But I've never eaten at Ottolenghi, mainly due to it's Angel location and now that NOPI has opened up 10 minutes walk from my work, I didn't really have an excuse. I booked a table during their 50% off soft launch. On arrival, the room is bedecked in cream and gold with soft lighting. It had a very calming effect. A tall bar lined the left side of the room, and we mused it would make a lovely lunch spot for two.
The menu is simply divided into meat, fish and vegetables. It advises dishes are for sharing and 3 per person is recommended.
Scallops were gorgeous and worth coming back for alone; beautifully cooked to translucent inside and paired with a sharp apple, radish and daikon salad. A mystery dark paste-like substance was slightly spicy.
Beef brisket croquettes were crispy beauties flavoured with star anise, the crumbed meat tender and lightened with a coriander-heavy Asian slaw. Rose veal carpaccio with beetroot and kashk was ordered purely because we wanted to know what kashk was; turns out it was a yoghurt-like substance, which when eaten with the wafer thin slices of meat brought out the flavour of the veal.
We were alarmed by the amount of coriander seeds that topped the creamy burrata, but when eaten with the blood orange and basil, the seeds were tempered. This was a favourite of the night; clean, fresh and simple flavours, all drizzled with a punchy fruity olive oil that we first tasted when we arrived, served with complimentary bread and a butternut squash dip.
Seared prawns with feta, fennel and oregano came in a cute little copper pan. The 4 beasts were meaty and cooked just right, while the rich sauce was slurped up with spoons. Another winning dish. Our fish dishes ended with a firm, meaty cured halibut, slightly overpowered by the shiso it was served with but complimented with samphire.
I wondered what was kebab-like about the hake which was served with pickled lemon and yoghurt. It was more like a big fishcake. The fish was densely packed, the yoghurt flavoured mellowly with garlic but I questioned their decision in using huge clumps of herbs for the side salad. An enormous mouthful of tarragon was a surprise, as was a bundle of basil leaves ending up in my mouth.
Oddly, given Ottolenghi's expertise in vegetarian food, it was the vegetarian dishes that impressed us the least. 'Braised carrots, mung beans and smoked labneh' was ordered because of our fascination with the smoked labneh. When it arrived, we gazed at each other agape. Had it been full price, for 10 of your finest pounds you would have received a grand total of 4 match sticks of carrots. We couldn't fathom what they were thinking with this. The blue cheese cheesecake with mixed mushrooms suffered from the aforementioned massive flavours and was so overwhelming we could only manage a mouthful every 10 or so minutes. We're nothing if not persistent.
And so, to finish, a gorgeous little pineapple galette flavoured with the creamy, vanilla-like headiness of pandan and served with coconut ice cream. Churros with hot chocolate and fennel seed sugar was recommended to us; unfortunately the churros were over-cooked and when our server saw we hadn't finished it, they apologised profusely, thanked us for the feedback and took it off our bill - which was unexpected. I'm of the opinion that if you go on the half price soft launch you should expect some duds, after all that's what a soft launch is all about.
Although there were some really delicious dishes, such as the scallops and the prawns, I felt overwhelmingly as though it was hugely and prohibitively expensive. With savoury dishes averaging at around the £10 mark, before dessert or even drinks a meal here would hit £30. I remarked that it was a very 'ladies who lunch' venue; small, pretty and light plates. After sharing 8 dishes and a dessert each, I was only just satisfied so clearly I'm not their target audience. Perhaps breakfast or brunch, when they implement it will be a better and more affordable option.
But gosh, those scallops were good...
21-22 Warwick Street
London W1B 5NE
Tel: 020 7494 9584