Eating in colour at NOPI, London

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Yottam Ottolenghi is famous for his wholesome, Mediterranean-style cooking and championing of the humble vegetable. Before our visit to London, which was one leg of our recent European family holiday, I'd never had a chance to cook or sample any of his recipes. Having heard of the buzz around his cookbooks and restaurants, I knew that a visit to one of his London outlets would be one to remember.

Nopi is just one of his handful of restaurants and delis, and is located a short stroll off Oxford street in downtown Soho. The atmosphere has that same warmness as the popular gourmet Ottolenghi delis, and there is a clean, Scandi-esque vibe about the white, brass and timber furnished dining space. Stairs off to the side lead down to the busy kitchen and more casual communal tables. 

The just to the left of the entrance sits a wooden bench perched with a gorgeous arrangement of flowers and platters of salads that feature on the day's menu. Also on show are freshly baked loaves of bread that are cut and served as nibbles. 

It's a colourful, eye-catching display, and one could be forgiven for not noticing that all the plates on show are unashamedly meat-free. We ooh and ahh at the set-up and immediately feel the impulse to order one of everything.

The menu changes daily and is built around dishes that are designed for sharing. Although Ottolenghi may be more famous for his vegetarian dishes, those that feature meat are just as intriguing here. 

Homemade bread
The home-baked loaf of bread that we spy upon arrival is sliced up and placed on our table as we sit down. It has a wholesome, chewy crumb and is simply dipped in sweet extra virgin olive oil.

Ginger, Orange & Lime Zinger and Lychee & Grapefruit Cooler (£5.90 each)
The combination of ginger, orange and lime in a non-alcoholic mocktail is tangy, with a hint of refreshing mint. A lychee and grapefruit cooler resembles a sweet, slightly more sophisticated version of a slushy that is bright and vibrant. 

Butternut squash, ginger tomatoes, lime yoghurt (£8.90)
This pumpkin dish was a revelation, and my favourite of the day. Served at room temperature and topped with a cool lime yoghurt and crunchy cashews, the pumpkin is sweet and creamy. The addition of ginger in the tomatoes, together with the lime, adds a whole extra dimension to each mouthful. It's so utterly divine that I make a mental note to scour the web for the recipe and make it myself when I get back home (although when I do, it's not nearly as good).

Roast aubergine, almond yoghurt, spiced almond flakes (£8.90)
Smoky and ultra soft, this eggplant is silky and luscious. There is something about adding creamy yoghurt to roast vegetables that instantly makes them twice as tasty. It must be the combination of tang from the yoghurt, paired with the sweet veg. Here, the yoghurt is flavoured with a hint of almond and crunch is provided by spiced flaked almonds.

Seared scallops, pickled daikon, chilli jam (£12.90)
Plump, sweet scallops have an alluring golden tan. Fresh pickled daikon and a green apple salad cuts through the dark, umami-rich chilli jam.

Spiced buttermilk cod, urid dhal, cavolo nero (£13.90)
Pretty as a picture, this dish branches out on an Indian whim with a thick, comforting dhal and soft fillet of cod which flakes apart nicely. I especially love the fragrantly spiced tapioca wafer on top, which is bubbly and light as a feather.

Beef brisket croquettes, Asian slaw (£13.90)
I've never had a croquette that is as crunchy and textural as this. There is something in the outer coating that makes it utterly crisp and creates a layer of puffed goodness to protects the soft meat inside. This isn't a conventional croquette, but rather consists of meat moulded into the shape of a croquette. The brisket has a lingering star anise flavour, and would be rather sweet if it weren't for the fresh slaw of red cabbage, capsicum and carrot.

Whole twice-cooked baby chicken, lemon myrtle salt, chilli sauce (£21.90)
In a clever take on an Asian-inspired barbeque chicken. Succulent meat hides under a layer of caramelised skin, which pairs perfectly with the vibrant chilli sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime. Lemon myrtle salt is a thoughtful addition but we enjoy the chicken so much that we don't think it needs too much.

Lamb rump, vanilla-braised chicory, sorrel pesto (£24.90)
After three weeks away from sunny Sydney, this lamb brought our tastebuds back home. Cooked to a medium pink, it's tender and juicy, and the sorrel pesto adds something quite different to the dish. We are left a little confused by the braised chicory, which is so heavy on vanilla that it almost tastes like vanilla ice cream.

Char-grilled broccoli, tahini, miso (£6.20)
Although it reads simply on the menu, this broccolini really packs a punch. Dressed in a miso tahini sauce, it's has a mouth-tingling Japanese flavour and toasty sesame touch that has everyone scrabbling for the last stalk. We also promise ourselves to try to recreate this at home.

Baked chocolate ganache, spicy hazelnuts, orange oil (£9)
Baked chocolate ganache. Genius. Rich and decadent, a generous quenelle of thick ganache beckons to be eaten. 

A sprinkling of sea salt brings out a jaffa-like flavour provided by the orange zest, which is echoed by a drizzle of orange oil. Spiced hazelnuts and a fluffy dollop of cream balances each bittersweet mouthful.

Tau fu fa, ginger gula melaka, mango, fresh coconut (£8.50)
A play on that soft, jelly-like tofu dessert, this is super smooth, light and very easily demolished. The toasted and fresh coconut shavings, cubed mango and layer of caramel-like ginger palm syrup takes us to the sunny tropics. 

Pearl barley and malt ice cream, chocolate soil, date fudge sauce (£8.50)
This is not any old ice cream. The combination of the nutty pearl barley and toasty malt is an ice cream revelation. 

Even better is the glossy fudge sauce, which comes in its own little pot so you can pour it over yourself and watch as it trickles over the latte-coloured ice cream. The dates add a special fruity sweetness that is far different to the sweetness of the dark chocolate soil. So. Damn. Good.

A couple of days later, we are wandering the streets of Spitalfields when we stumble upon an Ottolenghi deli in a quaint laneway. Eager to see what lays on display at this smaller deli, we follow our noses inside and are met with a dazzling array of vibrant cakes and pastries. 

Ottolenghi in Spitalfields
There is a large space for dining-in at this venue. The lunch menu is slightly different as it offers both the iconic Ottolenghi salads in addition to mains that come with a choice of salads for a fixed price. Dinner consists of both 'counter' and 'hot' dishes that are slightly cheaper compared to Nopi. When we visit after lunch, it is the vast line-up of colourful cakes, biscuits and slices that draws our attention. 

The baked goods on display feature favourite sweet combinations like rum and chocolate, orange and almond and berry and mascarpone, although the play on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavours that Ottolenghi is known does shine through little, too. We sample some freeze-dried raspberry meringues and contemplate taking some cakes home for dessert. 

Everything at the Ottolenghi delis and restaurants is based around a philosophy of serving heart-warming, delicious food that is bold and different without veering too far into the fine dining sphere. It's a philosophy that diners around the world adore. 


Nopi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

You Might Also Like


  1. I love Ottolenghi's fresh approach to food and ingredients. He makes me want to eat vegetables all day!