To eat and do good? A $15 two course lunch at Fifteen Melbourne was too good to pass up.

For those who don’t know, Fifteen is a worldwide social enterprise business started by famous uber-energetic chef Jamie Oliver. Its aim is to provide apprenticeship scheme for young people, between the ages of 18 and 24, to enable them to learn all aspects of the day-to-day running of the restaurants, and all profits go back to the apprenticeship scheme. The Melbourne branch is headed by executive chef Tobie Puttock who oversees 20 apprentices each year.

Fifteen Melbourne Collins St Melbourne Hot or Not review

Fifteen Melbourne can be found in a laneway and down a basement, which opens out into a sleek and colourful interior with an elegant dining room presided by dangling terrariums and a lovely marble bar near the entrance.  The $15 lunch special is only offered at the bar, as the dining room serves a more expensive $35 option where you get two courses and a glass of wine.

Fifteen Melbourne Collins St Melbourne Hot or Not review

First course was a broccoli and potato soup. It was remarkably bad.

Now I understand that to produce a two course lunch for $15 it is more than likely that older produce or cheap cuts of meat will be used. But not only was this soup stringy, but the woody stems of the broccoli were so old that they couldn’t even be blended – leaving you with soup with inedible little twigs in every mouthful.

To add insult to injury, the soup was oversalted. The poor seasoning and unpalatable texture really made me wonder whether anyone had tasted the soup before they served it out to members of the public.

To their credit, after we told them about the stringy soup, they immediately withdrew it from the menu.

The second course was a pasta dish – oriechette with veal sauce for the carnivores and gnocchi with spicy capsicum sauce for the vegetarians and non-veal eaters (moi). Each of the serves were tiny – would you consider these even an entrée size? While the sauce was quite nice, the dish was ruined by the mushy and overcooked gnocchi.

Overall, while I applaud the sentiment of providing a good-value set lunch and of course in the charitable works of Fifteen, on the basis of my lunch I really couldn’t recommend the restaurant. The amateur mistakes meant that the food wasn’t up to the standard I would have expected for such a well-known, well-heeled establishment. While the damage to my wallet was minimal and I could pat myself on the back knowing that the profits were going back to the foundation, my experience really didn’t inspire me to pay double the price to try the main lunch menu or to come back from dinner.

Sorry, but Fifteen Melbourne you failed for me.

For another social enterprise businesses in Melbourne (that serve great food), try restaurant Charcoal Lane and fashion studio/cafe The Social Studio.

Fifteen Melbourne on Urbanspoon