Rebecca Armstrong: When a 'relaxing' lunch leaves you super stressed

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You know that feeling when you've had a holiday that's so action-packed that you need a holiday to get over it? I feel a bit like that about the “relaxing” lunch I've just had. As a treat, a colleague and I snuck out of the office to dine, eschewing our usual al desko options of soup, salad or a sandwich in favour of a laid-back lunch. Now I think I need a snack and a sit down to recover.

We ate at Jamie Oliver's latest branch of Recipease, which has just opened up the road from i Towers in Notting Hill. I was quite excited about our jaunt up there as I'm a huge fan of Jamie's food (nosh, I suppose, in Oliverspeak), his TV shows and I'm also very keen on his cookbooks – especially when it's my husband who's doing the hot-stove based slaving.

But goodness me, this Recipease place was quite possibly the most stressful place to eat lunch ever, and not least because the name makes me want to poke myself in the eyes. It's billed as a food and kitchen shop where you can take cooking lessons, but it's also a café, cake shop and boasts a garden centre-ish corner stuffed with potted herbs.

So teachers, pupils, shoppers, snackers and waiting staff jostle each other as they make their way through the piles of ingredients, pre-made food, props, second-hand books, cakes, pasta machines and touch screens. The two teaching areas, one on each floor, look well equipped and are peopled with sweetly determined folk carefully cutting carrots. They're fenced off with mismatched chintzy bunting. All very nice. But then diners are squished up between the teaching kitchen and the actual kitchen. And the actual, open-to-the-room kitchen is run by a chef who makes me think that professional cooks, like children, should be seen and not heard. Then there's the frenetic music.

But oh! My pizza was delicious. My companion's carrot pancake salad thingy was gorgeous. The endless untensils available were covetable and the decor groovy (even if there was a hell of a lot of it in the form of photo panels, pinboards, wallpaper swatches and blackboards). The cakes looked terribly sexy. The herbs were bushy. The pizza oven was flaming. However, it was just too much all together. Perhaps it's like that inside Jamie's famously multitasking head. SO. MANY. THINGS. GOING. ON. All of them delicious and beautifully designed, but combined they were overwhelming. If making great food is as much about what you leave out as what you put in, Recipease felt over-egged. If it simplifies its recipe, I'll be back for seconds. For now, though, I need a little palate-cleanser.

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