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Posts Tagged ‘Jamie Oliver’

Celia, very concerned about the clouds rolling in at Jamie Oliver's Feastival this weekend

I’ve been supremely distracted these last two weeks.  I’m now a parent.  Celia is two weeks old, and all I can say is that while labour is pretty rough and breastfeeding even rougher, I’m a fan of this parent gig so far.

Celia came into the world via emergency C section.  Thumbs down to the midwives who didn’t identify that Celia was a breech baby until after I’d labored for what felt like forever.  Thumbs up to the surgical team at UCH for being great communicators and total pros.

Feeling restless and with Jon on his last day of paternity leave, we spent this afternoon at Jamie Oliver’s “Feastival,”  a three-day music-slash-food festival this weekend on Clapham Common.  While I’m no music connoisseur and therefore generally characterise the bands performing this afternoon as fun for a sunny day out, I was pleasantly surprised that the food stands were as good as they were.  The restaurants represented are pretty legit from a food lover’s point of view, and the mains sold are all priced at £5.  It was good value once you forgot about the sunk cost of admission to the festival (£35 at the door, but do some googling and you’ll find a few half-price deals on-line).

porchetta muffuletta sandwich from Fifteen

popcorn shrimp from Redhook

chicken satay and roti from Awana

roast lamb and minted yoghurt sandwich from Providores

I enjoyed the food we sampled and am happy to report that La Fromagerie has its own large-ish tent selling freshly-fried donuts and chocolate chip cookies for £1 a piece, and enormous brownies for £2.50 (all of which I’ll vouch for because, umm, I ate one of each).

"cocktail bar" at the Feastival on Clapham Common

Peter Gordon (The Providores) does a cooking demo

In the “cocktail bar” area, we snagged seats on comfy outdoor sofas and enjoyed Pimms (a somewhat-pricey £7.50 a glass) in the sunshine, and then we checked out the Providores‘ Peter Gordon doing a cooking demonstration (winner tip of the day:  cook couscous in cold or tepid water so that it doesn’t get claggy).

Overall, a relaxed and tasty experience for a sunny weekend.  If you’re at loose ends tomorrow or Sunday, give the Feastival a try.  All proceeds go to charity, so even if you find the admission price a bit high, just remember the money goes to these good causes.

As for me, I’m going to take a break from this blog.  I’ll be back in three weeks (on Monday, 25 July), hopefully with an idea of what to do with this restaurant and travel blog now that I’ve got un bebe.  Suggestions welcomed!

Jamie Oliver’s “Feastival,” on Clapham Common from Friday, 1 July through Sunday, 3 July.  Admission is £35 per adult, and food and drinks are additional (but generally reasonably priced) once you’re admitted.

Half-price tickets were available earlier in the week via LittleBird, TimeOut, Lastminute.com, and Groupon, though I’m not sure which of these offers are still available.  Closest Tube station:  Clapham Common.  Look for the tents when you exit the station – it’s less than a ten-minute walk.

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Jamie Oliver's Fifteen (Italian) Restaurant

Having eaten a delicious dinner at Trullo last week (which was opened a few weeks ago by one of the first fifteen chef-apprentices trained at Fifteen restaurant), Jon and I thought it was about time we tried eating at Fifteen. It is, after all, just a 20-minute walk away from our house, right off the stretch of City Road between Old Street and Angel stations.

It’s hard to be tough on Fifteen because it’s such a worthy venture, offering chef apprenticeships to what Jamie Oliver‘s website calls “disadvantaged youngsters.” Additionally, all profits go towards the foundation that owns and operates the restaurant.

Eight years in, though, Fifteen offers a menu that seems too routine to justify £8 starters and £20 main courses.  Perhaps Fifteen and Jamie Oliver are victims of their own success – many of us now value knowing where our food comes from and insist on seasonal, quality produce.  So restaurants have followed suit, and so what used to be quite special now seems ho-hum.  Our dinner at Fifteen reminded me of the time I ate at Chez Panisse and left wondering what all the fuss was about. I suspect that part of the reason Chez Panisse seemed so ordinary by the time I got there is because chef-owner Alice Waters had already single-handedly changed the way we ate.

pizza bianco with buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and pesto alla Genovese (£8)

Menu descriptions seemed a bit too fussy, as if masking the ordinariness of the dishes.  A white pizza with mozzarella, tomatoes and “pesto alla Genovese” (aka regular ol’ pesto made from basil and pinenuts) was tasty but also something you could picture at any half-decent gastropub in London these days.

ravioli stuffed with smashed peas and ricotta in a butter-and-mint sauce (£10)

On a hot day, the ravioli stuffed with smashed peas and served in a mint-butter sauce sounded perfect.  But the peas were rather tough and not sweet, and the butter “sauce” appeared to have been made by merely melting a lot of butter on top of the ravioli.  (I generally like to pretend that throwing in a few shallots and white wine makes it healthier).

Italian sausage with dressed Castellucia lentils with Swiss chard and salsa rosa (£19)

Jon *loved* his Italian sausages, and I must admit that they were pretty darn good, with a sweet-spicy flavor from all the anise and fennel seeds in there.  We troll London markets regularly looking for Italian sausage (with often disappointing results), so these were a treat, though £19 seemed a bit steep for what was essentially three grilled sausages.

Angus ribeye with roast garlic-tarragon butter, rocket and pecorino (£22.50)

Ribeye was fine.  Rare.  Juicy.  You know, steak.

risotto ai frutti di mare (£14)

Risotto with ‘fruit of the sea’ was too al dente, I thought.  I think the rice could have used just a little more liquid or oil, at least – it just tasted kind of dry and unpleasant.  The tomato sauce was overly bright and didn’t provide enough moisture.  Kind of a bummer, really.

linguine carbonara - the guanciale was the best part (£15)

Last but not least – the linquine carbonara was saved from utter blandness (because of under-seasoning) by the amazingly-fatty-and-smoky guanciale.  I would have asked for salt, but as attentive as our server was in some ways (bringing plenty of pitchers of tap water to our table without our asking), she was hard to flag down.

Fifteen is still going strong, which is nice to see given its giving-back-to-the-community mission.  On a Sunday evening, the place was packed, and the room is comfortable and still stylish after all these years.  The food is better-than-average, so it’s a nice option to have if you’re in need of a mid-priced meal in Hoxton.  Then again, on the basis of food and price alone, I’d rather walk a tad further to eat at Pizza East or stay in my neighborhood and walk to Trullo.

Total tab for two shared starters, four mains and a £30 bottle of wine (i.e., more than enough to feed and water four people):   £34 a person.

Fifteen Restaurant, 13 Westland Place, N1 7LP, 0871 330 1515; closest tube station: Old Street

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