- Lunch menu: Antipasti platters from £7.50-12.50, Primi from £9-15, Secondi from £18-22.50, Sides at £3.45, Dolci from £4-6
- For the full set of high-resolution photos, please visit my Flickr set for this meal (there are a lot more photos there)
Four for part two
As readers of this blog may remember, Mrs. LF and I dined at Fifteen’s more formal restaurant (the downstairs ‘Dining Room’) shortly after entering the world of food blogging. Unfortunately, these were the days before I began taking photographs of our meals, so we don’t have any images to remember the meal by – but it remains an extremely memorable evening. This was largely down to the sourcing and quality of the ingredients, which was exemplary, and they were handled with the utmost care, with the kitchen bringing out the best of what the produce had to offer.
We have always wanted to return, and finally did a few weeks ago. This time we opted for the more casual ground floor Trattoria as we had Baby LF and my mother in tow.
It was a funny old day, as Jamie might say, with very English weather – meaning that it was hot then cold, rainy then dry, light then dark, and so on. I did manage to get a decent shot of the building that Fifteen inhabits.
If you have seen the TV series Jamie’s Kitchen, you will most likely recognize Fifteen’s facade. A huge financial risk at the time, luckily the venture – which pairs a commercial business with a good cause (more on that here) – seems to be thriving, with four branches now open in London, Cornwall, Amsterdam and Melbourne.
We got a table adjacent to the bar at the back of the room and made ourselves and Baby LF comfortable. Our waiter had a quite a unique personality, but more on that later.
We found it difficult to order as so much of it sounded tempting, and we weren’t sure whether to do the traditional Italian thing of having four courses (Antipasti, Primi, Secondi, Dolci) or not. My mother had just come from spending two months at The Italian Project (now completed, by the way) in Umbria, so we decided we might make like The Eagles and take it easy. Somehow the best intentions (i.e. jut ordering a few dishes) never seem to materialize into reality with my family…at least when it comes to food! :)
Eight was all we could manage
Although the appropriate aperitif to order would have been Prosecco, I wanted my mother to try out a glass of English sparkling wine as they had Nyetimber on the menu and they are one of the better producers.
And this ‘classic’ English sparkling wine was a good way to start off the meal. It had tons of tiny bubbles and was quite crisp and refreshing with a medium body and a little richness to it. Mrs. LF, not a fan of English wines (hey, she’s from Northern France), said it tasted cheap to her, but I (mostly) begged to differ on this occasion.
The white and brown breads were okay, but nothing special; however, the spongy soft focaccia had been lined with onions and was excellent. 7/10.
The olive(r) oil, on the other hand, was fantastic, bursting with virgin freshness (no, not in that way) and a lovely gentle heat. We had a few refills. 9/10.
I would like to point out however that I think it is very cheeky to charge separately for the bread and oil (in this case £3.25), especially when the restaurant’s prices are high enough to absorb this cost. I know they bake them on the premises, but I still always feel insulted in the UK when they ask you to pay for bread, when this is never (or very rarely) the case on the continent.
We decided to opt for the shared antipasti plate, and this was pretty good bang for the buck. The mozzarella in the center was one of the stars of the plate and was excellent both in texture and flavor; the green olives were also of the highest quality (and reminiscent of the ones served at Dukes Bar); the beetroot had been seasoned and cooked to perfection; the salami was one of the best I’ve had; and the bresaola (at least that’s what I think it was) was also fantastic. The marinated vegetables were also very good. 9/10.
I decided to artfully arrange a selection on my little plate, as of course I had to take some more photos! :)
This platter was a great start to the meal, and a perfect insight into the food at Fifteen: nothing was overly complicated, but everything was executed very cleanly, allowing the produce to speak for itself.
