I will readily admit to being sceptical of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, the premise seeming to be (and I am aware of the snobbery of which this will reek) an expensive meal cooked by chavs. Yet at £100 a head, £60 for the tasting menu and £40 for the optional wine pairing, one’s expectations are unavoidably heightened. Given this starting point it is difficult to convey just how impressed I was with the evening that formed an early Valentine’s dinner for Kirsten and myself, courtesy of Octopus Publishing.
The venue, close to Old Street, is in an odd area but a very nice building. The interior furnishing is stylish yet does not hide its roots with the graffiti-style “fifteen” logo sprayed with scant subtlety in gold across one wall. From the moment we were seated the service was nothing short of exceptional. Upon arrival of each dish of the six course menu, its preparation was carefully described before we took a bite. Bruschetta with crab through gnocchi with lamb to sea bass and a mascarpone tart for dessert left no complaints. Arguably the main courses felt somewhat bland by comparison to their more adventurous introductory dishes, but this is a minor quibble.
Yet the highlight was probably the wine selection. Our sommelier took the time to introduce each wine, carefully chosen to match each dish, impressively enough that we requested and took home a listing of their wines. Standouts for me were a fantastic dry Australian Riesling (given that I am not generally a fan of whites) and the surprisingly but clever combination of Pinot Noir to accompany a fish dish (proving easily as good a match as a traditional white with its light tannins). The most memorable mouthful, however, came early in the meal. Between the Insalate and Primi came a single spoon laden with salmon, cranberry and lime juices as well as a garnish. The multitude of exceptional flavours in that single mouthful, coupled with the accompanying champagne, lingered on for the rest of meal.
So all in all a wonderful meal that comes highly recommended. The only reservation is, of course, the price at £100 a head. For that price one feels that Heston Blumenthal’s eclectic Fat Duck remains a more appealing prospect, and is still where my first (lawyerly) paycheque is likely to head. Nevertheless, as a high quality meal within London that also aids the underprivileged by training them as top chefs, Fifteen has undoubtedly gone from strength to strength. Bravo Jamie.