NOPI – A new dawn

NOPI's Alice-in-Wonderland-style toilets. Quite mind-bending after some wine.

When I first read that the (hjonesy-titled) ‘King-of-the-veggie’ chef Yotam Ottolenghi was to open a ‘real’ restaurant in Soho I could barely contain my excitement. I have eaten in the Islington branch of the deli-cum-cafe-cum-restaurant several times and each time I have marvelled at how someone can take so few, simple, ingredients (including lots of veggies) and make them taste SO appealing. He’s a true pioneer in turning us Brits into people who can appreciate something made with just a few fresh, wholesome ingredients as opposed to something which has been cluster-bombed with ingredients and seasonings

 

I had already arranged, with D and his Mum (a real “Ottolenghi type”, according to our waitress at NOPI- D’s mum wasn’t sure whether she should be flattered by that but we tried our best to reassure her), to go to Islington Ottolenghi on Saturday 26th Feb. When I heard that NOPI was officially opening just two days prior to that I leapt online and swiftly amended our plans.

After finding their blog online about how the build was going and photos of them getting ready for launch, my excitement levels began to peak at an earth-shattering pitch. Come Saturday morning I had a fixed grin across my face for most of the morning.

We met up at NOPI around 1:30pm for our reservation and were greeted warmly and enthusiastically by the hosts. The style of the restaurant, I imagine, has been designed to feel like a ‘step up’ from the Ottolenghi eateries, but without stepping WAY off brand and into a terribly anally retentive fine-dining territory. All in all, it’s clean, it’s bright, it’s not too loud, and it’s perfect for a Saturday afternoon. Plus, the most obvious benefit over the Ottolenghi eateries is that you don’t have to join the back of a queue of 800 gaggling yummy-mummies, normally with impossibly large prams, to wait for a table.

We were shown to our table and greeted by our charming waitress. I struck up a slightly over-enthusiastic conversation with her asking how the first week had been and ‘dropping into conversation’ how I’d been keeping track of the progress on their blog etc. She must have felt the way celebrities do when fans eagerly dash up to them only to then find themselves completely dumbfounded and they just start waffling inanely about what they just bought at the shops, before walking off and smacking their head off the nearest wall. Needless to say D found that part of our NOPI experience just bordering on the ‘cringey’.

An impressive, but unpretentious wine list was presented to us and we ordered a bottle of the Biancodicaselle (being slightly impressed by the fact the grapes are grown in the soils of the volcano, Etna, in Southern Italy, and also being curious as to what white wines are like from that region given their impressive reputation for red wines). It was delicious. A perfect crisp, white wine for accompanying lunch.

Volcanic wines

Then the exciting part came and we got to order our food. I had studied the menu, daily, on their website for the entire week running up to our booking, and the one (and only) thing I was sure of was that I was going to have the churros with dark chocolate and fennel seed sugar for dessert.

 

NOPI’s menu is presented in a similar form to tapas. You’re recommended to select main 2-3 dishes (we did 6 mains between 3 of us and that was fine for lunch) all averaging at around the £10 mark, which makes it rather pricey for a tapas-style lunch – although this is ‘not your average tapas’ by any stretch.

Here’s what we had…

Burrata, blood orange, coriander seeds

Kohlrabi, mint soured cream

Prawn toasts, ginger and cucumber dipping sauce

Poached sea bass with tomato essence

Slow cooked pig cheek, celeriac and barberry salad

Braised winter greens, tahini-yoghurt

Pineapple galette, pandan, coconut ice cream

Churros, fennel seed sugar, hot chocolate

Undoubtedly, for me, the highlights of Nopi were the burrata, the prawn toasts and the churros dishes, but almost overshadowing the food at times was the charming, engaging and hospitable service from the staff. I’m sure they’re all trying hard as it’s a new opening, but they have now set a benchmark in my mind and I just hope that when I return (which will be soon) that their enthusiasm hasn’t waned. They’re a fantastic bunch of people, producing delicious food. What more could you want? (apart from maybe a slightly smaller bill at the end…)

NOPI on Urbanspoon

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About hjonesyfeeds

Living in London; working in marketing; eating like a pig; writing about it. View all posts by hjonesyfeeds

3 responses to “NOPI – A new dawn

  • Lizzie

    I liked the food at Nopi (the scallops, for example, were stand out) but I simply can’t believe they can charge £10ish for a bowl of chopped kohlrabi and some dip. Or a bowl of cooked greens with sauce on top. Scandalous!

    • hjonesyfeeds

      Yeah, you’ve got a very valid point. I did think that about the winter greens in particular. I tried to post-rationalise it afterwards that we’re paying for the ‘idea of putting tahini with winter greens’, but I’m not sure that rationale stood up against fact it’s essentially £7 for some greens, yoghurt and tahini, so it can still smart on the purse a bit when you break it down.

  • Francesca

    What more could you want? (apart from maybe a slightly smaller bill at the end…) If you read Giles Corren in the Saturday Times he would say a changing table for his new baby. Ended up changing her on “The Chef’s Table”. Nice!!

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