*I will say it, I had my doubts about Nopi living up to the hype. How could anything top Ottonlenghi? Even if it was done by Yotam Ottolenghi himself (and it should be said, Sami Tamimi). I should have never doubted the duo.
The food I had at Nopi was extraordinary. Not because it relied on complicated techniques or spewed liquid nitrogen but because it was a complete synergy of flavours that is just awe-inspiring. And yes, I realize that I am talking about food and not…well I don’t know, something more worthwhile but being able to understand and amplify flavour like that, well it’s a little bit like magic. Or like a perfumer, adept at taking individual smells and amalgamating them into new successful combinations.
The Burrata with peach and fennel seed dust (£12) was out of this world. The combination was entirely new to me, in its totality it had an equal effect to what I imagine eating a peach for the first time must be like. Fantastic. Equally the non-fried doughnuts I had for dessert (made of brioche I was told) was just about the best yeasted thing to have passed my lips in a very long time.While I was sitting there, Yotam came in and we had a quick chat.
Now, little known fact about me, I once worked at Ottolenghi in Notting Hill. Ha! Well no, ‘worked’ is definitely overstating it. I had just finished Leiths and was (still am) in love with the food Ottolenghi were doing. I blagged my way into a kitchen position with the principal at Leiths gushing how great I was and how they were going to love me. Well, yes, I am great but I was (probably still am by restaurant standards) bloody slow in a kitchen. It took me over an hour to peel a crate of butternut squash so the savoury side of the kitchen fobbed me off to pastry. Where I took up valuable space and got given successively simpler jobs and managed to botch all of them up, until at last, I was asked to wrap cookies in celephane wrappers. I think I may have even done that wrong, not using gloves and getting greasy fingerprints everywhere.Obviously, I got fired after 5 days by Yotam himself. Somehow he managed to do it without crushing my spirit or my enthusiasm. He gently suggested that perhaps I wasn’t there yet but I certainly had the passion to learn what I was missing. Luckily, I found a job at Melrose and Morgan, not in the kitchen but in the office over the offsite kitchen which was, small world that it is, right next to the off site pastry kitchen of Ottolenghi. All roads lead to Rome it seems.There has been a lot of not very positive talk about the prices, big, and the portions, small.* No it’s not cheap, the reasons are probably twofold. First, there is no expense spared on ingredients, those little white peaches that were served with the burrata were fragrant heaven in fuzzy skin. Second, the kitchens are run by chefs, a lot of them, who have previously worked in big deal places. That costs money and cuts out margins which is why most restaurants will try to get one or two clued in people and then a scattering of what I can only describe as kitchen mercenaries whose main motivation is to get through their task list as soon as possible so they can get the hell out of the kitchen.
My lunch was just under £50 for 3 savoury plates and 1 dessert. I can hear your sharp intake of breath but for me, it was worth it. I really feel like these two guys are doing truly original stuff and innovative tastes. They are totally avoiding the current trend of dabs, blobs, sous vide abuse in favour of bold colour and flavour.
They are working on a new book about Middle Eastern food. “More traditional stuff.” Yotam told me. Of course, I can’t wait for it and it is a subject on which there is hardly anything of quality written. Absolutely, can’t wait!
21-22 Warwick Street
London W1B 5NE
T. 020 7494 9584
*”And the prices – never cheap at Ottolenghi – have now gone stratospheric. Nopi’s a smarty-pants restaurants that’s charging six quid for a tiny portion of cabbage (‘braised winter greens’ with tahini-yogurt, to be exact) that wouldn’t fill an ashtray.” Guy Dimond for Time Out.
* I will be writing from various cities in Europe for the month of June and will be back to Berlin and Berlin based posts from July. In the meantime check out “Places I’ve Eaten in ” for more reviews on restaurants in Berlin and “Berlin Favourites” for the places I recommend. And of course, I always love your comments and your emails so write!