Living in London, I'm frequently surprised with the constantly changing face of the streets around me. Every couple of weeks a shop or restaurant will close, only for another to open in its place. Sometimes this is sad, as in the case of the excellent independent toy shop which metamorphosed into a Costa coffee. But sometimes it is exciting, as in the case of the lovely new bakery and cafe which recently opened on the Northcote Road.
Earlier this year, I was intrigued when wooden boards went up around a high street building society. These boards were plastered with Jamie Oliver's name and I wondered what on earth to expect. Surely he wasn't opening the latest branch of Fifteen in the shadow of Clapham Junction tube station?
Indeed, no he wasn't. A few months later and the boards were removed. Behind them was a branch of his new venture 'Recipease'. This shiny new store has been attractively Jamie-fied. At the front, shoppers can buy all kinds of Jamie merchandise, including some rather lovely wooden chopping boards. There is also food for sale, much of it packaged in over-sized Kilner jars. Imagine mustards, chutneys and jams. And bread too. Lots of bread. Foccacia. And the most expensive Chelsea buns you are every likely to eat. The busy shopper can also buy pseudo ready-meals freshly prepared instore to take home and throw in a pan for supper. You can even buy the wine to go with it.
But at the heart of the shop are several huge workstations where you can assemble your own meals. There is a pizza station where you can create your own signature toppings. Or you can select from a changing menu of different dishes to prepare. All the chopping and preparation is done for you - you just book a session, turn up and create one (or two) of Jamie's mouthwatering recipes.
As well as this, you can also book in for cooking lessons focusing on a particular skill - knife skills, risotto, cooking the perfect steak, pasta to name just a few. The best news, these classes are a great deal cheaper than many other cookery demonstrations in the capital.
I haven't sampled the 'ready-meals' and nor have I booked in to assemble my own Jamie recipe. But recently I took part in a very fun hen party that included a pasta-making session at Recipease. Upon arrival, we were greeted with glasses of wine (...tea, coffee and soft drinks were provided too but these were rather ignored in favour of the wine!). We then set to work with our excellent and highly enthusiastic chef. She showed us how to make pasta dough and then we all headed to our own workstations to make our own. Once all twelve of us had enough spaghetti, tagliatelle, ravioli and caramelli to feed an army, we then made a super sage butter sauce to accompany the ricotta and spinach stuffed pasta shapes. Divine!
I would thoroughly recommend a private party at Recipease of this type - it was great fun and a real ice-breaker. I think we could have used another member of staff as twelve novices making pasta was somewhat chaotic and our chef could only help one of us at a time! However, it was great fun and despite making a horribly dry-feeling dough that fell apart in the pasta machine, I ended up with some quite delicious pasta. I clearly need practise...
Recipease, 48-50 St John's Road, Battersea