The risotto ‘al limone’ certainly sounded like an interesting combination of flavors, so we couldn’t resist ordering it. It came very prettily presented, and it was interesting in taste too – well, in a way. First, your palate was assaulted by lemon, then there was no flavor at all in the middle (you were just left to chew on the perfectly cooked risotto, which did have a lovely bite), and it finished with a bit of muted goats cheese in the background. If you caught a bite with some of the crispy flakes, they were infused with a serious chilli kick, which also added a strong flavor. The thing about the dish was that each taste sounded a unique note, but none of them integrated with each other, and somehow the overpowering sensation was that it was a very bland dish, as there was definitely something missing in the middle. Possibly it needed a main ingredient, such as seafood or a vegetable to tie it all together. So in sum, it sounded great, looked beautiful and just tasted sort of odd. 6/10 (due the technically perfect cooking of the rice itself and sumptuous texture).
The only other dish which didn’t meet with universal praise during our lunch was this ragù served with mafalde pasta (which my mother says is referred to as the ‘ugly’ pasta in Italy). I thought the pasta itself was excellent and must have been homemade, but the sauce was a little too bland; it didn’t have that richness and deepness that you expect from a good, slow-cooked ragù. The pork itself was pleasant in flavor, aided by just the right amount of fennel, but overall it was merely a good plate of pasta, not a great one. 6/10 (due to the quality and perfect texture of the pasta itself).
My seafood risotto, on the other hand, would have had a good case for being the dish of the afternoon. The rice was again perfectly cooked, just creamy enough and with great chewiness. The first thing that hit me was the flavors of the sea, which had been infused marvellously throughout. There was salmon (cooked to the perfect texture for this type of dish), a variety of shellfish, and the lovely infinitesimal spheres of golden grey mullet roe scattered everywhere – inside, outside and on the rim of the plate for decoration. At first, I thought they had used too heavy a hand with the white wine, but after the first bite, it all worked together in chorus, with the garlic in evidence as well. This was about as good as a seafood risotto as I’ve had in London. Stunning. 9/10.
The only issue I had with this dish was that they had made the mistake of giving me the main course portion, not the starter portion. But I ended up eating it all anyway, of course.
My glass didn’t stay empty for very long after arriving. But I thought I’d wait to describe the wine we had with the Primi until after describing the food.
The wine I had to accompany my seafood risotto was exactly what you’d expect to find in a 50/50 mix of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. It had a very expressive and insidious nose, with citrus notes and some of that typical Sauvignon zing. On the palate it was quite dry and exhibited both the apple flavours of Chardonnay and the grassiness of a New Zealand Sauvignon, with the former grape contributing a nice body and roundness and the latter grape bringing balance through its acidity. It was a very good match for the risotto.
We were pretty much stuffed by this point, and couldn’t really endure all of the main courses we had originally ordered. We asked our waiter if we could cancel them, but it was too late for two of the three, so we ended up having those anyway.
Oh yes, I promised more on that waiter…he was very nonchalant throughout the whole meal and had no problem giving us his honest opinions and direct feedback on the dishes. For instance, when we told him what we thought of the lemon risotto, he replied with something like, “Yeah, I know. 9/10 customers love it, but I don’t think it works, it’s too weird.” Then he volunteered that he also didn’t like one of the other combinations of ingredients that was used in a dish they served in the previous month (I believe it was strawberries and balsamic, which is obviously a tried and tested dessert combo). We found him amusing and it was both interesting and refreshing to have a waiter who didn’t tow the corporate line but actually interacted with you on an individual basis.
Even though we were only sharing two fairly light-sounding main courses, it still seemed like a big ask to finish them. Nevertheless we persevered, and thank God we did. This squash dish was delightful in its simplicity. The sweet orange squash square was complemented perfectly by the crème fraiche and the balsamic that had been drizzled on the salad leaves was heaven. Every taste worked together and nothing was awry on this wonderful (vegetarian) main course. 9/10.
My main course of seared yellow-fin tuna was one of the better tuna dishes I’ve had. The fish itself was seared perfectly – take a look at the photo below – and again, simplicity was the order of the day. The panzanella was to die for, the tomatoes being exceedingly sweet, buoyed by the same balsamic, and then cut through by red onions and capers.
