Jamie Oliver chef says critics should have waited to review restaurant

Jamie Oliver’s much-publicised new London restaurant was met with mixed reviews, but now the chef at Jamie Oliver Catherine Street has said that critics should have waited longer before paying a visit.

Four years after the dramatic collapse of his restaurant empire, including the Jamie’s Italian chain, Oliver returned to the hospitality industry late last year with the opening of a more upmarket eatery at Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Announcing the new project, the Naked Chef said that the menu would go back to his “culinary roots”, with an emphasis on British produce. “We want every single guest to feel cherished and welcomed, knowing they will be tucking into incredible food, made from the best ingredients, prepared with love and served in an inviting and comforting space,” he said.

However, not every critic felt “cherished” when visiting.

Writing for the Evening Standard, David Ellis gave the restaurant a two star score and criticised the slow pace of service and called the seafood cocktail “ghoulish”, summing the new opening up as “a musical with a star who just can’t sing”.

More positive was Mina Holland’s review in The Guardian, which argued that there was “lots to be high spirited about” and that the atmosphere was “warm and welcoming”.

Defending the restaurant, Chris Shaill, head chef at Jamie Oliver Catherine Street (and formerly of Oliver’s now-closed Barbecoa in Piccadilly), told City AM that the restaurant still needed to “find its feet” and suggested that critics should have held fire for a while until everything had settled: “We’ve been improving since day one and we’re improving every single day.”

“We take [reviews] with a pinch of salt. We knew what was gonna be coming,” Shaill shared. “Lots of people have their own idea of how things should be. As a new opening we got some things wrong. I think it’s the way we deal with it: we’re very humble and we’ll take any criticism on board and we want to be better – but there are plenty of very good reviews.”

Shaill suggested that Jamie Oliver Catherine Streets’ teething troubles were partly due to opening right before the festive rush: “We knew it was going to be a challenge. I knew there was a lot of pressure in this opening – we definitely felt it, but we’ve done really well. It was great seeing the team evolve and grow and just get through that busy Christmas period.”

Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that service has improved since the Evening Standard review. The Financial Times‘ Tim Hayward, in a piece published two weeks ago, called the staff “so efficient, well trained and thoroughly engaged that it’s disorientating”, though he was “left sadly flat” by the overall experience, dubbing the restaurant “a brand extension” for Oliver.

The TV chef hit headlines around the time of the opening of Jamie Oliver Catherine Street when he slammed the way that some fine dining establishments operated.

This article originally appeared on the drinks business.

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