Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Fifteen, London

Westland Place,
London N1 7LP

To celebrate my sister's 40th birthday, she decided that she'd like to dine at the loveable mockney cheeky chops, Jamie Oliver's restaurant, Fifteen. So, last Saturday evening, having booked many moons ago, we made our way to Clerkenwell to sample the fayre.

The restaurant has a tasting menu which consists of six courses plus nibbles and coffee. They have a meat and a vegetarian version of the menu. You can also have your wine matched to each course of the menu if you wish.

I, of course, chose the vegetarian menu, but I shall let you know what the others in my party thought of the various meat dishes.

We arrived at the restaurant and the door was held open for us and our coats were taken. We had arrived early, so we sat in the bar for a while watching with interest the open kitchen in the Trattoria part of Fifteen and marvelling at the piles of anti-pasta on display.

Very shortly we were led downstairs to the restaurant and seated in one of the 'booths' against the wall. The restaurant has a 'seventies' feel to it in contrast to the modern European look of the Trattoria upstairs.

Very shortly our waiter arrived with the menus and the meal began.

First off we all had some olives with rosemary bread and oil for a few nibbles while we chose between the various options on the tasting menu. Shortly after that the sommelier arrived with some champagne (Louis Reoderer Brut Premier, NV if you're interested) and explained where it came from (Reims in France) and how it compared to the Verve Cliqout we had been drinking earlier in Kettners before arriving at Fifteen.

The olives were of the big sweet ones I mentioned in the review of The Neal Street Restaurant and were just as tasty. The accompanying bread was lovely.

The starters were served in spoons and were barely a mouthful. However, a wise man once said something about quality and quantity and the the quality was superb. For my part I was served Pickled Treviso and Roasted Beetroot with Marjoram and Horseradish. The Treivso was much as you'd expect pickled lettuce to taste, but the beetroot was something else. As someone who is more used to pickled beetroot this was somewhat of a revelation. The small square of beetroot had an amazing explosive taste brought about, I assume, by the addition of marjoram and horseradish. The others had Pork Loin with Salsa Rossa Piante and Scallop with Cauliflower and Marjoram Salmoriglio. Both were pronounced as really nice, especially by those who had not had scallops before.

Once the starters were finished, we were presented with Jamie's Fantastic Salad, a salad of buffalo mozzarella, comice pears, honey toasted almonds and a wild herb salad drizzled with Selvapiana olive oil. The only difference between the vegetarian and normal menu was the addition of prosciutto. To accompany the salad was a beautifully peachy Basa Blanco which complimented the salad perfectly.

Next up was a choice of meal. For myself I had the choice of a Mezze Lune of Squash and Chestnuts with a sage butter sauce or Gnocci with Gorgonzola, Watercress and Crushed Hazelnuts. I chose the Mezza Lune. It was divine. Even the smallest amount had huge amounts of flavour and the sage butter was gorgeous. To accompany this I was served Michelot Meursault 2002 which was, quite simply, the best Chardonnay I have ever had. The others had Papardelle with a venison ragu (pronounced “Orgasmic” by my brother in law) and Gnocchi with crab and mussels.

Now, I have to mention, that through all this the waiter and sommelier were incredibly knowledgeable and helpful and, despite the restaurant filling up, we were still made to feel like we were the most important customers there. They described each dish and wine and why the two complimented each other.
Before the next course, the waiter appeared with a mouth refresher of a Rhubarb and port sorbet. Yumm!

For the next course I had the choice of a Tartlet of Wild Mushrooms, Tuscan eggs, spinach, pecorino and truffle oil or Buffalo Ricotta Fritters. I chose the tartlet. It was okay, but a bit 'eggy' for my taste. That's not to say it wasn't nice, but it wasn't as nice as the other courses on the menu.

The choice for the others was between a slow-roasted leg of pork and Sea Bass with saffron and anchovy potatoes, lemon aioli and wood sorrel. Both apparently were extremely tasty.

The next course was the cheese course. I had a Hereford Finn and the others had Lincolnshire Poacher. Both were served on a wooden board along with a sticky date and an apricot chutney. Accompanying this was a Quinta de la Rosa Port, which matched the cheese perfectly.

For dessert we were all served Tiramisu with cappuccino ice cream, blood orange and biscotti. It was divine and when all eaten together with a leaf of the accompanying mint the combination of flavours was quite amazing. An MR Moscatel was the wine of choice here and it was lovely.

We finished the evening with a coffee, paid the bill, collected our coats and left.

We all agreed that the evening was perfect. The food was some of the best that we had ever eaten and the service was impeccable. I mentioned once, at the beginning of the meal that I would be having the vegetarian menu and I never had to remind the waiter when the food was delivered. The wine selection for the veggie menu was different to the meat one and, once again, I never once had to tell the sommelier that it was me that was the vegetarian. Even when we picked our coats up at the end of the meal, we didn't have to mention who we were or what table we were at – the correct coats were handed to us. Now, Fifteen isn't cheap, but we all agreed that the whole experience was superb and well worth the money. And that's what it was. It was more than a meal, it was an experience, and an experience that none of us could stop talking about on the way home, and one that we are all keen to repeat sometime.

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