Fifteen Restaurant

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.

Beef & barley bun

Beef & barley bun

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The Clove Club

The opening of The Clove Club earlier this year was one of the most eagerly awaited restaurant launches of 2013. It’s the combined effort of former Ledbury chef Issac McHale, and the pop-up maestro duo of Daniel Willis and Johnny Smith who ran the hugely successful Upstairs at Ten Bells. The menu is ambitiously refreshing, and focuses on the use of fresh, seasonal British ingredients. Home for The Clove Club is The Shoreditch Town Hall which has been turned into a bar area at the front, and a dining room at the back with an open plan kitchen. The space is light, airy and decorated with a minimalistic approach. It’s rather sparse in fact, and the lack of soft furnishings in the dining room meant dinner was a rather noisy affair.

Nevertheless, the food was excellent. Dinner was a set tasting menu that consisted of three little appetizers followed by three savoury courses and two desserts for a very reasonably priced £47. The first of our three appetizers was some perky and slightly crunchy English asparagus that was served with a fantastic gochuchang mayonnaise. Gochuchang is a Korean condiment made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt. Here it had been used to create a mayonnaise that gave the asparagus a little kick. A sprinkling of finely ground black sesame was warm and aromatic and worked with the asparagus nicely.

English asparagus

English asparagus

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Monikers

The bus

The bus

Note: Monikers has now closed.

Monikers restaurant and bar recently opened on a corner of Hoxton Square, on a site that was previously occupied by The Hoxton Apprentice, a Training for Life charity restaurant that was set up to train young chefs in the same vein as Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Restaurant. The building was once an old schoolhouse and Monikers has cleverly maintained the spirit of its former history with a vintage blackboard that lists the daily specials. The wittiness continues with the upstairs area boasting a façade of an old London bus with trendy retro vinyl seats. It’s all very cool, and the restaurant exudes a sense of Hoxton fun. The bar area is funky as well with its chemistry-style water beakers and science-lab stools, and here you can sample some lovely cocktails such as the Greta Garbo (£8.50) with calvados, rhubarb, agave syrup and champagne, and the French 75 (£7.50) with gin, lemon, sugar and champagne.

Cocktails

Cocktails

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Les Trois Garcons

Les Trois Garcons

Les Trois Garcons

When Les Trois Garcons opened in 2000, much noise was made about its fanciful décor, and justifiably so. The three men behind the restaurant, Hassan, Michel and Stefan, all interior designers, have fashioned the once Victorian pub into something of an art house and are also owners of the delicious Loungelover bar around the corner. Les Trois Garcons is eclectic and tasteful – the handbag installations, glamorous chandeliers and its display of taxidermy make the design of the restaurant nothing less than unique.

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