I have to confess to being a bit of an Ottolenghi groupie. I live around the corner from the original Ottolenghi cafe and regularly buy goodies there, I own both the cook books and I have even done an Ottolenghi cooking course. So of course when I heard Yotam Ottolenghi was opening a restaurant in Soho called Nopi I couldn’t get there fast enough and had to co-opt my friends Claire and Amanda into a girly catch up lunch.
Burrata with blood orange
The name stands for North of Piccadilly but in reality Nopi is easy to find as it is right where all the hot new restaurants in Soho are, nestled just near Polpo and Bob Bob Ricards. The fit out is snazzy with a predominantly white theme accented with shiny gold hanging lamps and coat hooks. There are communal tables downstairs which overlook the open kitchen but the best seats are upstairs in the light, airy main room of the menu. The restaurant has an undeniably glamorous feel to it and is a step up from the Ottolenghi cafes.
The menu is a succinct one pager divided into vegetables, fish, meat and sweets. And what a menu it is, all the hallmarks of Ottolenghi’s cooking are there – the Middle Eastern and exotic ingredients and the unusual combinations of flavours and textures. The suggested order at Nopi is three savoury dishes per person and all the dishes are designed to share so the three of us managed to work our way through a lot of the menu.
To start, a round dome of creamy Burrata wobbling on top of slices of blood orange and sprinkled with coriander seeds (£12). Fried Japanese aubergine with a walnut salsa and sprinkled with some of Ottolenghi’s signature pomegranate seeds reminded me of Japanese nasadengaku (£8).
Wafer thin slices of delicate Kingfish were served carpaccio style (£8), the edges of the fish highlighted by a rub of tumeric and rasam. Seared prawns (£12) arrived at the table beautifully presented in a shiny copper pan filled with a tomato and fennel sauce and chunks of fetta. Our waiter brought over extra slices of bread so we could mop up the delicious sauce. Slow cooked pig cheek (£10) was cooked down to a slice of glossy, rich stickiness. Croquettes (£9) had a golden, crispy exterior and were filled with tender flakes of beef brisket.
Each dish we tried was delicious but the picks of the menu were probably the scallops and baby chicken. The scallops (£12) were fat and juicy, cooked to a just translucent state then served with slivers of pickled daikon and apple. The baby chicken (£7) made us remember just how good simple chicken can be. The chicken was twice cooked to a moreish smokey charr and served with a wedge of lime, kaffir lime salt and a hot chilli sauce.
Of the desserts we tried my favourite was the creamy, rice pudding which was spiced with cardamon and had the added crunch of pistachio sprinkled on top (£6.50). I should also mention the lovely rosé prosecco, Jeio Bisol (£7 a glass) and the rich, almost dark bottle of rosé we drank, a Ciro from Calabria in Italy (£28).
It wasn’t all perfect. The booking process was all a little bewildering as we had asked to extend our booking to five people a few days beforehand, but the restaurant had said there was no space despite Nopi being only half full for most of our lunch. Prices did veer towards the nose bleed end of the scale, but to be fair I did not pay much more for my meal there than I did at Spuntino recently for a similar amount of food and alcohol. It’s not cheap but at the same time having used Ottolenghi’s recipes quite often I know how expensive the ingredients featured are so I felt I was getting what I paid for.
Details: Nopi, 21-22 Warwick Street, Soho W1B 5NE (Ph 020 7494 9584) Tube: Oxford Circus.