As a fan of Ottolenghi’s cafes and cookbooks, I’d been looking forward to visiting his restaurant, Nopi (North Of Piccadilly), for some time. Ottolenghi’s Israeli influenced dishes have always been a firm favourite of mine due to his original, contemporary and healthy style of cooking.
The restaurant itself is stunning. White and gold dominate the colour scheme with glossy white tiles and gold hooks lining the walls. There is a buzz when we enter the restaurant. It’s 7:30pm on Friday night and the place is in full swing. The tables are elegantly set with cutlery and beautiful gold napkin rings (which are discreetly cleared away immediately after we unfold our napkins – I suspect a few napkin rings must have gone ‘missing’ in the past). One criticism is the tables in the window are rather close together. In a cafe this would be fine, but for a restaurant having only 20cm between tables seems a little tight. The much talked about Nopi bathrooms are a destination in them self. I felt like a child stuck in a mirrored maze as I tried to figure out which mirrors were doors, and which were walls.
Service throughout the night was exceptional. The menu suggests ordering three savoury dishes per person. Chap and I were particularly hungry and attempted to order seven savoury dishes between us. Our waitress steered us against this idea and said to order six now and one later if we really needed it (turns out she was right). An honest touch, I thought.
We started with the cauliflower, chilli and coconut fritters, accompanied with lime yoghurt. They were crisp on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. The coconut was particularly subtle, and I hoped it would be a little more prominent.
The French beans with smoked wheat, tahini and lemon dressing sounded promising on the menu. I was looking forward to tasting a simple vegetable that had been given the Ottolenghi spin. Sadly I was let down. The beans were cooked perfectly, retaining their crunch. However the wheat, tahini and lemon dressing was bland and would have benefitted from more salt (which wasn’t on the table).
Next were the seared prawns with a sumac, feta and fennel sauce. The prawns were fresh, firm and juicy, and the peppery fennel and sumac sauce was a great accompaniment. The chunks of feta balanced the peppery-ness of the dish. I would have loved some bread to wipe up the sauce!
The scallops were spot on. Tender and perfectly cooked-through. The black bean and ginger was tangy and sweet. One of the highlights.
Twice-cooked baby chicken, served with lemon myrtle salt and chilli sauce was another highlight. Baby chicken seems to be making a renaissance on menus recently and this dish proved why. Another highlight.
We saved the best to last and finished with pork belly, caramelised Nashi pear and mustard jus. Everything about this dish was perfect and I was left sighing “I don’t want this to end” on my last mouthful. Crunchy, juicy, sweet. Heaven on a plate.
We finished with two desserts (we couldn’t decide on just one!) and opted for the vanilla rice pudding followed by the caramel and roasted peanut ice cream. The rice pudding’s creamy delicate flavours went perfectly with the crunchy pistachios and rose syrup flavours. The caramel and roasted peanut ice-cream was incredibly rich and sweet. I tipped the runny sauce all over the ice-cream and then scattered the salty nuts. I was left singing the praises of anything with salted caramel and chocolate in it.
Nopi is impressive. It’s sleek, sexy and sophisticated. The meat and fish dishes were exceptional. Criticisms? Only a couple. The vegetables were the weakest link. They left me searching for Ottolenghi’s famous wow-factor, which he usually has in spades. My final jibe is the table spacing – it’s fine to sit that close to someone in a cafe, but when you’re paying over £100 for a meal you expect a bit more space.
Our meal with wine came to £118.
Dish Piglets’ Rating: 7.5/10.
21-22 Warwick Street London W1B 5NE
Tel: 020 7494 9584