Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Fifteen - Old Street

15 Westland Place, London, N1 7LP

(This review also appears on Hoxton Radio)

Is there a better known chef than Jamie Oliver? Aside from his soul, he's sold near enough everything related to the kitchen. Books, DVDs, school meals, supermarkets, pasta, and even a flavour shaker. There's probably a Jamie Oliver melon baller out there too.

With six different brands of restaurant to his name, including thirty-five Jamie's Italians, it's easy to forget about Fifteen. Now eleven years old - if you can believe it - Fifteen is where Jamie crafts skilled chefs from perennial underachievers. Pure alchemy, with a TV show tie-in, naturally.

Although tucked down an alley off City Road, a short walk from Old Street, I still expected Fifteen to be busy on a Sunday. While the Smokehouse in Islington had nothing until four o'clock, Fifteen had tables all day and their basement floor - possibly larger than the one upstairs - was deserted

Whether you like Jamie or not, and many seem to fall in to the latter category, there's no denying the quality of both his food and his venues. Extremely sleek, clean, neat, with dark wood throughout, the d├ęcor suggests a far higher priced meal than the menu offers. The service, however, was an issue. Polite and friendly to a tee, the staff seemed confused as to who was actually serving us, which resulted in a long wait for the first drink - a very autumnal Hackney Gold (5.5%) from Redchurch Brewery. There is also an insistence on reeling off the various components of each dish upon delivery, as if announcing the destinations of a train. When my food arrives, I want to eat it, not wait. The almost robotic speech indicates that staff have a good memory, not that they understand the food.

Of course, the food was perfect. The menu works like tapas on a slightly larger scale, with a definite English flavour. Choosing four or five dishes for two people produces a miniature banquet of a lunch and I felt very sorry for the table next to us who chose not to share. You could possibly stretch the description 'medieval' to the food, adding to the banquet feel. Bread with chicken infused butter, tender featherblade of beef with potato and cow's curd, deviled egg and smoked cod roe. A menu lifted from the pages of Game of Thrones.

Regardless of their view of Jamie Oliver, I defy anyone to visit Fifteen and not enjoy both the food and atmosphere. At £45 a head, including pudding, coffee, and a couple of beers, this isn't the cheapest lunch in Shoreditch, but nor is it the most expensive. Many would be surprised at how little they can spend and still come away fed. Well worth the short walk.

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