It was such a fresh, vibrant and moreish plate of food, I just had to finish it all…yet again. 9/10.
Technically speaking, we didn’t have room for dessert, but in my family, THERE IS ALWAYS ROOM FOR DESSERT! Given the circumstances, we decided to share one between the three of us, and opted for one of the simpler sounding choices.
Let me just say this up front. The quality of the pannacotta itself was just mental. It was so creamy, so full of delicate vanilla flavor, and so delightfully wobbly while at the same time retaining its form when shaken or portioned up on our plates. It was the best example of the dessert I can recall. I would have been perfectly happy having that by itself on a drip for a few hours, but it was very well paired with some surprisingly sweet raspberries (not the ‘raspberry compote’ that the menu advertised, by the way) – my hunch is that they were from Secretts, but I didn’t ask – and a really wonderful homemade pistachio-laced biscotto (not the biscotti that were promised on menu). In short, Italian food heaven on a plate.
And that was the perfect end to a very long and very lovely lunch. 10/10.
It was so good, I decided to include two pictures. :)
The room had pretty much emptied out by the time we finished, so I took one parting shot.
After a small adjustment to the final bill (they charged us for the starter portion of seafood risotto we had ordered and not the main course portion we received), it worked out to about £120 for three people including service, which I think was reasonable for the quality of the food, although we only had two mains and one dessert. Put it this way, Fifteen (even the Trattoria) ain’t cheap.
I’d like to give fifteen a ten
We all really enjoyed our time at Fifteen’s London Trattoria. It has a fairly random and funky design, which works well with the vibe of the neighborhood and the fact that it is Jamie’s baby. In fact, on balance, I probably prefer the upstairs dining room to the downstairs one – unless you get one of the booths at the back downstairs which then makes you feel as if you’re eating inside a very expensive purse and is quite cool. Anyhow, the Trattoria has a good atmosphere and is a fun place to hang out for a leisurely lunch. One quibble was that the music was very loud when we arrived. This is one of my (and Mrs. LF’s) pet peeves, as music that is overly loud doesn’t allow people to engage in conversation easily, which to my mind is one of the main points of going out to eat with family and friends. That said, we told our waiter this at the outset of the meal and he happily adjusted the volume to be a tad softer, which made it much easier to hear what we were saying to each other.
I see the mantra of both dining rooms as being: “it’s the ingredients, silly.” And that’s the way it should be, with Italian food especially. At Fifteen, you just know that you are eating very good food that has been sourced very methodically and with bags of passion. The way these ingredients are cooked is also nearly always technically very good, although I’m not sure about all of the flavour combinations (but at least they give their kitchen trainees room to experiment). And sure, there may be the odd inconsistency (both in the food and the front of house) given the turnover of staff I imagine that they have due to the ambitions of the venture, but these certainly didn’t deter us from having memorable two meals there, the first being and exceptional, and the second being very good.
For whatever reason, so far as I can tell, the restaurant doesn’t seem to attract much attention in the food blogger world (maybe it’s not new enough any more?), but I would say it’s one of my favorite Italian restaurants in London, right up there with the likes of Ristorante Semplice, River Café, L’Anima and maybe Il Baretto (I am somehow yet to visit Locanda Locatelli as well as some of the newer entries). It’s certainly better than Bocca di Lupo in my book, but I’m visiting that restaurant again soon, so will report back.
If you haven’t been to Fifteen, I would recommend trying it out. Oh, and if you’re curious, it runs circles around Jamie’s other Italian offering based on my meals there at various branches around the country, though it is definitely more expensive.
Wine: the Trattoria wine list comprises a relatively small selection of well-picked whites and reds (about 10 of each), of which about half are available by the carafe of glass. There are also a few sparkling, rosé and sweet wine options. The wines are mostly Italian and English, although there is the odd Spanish or French one thrown in. It’s nice that prices by the glass start at less than £5 and don’t exceed £9.
For more about my rating scale, click here.
*Note: I have dined at Fifteen London twice, once for dinner in the Dining Room, and once for lunch in the Trattoria.*