Friday 3 June
Often when I sit down to eat in a friend’s kitchen I notice the similarity of the line of cookery book spines on show. In the last year these have all contained the two Ottolenghi cookbooks. When I am lucky friends will cook one of the exquisite dishes from the books. OL can even make quinoa tasty and visually thrilling. I have been a loyal supporter of his first mini-food palace in Ledbury Road and now often stop in the Motcomb Street shop.
Imagine my joy when the great man opened Nopi in western Soho. My young, pretty, and intelligent friend, Pandora, tells me the name means North Of Piccadilly. Unfortunately, it is a little lavatorial in its white tiled walls, but Warwick Street has always been short on light, and the last two attempts to make the site an attractive restaurant produced cave like conditions. This is not the case with Nopi.
The welcome is warm and service good ina restaurant where you have to book well in advance to secure a table. The menu is original healthy and tempting. So much so that save for the occasional man the majority of fellow eaters are fresh, sunny, well–groomed, women apparently come to compare their execution of Yotam’s recipes with the real thing.
This is my second visit. The first time I left ecstatic, having eaten lightly with a childrens’ publisher. My fellow eater on this occasion was more macho and made me regret my suggestion we share the tapas sized dishes; but the menu proposes diners share, and recommends three per person; two each is enough.
The menu is divided into four: Veg, Fish, Meat, Sweets. My co-diner apparently had a personal Nopi rule; don’t mix meat and fish. I let him choose meat. Two pig cheeks later I was sorry. I like pig, and although this pig’s cheeks were tender they came in a rich thick, browny-reddy sauce that just did not compute for me as an Ottlenghi dish. We shared Veg too, spicy aubergine tart with datterino tomato (?) and a Moroccan something described on the menu as Shakshuka, North African dish of braised eggs with pepper and tomato. I don’t why it appealed in words; it consisted of a baked skillet of red peppers and eggs, and I was sorry I had ordered it. The aubergine tart was not round, but a long, thin rectangle of fine pastry topped with a good aubergine concoction. Nevertheless, I was underwhelmed. I was also disappointed in my choice of Meat: twice-cooked baby chicken, a poussin cut in two, which, while light and tapas sized was extraordinarily unremarkable.
Maybe my expectations were too high, and maybe I should have never suggested sharing any of dishes, both before and after I was told of the no fish and meat rule. But all in all it did not seem like the restaurant I had eaten in one month earlier. I will have to return and stick to my guns of eating Veggy-Fish dishes in this very girlie restaurant: ceviche, scallops, salad, nothing with a thick sauce, and definitely no pig meat.
On the plus side there was Ottolenghi sourdough and the drinks list is good, though clove syrup in a Pineapple and Sage Martini does set the teeth on edge.