Wednesday, 23 February 2011

NOPI

I've made a few of Ottolenghi's recipes, but there has always been a slight niggle in the back of my mind that there was something a little odd about them, which I couldn't quite put my finger on. Then I made the caramelised garlic tart from 'Plenty' and I discovered what it was; some of the recipes were so full-on, almost over-flavoured. Much like what some vegan food is like, as if to make up for the fact that there is no delicious meat in it. (I am preparing for a flaming. Sorry vegans.)

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...

NOPI

21-22 Warwick Street
London W1B 5NE

Tel: 020 7494 9584

Nopi on Urbanspoon

27 comments:

Helen said...

That burrata, so fresh! Those carrots though, hilarious. They looked like 4 nice n spicy nik niks resting on a pile o beans.

Blonde said...

I'm actually eating as I read this (dull, I-have-an-event-in-2-weeks-that-I-need-to-get-into-a-dress-for salad) and I am now more hungry than when I started lunch.

That burrata looks worth going for alone; ditto scallops.

*Drool*

Restaurant Gossip said...

Great review.

Couldnt agree more about the vegetable dishes. £10 for a vegetable dish is pricey, even for Central London!

I think we will see them having to drop their prices in a couple of months!

The Grubworm said...

So it looks tasty but, Hell's Bells - what are they doing with the pricing. Add in booze and while tasty, it will hurt. That said, some of the dishes do look spectacular. Maybe one for a light lunch rather than starving dinner?

Su-Lin said...

I've never eaten properly at Ottolenghi either but I'm quite tempted by Nopi. Am a little worried about how the bill will rack up though with our appetites...

Em said...

Oh god, the scallops are amazing - by far our favourite of our meal there last week. The only thing we tried that I wasn't a fan of was the pigeon pastilla - though I'm not a huge pigeon fan, but it was way over-spiced, especially with cinnamon. We only tried one veg dish - the winter greens, which were beautiful.
Completely with you on the prices though - we spent £60 but not sure I could justify paying full price. £10/12 for small dishes is quite a whopper. But the wine was divine and the surroundings were rather gorgeous.

Joshua said...

Most of it does sound very good but, unless the cutlery is massive, they are definitely small plates.

Sarah R said...

Ate here last night and was very pleased we got the soft launch price of 50% off. At full price, our 7 dishes and 6 glasses of wine would have been almost £140. That's the same as three courses and a bottle of wine at Hix! Yes the food is delicious, but we won't be regular visitors despite its convenient location.

The Trencherman said...

Went along on Saturday and was mostly impressed. Interestingly we thought the carrot dish to be very tasty, especially the smoked labneh element as we did the cheesecake which I didn't find as overpowering as I had been led to believe. I agree that the pricing needs to be shifted though (we noticed that a vegetable dish had already had £2 knocked off the initially advertised price). We ate 7 courses between 2 as well as 2 desserts which would have made quite an estimable bill outside of the soft opening. Although it was a very satisfying meal, I can't justify going here over, say, The Ledbury for a similar price.

Sharmila said...

It does look good, but I just don't think I could end up justifying those prices, especially when it is meant to be small plates - it seems a bit at odds with the concept of a fun, shared dining experience.

The burrata does look good though.

And for some stupid reason, NOPI makes me feel of small, furry animals - some type of pet name.

Pavel said...

It's all so very pretty but I think a fat obsessive like me would struggle to find something it eat... It all looks so HEALTHY!!!

Gourmet Chick said...

Super jealous you have made it here already. I am obsessed with Ottolenghi's food so to be honest I am prepared to pay the price as a treat (his cafes are pretty expensive as well). Looks like it is pretty popular though as just tried to book for a Wed night in two weeks and the only available times are ridiculously late or early.

BeccaRothwell said...

Interesting review. I'd missed the NOPI soft opening which is a shame because I probably would have booked if I could, having loved Ottolenghi the one time I could afford to eat there.

I'm not sure what the key differences are between NOPI and Ottolenghi though? They seem to be using the same small dishes, three recommended each format as at Ottolenghi, which with wine and dessert did result in a £60 price tag each. One of the more expensive meals I've paid for but equally one of the most enjoyable so we thought it was worth it, especially as it was only a one off treat. Not sure I'll venture out to NOPI too though.

Mr Noodles said...

I think you hit the nail on the head - overpriced and undersized. Reminds me of The Providores and Tapa Room, which isn't a good thing in my book.

Jonathan said...

Looks delicious - I'm looking forward to paying them a visit once they've settled into their rhythm. And are those giant scallops by the way. They look vast.

German said...

Ottolenghi's is a great place but isn´t cheap, but in quality food is one of the best in Islington Area

http://kitchenvoyage.blogspot.com/

Greedy Diva said...

Interesting. I love Ottolenghi stuff. I heard Nopi was going to have a good wine list - is it licensed yet?

Niall said...

You should definitely give Ottolenghi in Angel a try. It's not a cheap place, but I don't think it's aiming for that area of the market. I go there when I feel like a treat. The food is generally very good - occasionally something is less impressive than others, but never had anything bad there.

tori said...

Oh, to be a lady who lunches.... Actually, my mum is heading over soon. Perhaps it's just the place to be take her for a couple of shared plates and a glass of pink wine.

Milly said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Krista from Passport Delicious said...

You KNOW I LOVE Ottolenghi. I've already booked a table at Nopi for my visit in April! Can't wait!

Winkypedia said...

I agree. The vegetarian dishes were the least attractive. The desserts were a bit weak as well. However, I do like the rice pudding with rose petals.

We tried a total of 16 dishes. Here is what we ate. The meat ones were definitely better. Some of them tasted quite Chinese!

parlourandpantry said...

Really want to try it here, interested by your thoughts! It has tempered my enthusiasm somewhat!

Helen

www.parlourandpantry.com

Ċ½iupsnelis Druskos said...

I completely agree with the first paragraph! Everyone is raging about Yotam's recipes but I found them way too confusing, lacking the supposed wow factor. I was starting to think there was something wrong with my tastebuds!
I'd quite like to visit NOPI though..

Dan said...

I can't believe you were rude about vegans. I am DISGUSTED, Mabbott.

Lizzie said...

I'd have thought you'd congratulate me for it, Shute.

Dan said...

I don't really believe in Vegans. I think there are some young ones around, but they all die before they get old, either because they're lacking the basic nutrients that meat provides, or because they're so bored of eating terrible, terrible food that they kill themselves. It's just a theory, mind.