I said I’d probably never do a restaurant review, but then Ottolenghi happened.
Set in the heart of Islington on the infamous Upper Street, if you’re patient enough to wait for a table you’ll enter what can only be described as a sophisticated and delicious Mediterranean feast. The floor to ceiling glass windows, stacked with cakes and pastries, mean that even before stepping foot inside the restaurant, your subconscious has decided what it’s having for pudding (not that the choice is very easy at all). In the meantime, whilst you wait to be seated amongst the all-white-everything décor, the smartest and most charming of waiters will hand you a glass of ice-cold water along with the menu to feast your eyes on. But if this wasn’t enough, you’ll be conveniently stood amongst the platters of food on offer and only for fear of never being allowed back do you avoid grabbing a plate and running.
Once sat down, even with fewer than ten items on the lunch-time menu, you’ll find it near impossible to choose what to have. But luckily, the Ottolenghi concept enables you to choose a selection of salads to have with your meat of choice, and if you just so happen to go with a generous friend (thank you Ellie), “let’s go halves” allows you to taste all six if you’d wish.
Using locally sourced foods, Ottolenghi celebrates those most passionate about what they do and enables niche growers and farmers to share their first class ingredients with the London masses. Left in the hands of the talented chef (understatement) Yotam Ottolenghi, he makes sure no taste buds are left un-tingled when creating dishes that combine unusual and vibrant ingredients with classic comforts and familiar favourites. The result; an irresistible fusion of taste and texture, a pilgrimage for myself and other foodies. And better still, it doesn’t even break the bank that much and I challenge you to find a set of chirpier waiters/waitresses any more deserving of that extra 10%.
So, if you live north of the river, get yourself down to Ottolenghi- you have no excuse. And if you live south – don’t be stubborn, travel north, wait in line and prepare yourself for one of the tastiest meals you’ll ever have.
TOP TIP: Don’t eat at Ottolenghi and not have the aubergine. In fact, don’t even walk down Upper Street and not have the aubergine.