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Locanda Locatelli and Fifteen compared


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Recently went to Jamie Oliver's 15 and to Locanda Locatelli and had two very different meals.

15 was one of the most curious meals I've ever had: interesting menus, with unusual ingredients that were apparently carefully sourced; competent cooking, better than I expected, with the only fault being that everything wasn't quite hot enough; but -- and it's a big but -- it just wasn't very tasty. Intelligent cooking, yes: the first food for a long time that I've had that made me think of what I've read about Juniper or (obviously on another level) El Bulli. But just not very tasty. In fact it made me think of what I'd be nervous about if I were to visit El Bulli -- that it wouldn't be lip-smacking enough.

The other disappointment was the cost -- starters were £10 to £20, mains were £20 to £30, and the entire meal, including tap water only and one measly bottle of wine, cost £130 for two. I don't mind paying that sort of money, but I expect something spectacular for it: great service (it was enthusiastic but inept), comfy chairs (we were on plastic seats with no wall behind either of us), intimate setting without crowding (the restaurant space manages to be both too cosy and not cosy enough all at the same time), relaxing music (instead, it was piped from the bar above and hence was much too buzzy and clubby for a posh meal) and little bits and pieces. I'd have been prepared to forgo much of that for an unequivocal statement that an extra 20% had been tacked on to the prices to go to charity -- because I think that what Jamie Oliver has done is a very fine thing. But the bill wasn't justified by the food, the setting or the service.

By contrast, a meal at Locanda Locatelli restored my faith in great cooking. The food was memorable: deep-fried calf's foot was fabulously sticky, papardelle with kid goat ragout was the best pasta I've ever had, trips to Italy notwithstanding, the breads were individual, tasty and interesting, the chocolate truffles were much better than usual (way ahead of brands like Prestat or Ackermans), and the almond biscuits at the end actually made me look forward to Pesach cakes (Jewish readers will know what I mean, although they might not believe me).

The setting was comfortable and intimate -- but a little bit too dark, so my father-in-law had difficulty reading his menu and seeing his food, and the service was extremely professional. In his review on Friday in the Standard, Toby Young moaned that he thought the waiters were overdoing the Italian theme of the place -- I thought they were just being Italian, which seems fair enough, given that that was what they were. I cared more about the fact that they anticipated our needs every time -- with water, wine and attention, that they were prepared to give their opinions on what to eat and what to drink, and that they were willing to engage with us instead of acting like automatons.

But the thing I was most impressed with was the price -- for cooking of this quality, which I think is up there with Le Manoir, the Glasshouse (when it first opened, not recently), the Waterside Inn etc, we paid £45 a head. That included a generous tip for excellent service, wine, mineral water, coffee and no sense of stinting. As we were with family, we drank a bit less than we otherwise might, and we didn't choose from the upper reaches of the wine menu (there weren't many bottles at under £20, but we found a nice Sicilian red at £12 that I thought was an absolute steal). But I thought the meal was tremendous value and was hugely impressed.

I'm left feeling sad that I didn't enjoy 15 as much as I'd wanted too -- enough so that I wouldn't recommend even trying it unless you've got money to burn (although the bar made good cocktails and the bar menu looks good) -- but delighted by Locanda Locatelli and thinking of excuses to go back.

Steve

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Locanda never disappoints. I have never had a bad meal there in four visits

I walk past Fifteen every day on the way to work and I will never find a reason to stop unless I see a hearse outside that has a floral tribute on top saying "Jamie RIP" and then I will only stop to make sure that the fat tongued pillock is really dead

S

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Locanda never disappoints.  I have never had a bad meal there in four visits

I walk past Fifteen every day on the way to work and I will never find a reason to stop unless I see a hearse outside that has a floral tribute on top saying "Jamie RIP" and then I will only stop to make sure that the fat tongued pillock is really dead

S

wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning Simon?

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We had to book about 12 weeks in advance. I should be clear that I really wanted to like the restaurant because although I find Jamie Oliver's manner grating, I also think that what he's done is a really good thing. It's a big deal to give that much back to the community and take a risk like that. Maybe he'll be super-rich out of it, but there are plenty of others who've done less who make much more! I just don't think that the prices were sustainable for the type of restaurant it is, and I think it actually threatens the long-term viability of his project, which is a shame.

