At Fifteen Cornwall, executive chef Neil Haydock makes the most of Cornwall's sun-kissed produce. We sampled the food (read our review of Fifteen), and you can too thanks to a late summer menu.
There must have been times when Neil Haydock, executive chef at Fifteen Cornwall (above left, with some of his team) thought he was mad. Previously chef at a five-star resort in Barbados, he returned to England in 2006 to take on his daunting new role. Fifteen Cornwall was the latest venture in the programme of social change that Jamie Oliver started with his first Fifteen restaurant in London. In Cornwall, Neil had to run a successful restaurant while training young local people from disadvantaged backgrounds to become the chefs of tomorrow.
All the hard work has paid off – in 2009, the restaurant, on the rugged north coast near Newquay, with views over Watergate Bay’s golden sands and crashing surf, counted its 200,000th satisfied customer. Of his apprentices, Neil says: “We love watching them progress throughout their time with us.” Apparently a bit of Caribbean sun isn’t everything.
Debra Waters, web editor, reviews Fifteen
Because of the striking coastal vista Fifteen Cornwall overlooks, it's easy to mistake this restaurant for providing one of those 'legendary holiday meals' that in the cold light of a work day was actually only one-thirds good food (and two-thirds beach and wine) But what makes Fifteen is not just the breathtaking landscape, or its charitable status helping local kids in a deprived region to train in catering, but its no-fuss, well-prepared fare and its tenacious commitment to fresh produce.
The restaurant is a light, airy room with a pitched roof and a glass wall that flaunts the views of Watergate Bay. Stylish without trying to be London-by-the-sea, the steel beams give the low-rise venue a slightly industrial look while the colour scheme is a welcoming white and purple.
So the meal. Soft, juicy ciabatta with fresh rosemary dipped in grassy, slightly spicy olive oil was followed by a well-balanced salad of figs, buffalo mozzarella, candied walnuts and a honey lavender dressing; flavours so subtle it was the gastronomic equivalent of being knocked out by a feather. Then came a fish stew of which Neptune himself would be proud: not showy but abundant with sea bass, John Dory, brill, mussels and clams. For dessert, the wild flower honey pannacotta was as reminiscent of and sublime as a warm summer's day. We picked the house wine, Fifteen's own-branded 2008 Veneto, because it was described as 'light and crisp' by one of the students with Jamie-Oliver-gusto. And rightly so.
This isn't a cheap restaurant, and neither could (or should) it be. Jamie Oliver's love affair with Italy is strongly apparent; it is, in essence, an Italian menu with Cornish ingredients. Fifteen's strength is in its ability to complement flavours in a way that is confidently unpretentious. It remains a consistently good eatery imbued with the Oliver affable yet hardworking work ethic, and is proof that while London remains England's culinary heart, Cornwall is fast becoming its soul.