IN THE KITCHEN AT FIFTEEN CORNWALL

FIFTEEN STORIES STEPS INTO THE KITCHEN AT FIFTEEN CORNWALl, with head chef adam banks.

~ words & images by beth druce

It's nearly a year since Adam Banks took the helm at Fifteen Cornwall, returning to the restaurant after heading up kitchens both locally in Cornwall, and in Australia on the other side of the world. Having worked at Fifteen from 2006-2011, Banks is well versed in the restaurant's unique DNA. He's slowly enhancing the eating experience, bringing to the table his own take on cooking and food.

"I approach cooking in a way I would like to think all chefs do" Banks tells me, whilst contemplating a selection of the day's produce which includes Rosa di Verona; a gorgeous, frilly, pink-hued winter radicchio that hails from Italy. "I enjoy cooking seasonal food that is going to make people happy, and if you are doing something that you enjoy, I believe that shows in the food that you produce". 

Italy has always been at the heart of a meal at Fifteen Cornwall, bolstered by Cornwall's plethora of fresh, exciting produce that mark its growing reputation as one of the key foodie areas in the UK. Banks himself has "a huge passion for Italian food" and this is evident in the dishes that make up the current menu; colourful, seasonal plates that are delicious alone, but really come to life when eaten together, a riot of flavour and good feeling that evokes the way Italians will typically enjoy a meal. 

This influence is also seen in the fresh pasta, produced daily, and a signature element of the restaurant's cuisine. Ask anyone who has lunched at Fifteen Cornwall over the years what they remember about the open kitchen, and chances are they will site the shiny chrome pasta maker that sits on the worktop from which sheet after sheet of rich yellow dough is rolled throughout the day.

Banks is currently experimenting with seasonal filled pasta combinations, one with beetroot and goats' curd, another with a chestnut puree. I note the inclusion of these quintessentially 'British' winter flavours in what is essentially an Italian dish. "Dishes have a more earthy flavour at this time of year" Banks explains, "...as we use vegetables that grow during the colder months. As spring approaches, the food becomes lighter in texture and taste". This month, Fifteen are launching a Vegetarian Tasting Menu, that will run alongside their signature five or seven course tasting menu. 

Back to the pretty pink radicchio, which Banks chargrills and serves with blood oranges, buckwheat and nasturtium leaves and shaves with barilotto; a ricotta salata which compliments the tart oranges, nutty buckwheat and bitter leaves. I ask him about the timeline of a dish, and how it is conceived. "I like to cook at home so I'll try a few things and bring that idea in to the kitchen, but often I will put a combination of flavours  to the chefs and then together we explore ways to serve that combination. Sometimes I'll see an ingredient and just shout out an idea and we’ll have a go, sometimes it won’t work so we’ll scrap it and start again. It is important that we experiment in the kitchen with dishes and food, it means that we are all learning and developing as chefs".

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"It is important that we experiment in the kitchen with dishes and food, it means that we are all learning and developing as chefs".

This commitment to learning and development is pertinent, such is the makeup of Fifteen Cornwall with its apprentice scheme. It marks a different sphere of responsibility for Banks, one that he is conscious to do justice to. "I’ve headed up kitchens previously, but this feels like a different challenge, ensuring that the apprentices are given the right tools to prepare them for their next phase". 

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"I’ve headed up kitchens previously, but this feels like a different challenge, ensuring that the apprentices are given the right tools to prepare them for their next phase".

Next, Banks cooks a leg of lamb in the josper, an enclosed, charcoal-fired grill that is the beating heart of the kitchen at Fifteen Cornwall, both physically and metaphorically. Banks throws in some apples alongside the lamb and then some purple-sprouting broccoli which he serves with pancetta, hazelnuts and cured egg yolk. The lamb is served with the apple, some fennel and mint leaves and overall the tone is a happy balance of fresh, vibrant flavours and winter warmth. 

I ask Banks about his 'nose to tail' ethos, a term that is often quoted, with little regard for what it really means. "If we buy something, then we want to use all of it" he tells me "with the aim being that nothing is wasted. It is important to me personally that we show respect to people that have grown the produce or reared the animal”.

It is important that we experiment in the kitchen with dishes and food, it means that we are all learning and developing as chefs

Sourcing ingredients is a large part of Banks' job, something he relishes. "I find the seasons, and the produce that is available to us in this county very appealing. There are some great producers here in Cornwall that are doing things the right way. I get excited visiting the suppliers, seeing what they are growing gets my brain working and I start to think of the ways in which we can use the produce". 

It's time for dessert, and at the pastry station there is a warm fug as molten liquid chocolate infused with blood orange is poured into chocolate pastry cases before being served with rhubarb ice cream. Alongside, grilled schiaccia, a fruit foccacia served with stewed plums, goats' curd and mint is being assembled. Like the rest of the menu, the desserts celebrate quintessential winter ingredients whilst paying tribute to classic flavour combinations, the tart feels like a grown-up Terry's chocolate orange. 

Molten liquid chocolate infused with blood orange is poured into chocolate pastry cases before being served with rhubarb ice cream"

It's time to leave, but before I go I ask Banks what he would say to future diners, to help them navigate the menu when they arrive? "If someone is visiting for lunch then I always suggest ordering a selection of dishes to share, that way you get to taste a whole range of different flavour combinations, rather than just one".  It will be music to the ears of people like myself, for whom the dishes at Fifteen Cornwall are each so individually appealing, no-one in their right mind would limit themselves to just one. 

Fifteen Cornwall are currently offering a 'Local's Lunch', comprising a selection of seasonal plates and a glass of wine for £19. To make a reservation, click here.