I’m a regular at Ottolenghi. Not quite as regular as MTV boyfriend (they start making a coffee for him as soon as he walks in) but regular enough that I am familiar with most of their salads and cakes and have firm established favourites on both fronts. However, last night I entered a whole new world of Ottolenghi, I went there for dinner. Despite being such a fan, I had never made it for dinner as the Notting Hill Ottolenghi is only open for breakfast and lunch. So I had to head over to Islington to get my dinner fix, but it was certainly worth it.
The Islington Ottolenghi is set in a long narrow white room that is probably triple the size of the teeny tiny shop front Ottolenghi occupies in Notting Hill. However there are still the familiar piles of pastries and meringues in the window and the futuristic white plastic chairs and tables. The occasion was my friend Lucy’s birthday so there was a big group of us and we had ordered various plates to share.
The vegies came out first; grilled zucchini with Parmesan, pine nuts, chervil red basil and truffle oil. When they say grilled, they mean it and the black char markings gave a subtle smoky flavour to the zucchini. Marinated roasted aubergine was served with preserved lemon, parsley, pistachios and pomegranate yoghurt sauce. If you have ever picked up the Ottolenghi cook book you will know that lemon and yoghurt are present in most dishes, and here they were used to create a sweet piquant sauce that added zing to the soft fleshy eggplant.
Plates of fresh sweet corn polenta appeared next scattered with feta, mushrooms and truffle oil. I have never seen such runny polenta, but it was incredibly delicious and creamy. Roasted lamb cutlets with slow cooked tomatoes, pine nut tabouli and yoghurt mint sauce were perfectly pink with a little kick added by harissa rub on the lamb. My only disappointment was probably the scallops which were grilled and served with baby gem lettuce and prosciutto. There was nothing wrong with them, there just wasn’t enough of these juicy seafood taste sensations. We finished off the evening with some birthday cake. Of course it was Ottolenghi style fabulous.
I know that Ottolenghi is expensive for a casually styled cafe, however I think the innovative and thoughtful combination of ingredients and the quality of the produce used makes it all worthwhile. Now if only I could convince Notting Hill Ottolenghi to open for dinner.
Details: 287 Upper Street, N1 2TZ (Ph 020 7288 1454)