I am pretty sure you'll like Locanda. You could go to its website and plan your meal in advance if you wanted!

Steve

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Locanda never disappoints.  I have never had a bad meal there in four visits

I walk past Fifteen every day on the way to work and I will never find a reason to stop unless I see a hearse outside that has a floral tribute on top saying "Jamie RIP" and then I will only stop to make sure that the fat tongued pillock is really dead

S

Simon,

I have never encountered anything other than an engaged tone at Locanda - what's your secret? :biggrin:

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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But what did you eat at this meal with the curious food?

The sad thing is that it was so unmemorable that I can't describe it properly. I've had a quick look on his website to see if there are menus there to jog my memory, but there aren't.

Starter was a sashimi of scallops. It involved pomegranate seeds, something that I seem to remember being described as yuzu plums although I'm sure that yuzu aren't plums, and perhaps caramelized ginger as well. All this was in the sauce and there were instructions on how to eat it (which made me think of El Bulli, although actually all I was told to do was eat all the components in one). My wife had a "fantastic salad" which included good ham and bitter leaves but was rather less than fantastic -- it just didn't really sing.

My main course was scallops again. Odd, I know, but it sounded tastiest, and this time they were seared (carefully and correctly) and served with borlotti beans, I think. My wife had a roast fish but I can't remember which -- it was a bit garlicky. I think I can best sum it up by saying that a few weeks before we had friends for a blowout dinner and I did a French Laundry dish of scallops with ceps (no morels around) and asparagus. My scallops weren't anything like as pretty as the ones in 15 (I'm no chef and I should have shucked them myself as the ones I had were too full of water to sear properly), but dammit they were much much tastier! That shouldn't happen at these prices.

I'm afraid that dessert is a total loss....

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Locanda never disappoints.  I have never had a bad meal there in four visits

I walk past Fifteen every day on the way to work and I will never find a reason to stop unless I see a hearse outside that has a floral tribute on top saying "Jamie RIP" and then I will only stop to make sure that the fat tongued pillock is really dead

S

Simon,

I have never encountered anything other than an engaged tone at Locanda - what's your secret? :biggrin:

Amex Concierge service

Works every time

S

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Locanda never disappoints.  I have never had a bad meal there in four visits

I walk past Fifteen every day on the way to work and I will never find a reason to stop unless I see a hearse outside that has a floral tribute on top saying "Jamie RIP" and then I will only stop to make sure that the fat tongued pillock is really dead

S

Simon,

I have never encountered anything other than an engaged tone at Locanda - what's your secret? :biggrin:

Amex Concierge service

Works every time

S

take no notice of the flash toad. Just keep redialling and you will get through in the end.

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Locanda never disappoints.

I would beg to differ. I went for the first time last week and had a nice enough time but was not blown away. Bill for 3 courses for 2 people with a £30 bottle of Dolcetta D'Alba, dessert wine, 3 coffees water and a couple of beers came to £142 including service. I'm going to write a full review for my site soon so will go into detail then but didn't feel that we had full value for money, although I really enjoyed my main course of rabbit with parma ham and polenta.

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the first food for a long time that I've had that made me think of what I've read about Juniper or (obviously on another level) El Bulli.

Could you elaborate on why that was, the connection between JO, Paul Kitching and Adria is not an obvious one to me.

Nice report, look forward to more.

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Could you elaborate on why that was, the connection between JO, Paul Kitching and Adria is not an obvious one to me.

Nice report, look forward to more.

Sure -- but I was being slightly flippant. I was referring to the fact that El Bulli and Juniper are each said to have an approach to food that is intellectual -- careful choice of ingredients and techniques that make you rethink what you're eating. And instructions on how to eat them (at El Bulli). It felt as though some of that was being attempted here, with some of the dishes: choosing combinations carefully, applying non-standard techniques, at least non-British standards eg sashimi of sushi.

But as I said, it just wasn't tasty enough to be worthwhile. It felt like there was too much thought, too much technique and not enough passion in the food, so that the overall experience was a bit flat. I might not have tasted a particular combination before, but it didn't seem to matter that much. Maybe it's different when Jamie's cooking himself -- he seems to love his food.

I wouldn't read too much into my remark anyway. And I'd eat in the bar again just to support the charitable endeavour.

