact I would go so far as to say that I am one of the most polite diners I have ever eaten with. I'm not especially demanding. I don't expect to end the evening by inviting the staff to my next birthday party (though, I believe following one rather drunken night at Le Que I did just that).
And I cannot express how much it offends me to have my plate taken away while I'm still eating. Not while sitting at the table with a plate in front of me, but I mean actually cutlery in hand, delivering a delicious morsel of steak to my mouth, in the very act of transferring food from salver to maw. Now those who know me will appreciate that if that plate had not been put back down immediately I'd probably be writing this while detained at Her Majesty's pleasure as my new roomie, Big Mollie, bench-presses our bunk beds wondering what my after-game play is like, and there would be a surly Italian waitress stomping around Camden turning anyone who looks at the fork sticking out of her forehead into stone with a single glance. Dear Christopher, it was the only time she moved quickly that whole evening! Her single nod in the direction of efficiency back fired massively. By which I mean, I was not happy.
This, coupled with the noise, frankly spoiled the evening. I am led to believe that this kind of shabby treatment is not uncommon in J. I can't remember the last time I left a restaurant with out leaving a tip. Still, the food really was wonderful and I do feel sorry for the chef. I think I'll invite him to my next birthday party to make up for it. He'll be in good company at least.
Can't comment on the Italian food in J, as I went here by chance for breakfast, which was top notch! If you get in before 1200 (not too much to ask eh?!) then you get a whole pound off, so a full English with:
2 eggs of your choosing
plus beans, tomatoes and mushrooms will set you back a barginous 4.50 - in Primrose Hill!
OK - the freshly squeezed orange juice is 2.70, so they're making it up on the extras, but if you skip that it's great value.
Attentive service, and pleasant window seating for people watching/celeb spotting.
Went here for dinner and was initially horrified to find I was in an italian that was too posh to serve spag bog or carbonara. But then I found the diavola pizza (jalapeno, peperoni etc) which also has bolognese on top. It was huge, crisp and delicious. One of my fave pizzas of all time now yay! The pastas and gnocci were really flavoursome and also decent sized portions. Everyone loved their food. Ok it's not the cheapest but it is in primrose hill and the staff are lovely and it is very tasty! Recommend.
So many brilliant restaurants nearby make it worth passing by the average food and attitude of some of the staff here.
Well if you live in Primrose Hill this is probably your best bet for breakfast. It's not exactly detectible what kind of restaurant it is from the outside but once you are in and met with a full force of Italian service who don't know the difference between decaffeinated and regular coffee you know you are in an Italian restaurant. I probably would have been more successful ordering if I had taken my pocket Italian dictionary with me. But its London and this is the case in almost every restaurant so I didn't hold that against them. When I think of an Italian restaurant I think of it as something I would only have for lunch or dinner, but J's has a really great breakfast. I usually get smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, hold the creme. They also have the traditional English, and other typical breakfast things. I don't know how authentic it is because I have never had breakfast in Italy, but when I do I'll update my review.
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