Yotam Ottolenghi – whether you’re into London dining, love to cook, or even watched the chef grace your TV, his name is one that is familiar to most.
Being a huge fan of mediterranean cuisine and also having my sister in town, it was no surprise that NOPI cropped up on our agenda with one of his most central London restaurant locations as the destination; Soho.
Reserving a table on a Friday lunch was a necessity. The restaurant was fully packed and frustratingly we were asked to wait 30 minutes for our table to be prepped. Not the best of starts but the afternoon seemed to improve once we were seated. (Image above was taken after lingering a little too long following the hectic lunch period).
The menu is refreshing to say the least, with plate after plate sounding not only intriguing but with vegetables as the main culprit. Not being one to steer towards vegetarian dishes, I was surprised to find that those were the ones I was most drawn to.
Selecting a few dishes from different parts of the menu, the first to arrive was roasted aubergine with black garlic and chilli.
The roasting of the aubergine gave a sweet sensation that was balanced with the nuts and strong flavours from the garlic and chilli. For a dish so simple, it was exceptionally good
Sweet potato with aubergine and pomegranate was another pleasant surprise and wasn’t excessively sweet with the aubergine giving an earthy balance.
The candy beetroot arrived with sweet and earthy flavours balanced to perfection with the beetroot being sweetest that I’d ever tasted.
It wasn’t the most notable dish and seemed more of an accompaniment than a stand-alone dish, but regardless was still licked clean.
My favourite vegetarian dish was the Valdeón cheesecake which arrived in a hot metal pan with garnishings of almonds, pickled beetroot, all drizzled with honey.
The blue cheese is usually one many shy away from, but wasn’t overly pungent with the honey softening the flavour. The pickled beetroot was subtle and the creamy texture of the dish meant that the flavour was perfect to be shared but perhaps a little rich for one.
It’s just a shame we had run out of bread by this point.
From the meat section we picked venison with blackberries and peanuts. The tart blackberries cut through the rich meat which was seasoned and cooked to perfection. Venison is so rarely cooked right and for most of the table, this was the best venison we’d ever tried.
The gurnard fish was beautifully tender and as soon as the banana leaf was opened, the aroma from Thailand could be smelt with spicy, sweet, salty and sour notes from the fish sauce, chilli, lime, ginger all mixed with sweetness from the fruits on the plate, overwhelming the senses.
When a dish reminds you of a distant memory from holidaying abroad, you know something is right.
The most underwhelming dish was the sea bass and although pan-fried and seasoned perfectly with the white polenta and tomato salsa complimenting the fish, at £24 it was vastly overpriced. Considering that the Spiced Gurnard was £14 and was a much more eventful experience, it isn’t one I’d pick again. You can certainly get perfectly cooked sea bass at many other places in London for a fraction of the price.
NOPI was one of the highlights of the year so far and dining with a group of friends, it gave us the opportunity to taste and experience more than usual. The dishes are undeniably priced higher than expected, especially when you consider most of the dishes are vegetarian but when you’re served dishes of an outstanding quality, I wouldn’t expect anything less.
Note – Check out the bathrooms. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a decent picture but maybe it’s best left as a surprise…
– NOPI, Soho