Last Saturday morning I was invited to brunch at the newly refurbished restaurant, Fifteen. Fifteen is the restaurant Jamie Oliver set up in which 25 fully trained chefs take on unemployed young people as apprentices and help them develop the skills that will equip them to become contributing members of society – whether or not they choose to follow a career in a restaurant. Apprentices learn to cook, yes, but they also learn valuable life skills (e.g.: discipline, cleanliness, hard work, punctuality, and working in teams) and important complimentary food preparation skills (e.g.: baking, butchery, and fishmongery). All of these skills are learned to a high standard judging by the excellent service and wonderful food we received. Kenny the baker, to whom I had the pleasure of chatting before breakfast commenced, starts at 8 pm and works through the night, knocking off at 8 am when the bread is done. On Saturday he stuck around to show off his hot cross buns and to chat with the various folk who were gathered, at the invitation of Fifteen, to taste his wares, to tuck into breakfast, to have a look at the newly refurbished restaurant and the redesigned menu.
Fifteen has been going strong for nine years, although I had never been there before so I don’t know what it was like. I do know that there used to be a £60 tasting menu in the main restaurant, a feature that is no longer available in these post-crisis times. To replace it, there is an excellent value set menu at lunch time as well as an a la carte menu that is available at both lunch and dinner in the restaurant downstairs. The wine list is still extensive and there is a lot on it – at all price levels. Upstairs is the trattoria where you can see some of the chefs at work, sit and have a coffee, and enjoy a casual meal in the spacious and airy room. The lunch and dinner menu is simple Italian and the breakfast menu is dominated by English classics. It felt like a nice neighbourhood caff last Saturday, but with really good food: lots of eggs, bacon, sausage and black pudding; porridge and fruit; grilled vegetables; bubble and squeak with beautifully cooked beans, and of course all that lovely bread baked on the premises by Kenny and his crew. Whilst this really is a great breakfast destination at any time, the extra incentive to go now is the hot cross buns. Kenny and his team have been working on them for ages and the result is worthy it. Rich and buttery, yet light; spicy and sweet; not too much fruit and not too little; and a glaze that is both robust and sticky. It kind of feels like licking the back of a spoon covered with slick, thick honey, or the surface of a candy apple. To add gelatin or not to add gelatin in the glaze? That is a question for the baker. Ask Kenny. He will tell you. But you better get in early!