Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurants are a way to have an indulgent lunch and a whiter-than-white conscience. The foundation uses apprenticeships to give young people a second chance in their life. They learn to cook and you get high-quality Italian food. There are Fifteen restaurants in London, Sydney, Amsterdam and Cornwall. On Saturday I flew to Newquay Airport (RAF St. Mawgan as was) for a return visit to the Cornish outpost and it just gets better each time.
The location can’t be improved. It sits on a slight rise above a wide beach that is filled with surfers and kite pilots. The wide wide picture window gives you a panoramic view of the Atlantic, just as if you were on an ocean liner.
I flew down with a great friend and flying buddy and my wife. Stuart flew the morning segment so that he could ‘enjoy’ his meal with a drop of wine but he let me handle the radio. (Is it just me but I find that my fluency and confidence on the radio is the first tangible sign of a lack of currency?) We departed into some low clouds but as we flew west, the clouds broke up until we reached the airway between Exeter and Cardiff and just there when we couldn’t climb a think band of CU appeared. We had a bumpy ride for about ten minutes before Newquay began to descend us for the ILS.
Midwest Executive still has a monopoly on GA handling at Newquay but Andy was as friendly as ever. They have a new Portakabin rather than a small office above the checkin desks in the terminal. This means that you can get off your plane and walk to the GA handling area and straight into your taxi, bypassing the usual security and fuss of the terminal. This is a much better arrangement and since the prices haven’t gone up it represents better value.
Fifteen is a five minute, £7 cab ride from the airport. This makes it perhaps the best pilot-friendly restaurant out there. We had a great, central table and the staff brought us delicious bread and olive oil to begin with. Stuart and Aileen had a pretty-looking Cornish crab salad and I had soup (sweet potato, I think) to start. My main course was a vegetable pasta stew with deep, earthy flavours. Aileen had brill and Stuart has the lamb. It was all very good indeed.
Aileen disappeared off to the farmer’s market that had sprung up in the restaurant carpark while Stuart and I demolished a plate of local cheese. The vogue for locally-sourced ingredients sometimes panders to the Michelin inspectors preferences and foody fashion but when it comes to cheeses, I really prefer to get something local. It means that the restaurant has a relationship with the supplier which, hopefully, increases quality and freshness. This was certainly the case at Fifteen. And it was a nice change to dispense with the increasingly overwrought tradition of the cheese trolley. Just give me a choice of four fresh, good, local cheeses and I’m happy.
The flight back was easier. First I had to fly to Bristol Filton and pick up an Atari 800 that I had bought on eBay so I did a quick radar vectored ILS there. The Concorde that stands by the runway is an inspiration to all pilots but also a bit of a distraction on short finals. Oh Look! A Concorde! Whoah, where’s the centreline? Thanks to the people at Filton, I was able to park up, pay the landing fee, pick up the antique (but delightful) computer and take off within 15 minutes. Then it was a simple VFR flight back to Denham rounded off with a lovely, smooth, progressive landing at Denham. One of my best and a perfect conclusion to a great day out.