My first encounter with Ottolenghi's delicacies was when I walked past his deli in Notting Hill. I had never heard of him and barely knew how to pronounce his name but the beautiful creations in the window stopped me in my tracks. The genius of Ottolenghi is that his delis are bare with white walls and all the focus is put on the food: large platters of colourful salads, mouth dropping pastries and enticing vegetable dishes. You know the food is great when people queue outside as soon as noon strikes. I have had the pleasure of eating in his Notting Hill deli (just ten seats and no reservations) but take away is a convenient alternative. Let the food do the talking.
Progressing from that first experience, I organised for good friends of ours to meet us at his North London deli for a pre-theater dinner. His signature display of food platters in the window invited us in. The interior of Ottolenghi's delis and restaurants are always bathed in light and furnished in a simple and neutral way. Think white tables, striking pendant lights and white walls. The object of the game is not too distract the diners from the main event: the food. Ottolenghi's food also encourages you to share. It is not a "I'll have that and he'll have that" kind of place. We choose our dishes together and dip into large plates laden with goodies. This spirit is also emphasised by the large communal table which is shared by all the patrons. Ideal for a bit of mingling. Dining at Ottolenghi's deli is like stopping at his house unnanounced for a bout of food. He invites you in, charms you with his delectable cuisine, and encourages you to share. We live happy, enchanted and hungry for our next visit.
Moving onwards from this second visit, I got organised and booked a table at his restaurant on the edge of Soho called Nopi. Nopi is a bit more formal and hard to get into. Testimony of the fact that here is a lot of hype around Ottolenghi's cuisine. The room is a mix of marble and brass with simple pinewood tables and chairs. Slightly cold as a first impression but the diners and the parade of servers bring atmosphere to the place. Nopi also offers amazing wines and delicious cocktails. That evening, we opted for the following mouth-watering dishes:
Whole twice cooked baby chicken, lemon myrtle salt, chilli sauce
Lemon sole, burnt butter, nori
Chargrilled broccoline, mustard vinaigrette, almonds
As Ottolenghi puts it,"We are very serious about making people very happy through our food." I raise my glass to that!