Thanks for the compliment

Steve

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We thought LL was great meal but in a simple way, the cooking was uncomplicaetd adn relied heavily on great ingredients (nothing wrong in that), I would find it very hard to compare this style of cooking with the Haute Cuisine of Le Manoir or Waterside :hmmm:

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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Much as i applaud JO's venture i've no interest in visiting, i'm still traumatised about the hygiene of the trainees :biggrin:

Locanda locatelli though is great (see previous posts) but i've never been pleasantly surprised at the bill!

maybe because i'm a greedy git and insist on starter, pasta, main, desert, coffee, digesitve, plus wine of course.

PS i second the rabbitt with parma ham and polenta, simple but great.

gary

you don't win friends with salad

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  • 4 weeks later...

Apologies, if this topic has [and, i'm sure it has] appeared before, but i couldn't for the life of me find it.

Who's been to Locatelli's, what do you think of it, how do you get through on the bloody phone [i've been intermittently trying for most of the morning!]

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Locatelli has definitely been my favourite restaurant over the past year (been about 5 or 6 times) and the Calf's Foot Salad is a strong contender for my dish of the year.

I think it takes too much money to get the most from the wine list so I tend to cut corners here but the result is a very reasonable bill for consistantly fantastic food.

My way around the telephone trauma has been:

a) go on a Saturday lunch; or

b) phone after 8-8:30pm asking if they have any tables there and then.

The latter has always come up trumps with never more than a 15 min wait in the bar.

Gareth

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How do you get through on the bloody phone [i've been intermittently trying for most of the morning!]

Ring number, get engaged tone, press 5 on your keypad, wait for the ring back acceptance announcement, replace the handset. Wait for your phone to ring, pick up and you are through. You may have to repeat this several times, but it does work (sorry if this is teaching you to suck eggs BTW).

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I'll let you in on the secret (although its probably not really a secret, it may have even been mentioned here before), I haven't tried this yet, but the PA's in my office say that what works for them is to fax a reservation request on company letterhead. And then locanda locatelli calls them back!

try it!

Akiko

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Did anyone hear Locatelli on Radio 4 on Monday I think it was? When he was asked about the "secret booking hotline" his reponse was:

"hee heee heee, hah hah, ho ho ho, hah hah hah, hee hee!"

There was then a pause and the presenter said no seriously I hear that there's a line that only certain people know about.

Locatelli: "Hah hah hah hah, ho ho, hee hee hee, hah hah hah hee hee!"

Peculiar sense of humour, these Italians.

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Thanks to the generosity of another egulleter I got to go to dinner at Locanda Locatelli last Friday.

The space is beautiful, but I really love modern romantic... clean lines, dimly lit, lots of candles and flowers, beautiful cracked glass and lit up reception desk...

Giorgio was there being very friendly, coming in and out of the kitchen making sure people were enjoying their food.

But while the food is the best Italian I've had in London (I haven't had that much italian in London though) I'm not sure it deserves all the hype. I'm sure if I wasn't expecting the best Italian meal outside of Italy, I would have been more impressed but... my expectations ruin a lot of meals for me...

We started with a courgette salad and a fennel salad with wind dried roe. They were both excellent. The fennel had been marinated in wonderful olive oil and that wind dried roe was so flavourful.

And the bread basket was also excellent with more great olive oil, I didn't get to spy what kind they use... the waiter kept the label facing away! Probably not on purpose, my bad luck, i just should have asked.

I wasn't hungry enough for a pasta course and a main so we split a pasta and shared the steak that everyone raves about. Pasta was homemade tagliatelle with goat kid ragu... it was just okay.

Steak... I have to admit, the texture was like nothing I've ever tasted (and I've had kobe beef.. texture is not like this). It was like butter.. they had marinated a very tender steak in more wonderful olive oil... however, I'm from the midwest, I like my beef flavourfully tasting like beef. And this tasted more of olive oil than anything else.

Too much of the wonderful bread we couldn't manage dessert. But they use a lot of something called... Amedei chocolate? Is that right? Does anyone know anything about this?

The meal was not expensive, I'd go back for more vegetables and to try their fish and other meat, for the beautiful space and wine.

But for the best Italian meal of this type?.... go to New York and eat at Babbo's.

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