review of Jamie Oliver's Fifteen
For a given price, London has very good cooking and very bad cooking. Jamie Oliver's restaurant Fifteen is an extreme example of this phenomenon. The price is ski high - 60 pounds per person. But the food is no better than cafeteria-style food. The food is not even bad! It is bland, utterly uninspired, and totally uncreative. For most of the dishes on the menu, the cooking in the restaurant consists of buying things, cutting them up, and putting them on a plate. The "Fifteen's fantastic salad," for example
consisted of sectioning a peach, putting the pieces next to a few little chunks of buffalo mozzarella, and sprinkling a bit of balsamic vinegar on it. You can do this in your own home. You don't need to pay 60 pounds a head for this. The meat was bland and so was the fish, the pavlova dessert was sticky and tasteless, and the gnocchi was mushy and totally overcooked. Worst of all, Oliver, who is supposed to be a good cook, knows that all this
is true. He is ripping off unsuspecting Londoners and tourists alike - he is using cheap ingredients and getting his chefs to prepare and sell the food for outrageous prices. The cheese course, for example, was a very small piece of pasteurised Morbier that you can buy in any supermarket, and the cheese plate was decorated by a few small date pieces and a dab of fig chutney that you can buy by the jar. By contrast, for exactly the same price
of 60 pounds you can dine at Tom Aikens and have some of the most creative and sublime food in the world. Furthermore, in Tom Aikens, you can spend the entire evening instead of being rushed out to make room for the next seating. An uninspired home cook can easily reproduce what was served in Fifteen using a simple cookbook, while only a genius can produce the foams and purees and gels and other amazing creations in a place like Tom Aikens.