Fifteen Restaurant by Jamie Oliver opened its doors in 2002 with a view to mentoring underprivileged youth and giving them prospects for a future. The scheme revolved around a cooking apprentice training programme to create chefs of the future. Ten years later, and with branches in Cornwall, Amsterdam and Melbourne, Fifteen has seen over 350 students graduate, about 80% of which have continued to work in the food profession. Admirably all the profit from the restaurants gets donated to the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.
The original Fifteen is in Shoreditch and it is a handsome looking restaurant. Split over two floors, the décor is dark; dark tables, dark floors, etc, made even darker as the sunlight goes down as the lighting is kept very dim. But it sets the tone for an intimate atmosphere made buzzier by the constant chatter of the guests. Tables are closely positioned, but the space works.
Fifteen delivers a daily changing ‘British’ menu. It’s seasonal, cleverly constructed, and is based on whatever is in fresh and available from suppliers that day. Unlike standard à la carte menus, the menu isn’t split between starters and mains. Instead everything is listed on one long list, although in principle there are about eleven starters and five main courses. It’s a sharing feast and the dishes are brought out as and when they are ready, although you may request that they be brought out in a certain sequence.
The beef and barley bun with a horseradish cream (£5) has to be one of the nicest things I have ever eaten in my life. Consisting of a donut dough baked with a filling of minced beer, barley and pickled walnuts, it was stupendously good. The dough was soft and moreish, and the contrasting textures and flavours of the filling went hand in hand with the lightness of the bun. The horseradish cream was also excellent, and with the use of both horseradish ‘juice’ and grated horseradish, it had that extra special little kick that matched with the flavours of the bun really well.