Sunday, 22 January 2012

North of Piccadilly



Yotam Ottolenghi is something of a gourmet sensation. Since bursting onto London’s restaurant scene last year, this Israeli-born gastronome has gone stellar- rapidly rising through the restaurant ranks from his upmarket takeout spot in Notting Hill to his most recent venue, Nopi, which regularly attracts queues of culinary customers eager to sample his delicate flavours and signature salads. And no wonder, too: Nopi (bizarrely named for being located north of Piccadilly) is a bright spark on Soho’s dining scene- with its all-white tile interior, marble floors and many, many mirrors (the disorientating toilets seriously play with your head). It’s fresh and clean- the perfect setting to enjoy his punchy, unique cuisine that wonderfully fuses Middle Eastern and Asian influences. Fans may know him for his bestselling vegetarian cookbook Plenty- his sunny salads and creative dishes with a twist- but the team at Nopi successfully deliver his food philosophy with innovation, dedication, and delicacy to Soho’s restaurant racket. Here, exotic ingredients and fresh, full-bodied flavours are the order of the day. Meat-lovers need not worry: the menu is divided into vegetable, seafood and meat sections, to ensure there is something to suit all tastes. But selfish diners should take note. Dining here is something of a lesson in generosity, with dishes exclusively designed to share. Goodbye food envy. No starters, no mains: it’s just one big bun fight once the plates are put in the middle. Forks and knives at the ready, everyone. 
Vegetable-wise, we tried the aubergine with spiced yoghurt, dukkah and pomegranate seeds and the five-spice tofu with cardamom passata. The flavours were exquisite and wonderfully fresh, and the tofu in particular easily carried the curious blend of Orient and the Middle East. From the ocean came baby octopus with skordalia, ras el hanout spices and hibiscus, whilst the land offered tea-smoked quail with cumquat and satsuma. Both were delicious, particularly the aromatic quail- each mouthful an explosion of strong flavours and creative zest. There’s no denying the portions were tiny, especially given their price tag, but hey- you can always just order more of the menu’s incredible dishes. Just make sure you save some space for dessert: to finish, we had the guava compote and the caramel and pecan icecream- a cherry on top that perfectly crowned this culinary feat.
NOPI on Urbanspoon

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