As always, there was a flurry of books publication just before Christmas and a great number of them are cookery books. I can never understand why people would crack their head at coming out with the bestselling thriller when a collection of recipes (even mediocre ones) would do the trick.
People would be surprised to know that other than J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter series) Jamie Oliver is one of the all time bestselling British authors. Never thought that the bunch of teenage wizards at Hogworts would be matched by some roasted chicken, would you? A fictitious story can only stretch so far without the author running out of ideas but the same cannot be said of a recipe. Switch lemon thyme for scented thyme and free range chicken for the corn fed variety and you get a totally new recipe for the (new) book. Jamie Oliver published Jamie's Great Britain (his 12th book) just before Christmas and they're have been flying off the shelves since then.
"Have you tried Fifteen yet?" an acquaintance asked me during a social gathering some time back. I told her I did when I first came to London and I thought the food was a bit overpriced and overrated. "Well, I do like the concept behind Fifteen," she added after a moment of silence.
Jamie's Fifteen is known for two things - it's open for the entire day (few big name restaurants do breakfasts) and it provides on the job training for under privileged young adults, which gives them a foot up onto a professional career. In the restaurant, there is a wall with photos of underpreviledged young adults that have worked there and all bills come with a quid contribution to Fifteen's Apprentice Program. I'm all for businesses giving back to the society and I guess we can a bit more of this targeted assistance with all the austerity measures taking place. Without meaning to sound patronizing, that's probably the best quid I've spent that week.
And I take back my words about a meal at Jamie's Fifteen costing a fortune. With its £15 Lunch Express, it is definitely more affordable than many of Jamie's other restaurants (yes, I'm referring to the Jamie's Italian chain).
For £15 (no coincidence I suppose), I got Fifteen's "Signature" Antipasti, which in every sense of the word, truly special. Salami, onions, abergine, beetroot, olives, mozerella - it was both aesthetically pleasing and tasted a treat. To be honest, I could do with more than the two tiny slices of ciabatta that came with the antipasti.
What the antipasti lack in carbohydrates was more than made up for in the main dish. Its malfalda pasta with beef ragu was simply massive. The pasta was somewhat boring and lacked the finesse of the antipasti but when it came to filling up the stomach, it did its job well.
I have the bad habit of tinkering around with my phone in the middle of a meal and was surprised to note that Fifteen actually offers free Wifi access, something that isn't well publicised. I would expect any other restaurant would probably plaster "free wifi" signs all over.
The staff at Fifteen could be more upbeat (I'm spoilt by those at Islington's Jamie Italian) but the restaurant tucked in a side road off London's City Road provides the much needed cheer in the area. Its Lunch Express has just upped its game a bit.
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Thursday, 19 January 2012
Jamie Oliver Fifteen London Restaurant - food with a heart