EAT - DRINK - BE MERRY
Where do you take your 13 year old niece for her birthday? Somewhere cool and with a hint of celebrity but with a bit of serious adult food to keep the grown-ups happy. Fifteen is all that, it also has the credibility of being a charitable foundation, so Uncle Pete can get all preachy about education and social responsibility.
This was Jamie's idea, a place where young people, sometimes with really challenging backgrounds, can get a sound understanding and proper training in the catering business. There's no hint of amateurishness about the place, only a well designed trattoria upstairs and a relaxed but more formal dining room downstairs (pink plush carpet and spongy leather walls - 'A bit like sitting in a marsh mallow' commented my young niece) with professional, welcoming and helpful staff.
The food was good but not exceptional, a kind of River Cafe light. We didn't go for the full four course Italian job, it would have been too much, given the generous portions (and the price). For starters we had crab with lemon aioli, ravioli of beef and horseradish and clam and mussel linguine. All very good, simple, fresh flavours, well put together and elegantly presented. The mains were ok, lamb, nicely cooked but not hint of the advertised char grilling, a 'wicked fisherman's stew' which was flavoursome and hearty and pork 'cooked for 12 hours' which, with the speed of the service felt like they started when I ordered it. Another little fault is that the plates weren't warm enough, so taking a time over each course was not as enjoyable as it could have been . I'm being picky I know, but this is not a cheap restaurant, it sets it's standard high and the service should reflect this.
The puddings were good, my terrible sophisticated teenage companion had the grappa panna cotta, with red wine poached pears, the Mrs went for a really very well made rhubarb and custard tart and I had a mascarpone mousse. Lovely stuff, real craft and care.
The drinks were also interesting. To start I had an extremely spicy Bloody Mary and my associates tucked into a rhubarb and vanilla lemonade, refreshing, zingy and delicious. The downside to the wine, was again, the price, a comprehensive list but with very little under £29 a bottle.
So all in all Fifteen is just like Jamie Oliver himself, pleasing, jolly, heart in the right place. But real depth or value? I'm not so sure. However it is the perfect present for a thirteen year old's birthday and the grown ups will really only complain about the price - perhaps I'll ask my niece how much pocket money she gets.