Sunday, 7 October 2012

Restaurant Review: NOPI, London


On Thursday I had dinner at Yotam Ottolenghi's NOPI restaurant. Up there with Nahm, it was my best meal of the year so far. I've been thinking of the heavenly dishes and when I can return ever since.

Ottolenghi describes his food philosophy as being "familiar and straight forward, yet highly innovative". Each plate of food had an understated brilliance. Most dishes only contained a limited number of ingredients which were left to shine. Almost passing unnoticed was a light touch of excellent technique from the kitchen and a few unexpected flavour combinations. If you enjoy light and fresh Mediterranean food I really think you should go.

We were seated downstairs on one of the two large marble share tables. The calm and almost silent open kitchen was located at one end of the room. On the wall opposite my seat were floor to ceiling shelves containing the restaurant stores. It was interesting to check out what ingredients the restaurant buy in and use. It was pleasing to see a few ingredients that I have in my own cupboard at home.

Burrata, yellow nectarine and coriander seeds

The menu has a large section starters / dishes to share and a smaller selection of mains. With everything looking so appealing we decided to order five of the dishes to share so that we got to sample more of the menu.

We started with the burrata, yellow nectarine and coriander seeds (£12). This was my first taste of a burrata and on cutting it open it didn't ooze like I thought it might. However, it was a very soft cheese  with a distinct change in texture between the silky inside and slightly firmer 'skin'.

I found the cheese quite mild in flavour and it was more of a texture. I'd never have thought of pairing coriander seeds with cheese, but they really worked adding crunch and flavour. The ripe nectarine added another mild flavour and soft texture.

Roasted aubergine, confit onion and caramelised lemon

The second dish to arrive was the roasted aubergine, confit onion and caramelised lemon (£9). Each slice of roasted aubergine had been given a smear of fresh curd like cheese and then covered with the confit onion and a few slices of caramelised lemon.

Just four ingredients made for a delightful dish. It was a real treat when your mouthful contained a piece of the caramelised preserved lemon that added a sweet and sharp tang.

Pea and broad bean fritters with cardamon yoghurt

Our final selection from the vegetable section were the pea and broad bean fritters with cardamon yoghurt (£9.50). I was slightly hesitant at ordering the fritters having had so many claggy and heavy disappointments in the past. How wrong could I be? The fritters cut open easily to reveal a vibrant green centre of pea and broad beans.

I didn't detect any cardamon in the yoghurt which was the only time that a flavour advertised on the menu was absent.

Cornish cod, corn purée, cured sausages and king oyster mushrooms
 
Next up was a choice from the fish section. The Cornish cod, corn purée, cured sausages and king oyster mushrooms (£12.50) was visually most impressive dish of the night. The cod flaked apart at the merest touch. The vibrant corn purée was delightfully sweet and the king oyster mushrooms added a firm texture and a slight chew.

Twice cooked baby chicken, lemon myrtle salt and chilli sauce

Our final savoury dish was easily the most moreish and perhaps the favourite share plate of the evening. The twice cooked baby chicken (£8.50) was first poached in a master stock and then is basted and grilled. The marinade for the basting definitely contained kap manis (I spotted some ABC Sauce on the shelves) giving it a sweet and sticky finish.  A twist if lime went well with the chicken, but I thought the lemon myrtle salt was a little lost. The homemade chilli sauce though was a winner.

All pretentions at sophistication were gone as we sucked every last piece of flesh from the bones and licked our fingers.

Blackcurrant sorbet, cassis liqueur

Content without being stomach groaningly full after the savoury courses we couldn't resist the promise of more great dishes for desert.

My selection was the blackcurrant sorbet and cassis liqueur (£4). I don't think I have ever tasted such an intense blackberry flavour as is contained in the sorbet. The sorbet dark, intense, slightly sharp and not overly sweet I actually struggled to finish the single scoop. I wasn't a fan of the cassis and could easily have done without it drizzled over the top.

Nectarine galette, pistachio, white peach sorbet

I only managed to sneak a couple of tastes of the nectarine galette, pistachio, white peach sorbet (£8.50) but it was another stormer tasting as good as it looked.

Overall a wonderful dinner without a foot put wrong. Eating downstairs had a slightly less formal and more fun atmosphere than the upstairs dining room which looked  to be more formal (but I'm fairly sure has the same menu).

NOPI apparently stands for North Of PIcadilly. I'm not sure it will ever be as famous as SOHO, but learning the restaurant's quirky name had a meaning made me like it even more.

I enjoyed NOPI so much I've added it to my Top Eats page. Why not check out my map of London reviews too?

NOPI
22 Warwick St
Soho
London
W1B 5NE
NOPI on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

  1. Now that looks like a fantastic meal! When I first looked at the burrata I thought it looked quite dry as well and am curious about the coriander seeds. Interesting combination. I've put NOPI on my list for when I next visit London, whenever that may be!

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  2. Yum - the aubergine dish looks great and really interesting to see that we had two of the same dishes - the burrata and the chicken, but I was really taken by the burrata, whilst it sounds like you were more impressed by the chicken. Just means there's something to please everyone on that menu!

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