Ottolenghi is by now a bit of a culinary cliché. I don’t mean that in any bad way – just that it has been so talked and written about that it seems as familiar as soft falling rain. In case you haven’t heard of it, the phenomena that is Ottolenghi is a set of four food shops in central London run by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. The shops are in Islington, Belgravia, Notting Hill and Kensington; the Islington branch is also a full restaurant, the Belgravia and Notting Hill branches have small communal eating-in areas at the back of the shops and Kensington which is the smallest shop serves take-out food only.
I am a fan of Ottolenghi, via their cook books, two of which – Ottolenghi the Cookbook and Plenty are stowed in my kitchen bookcase. But I had never been to any of the Ottolenghi branches so I decided to put this to rights when I was in London earlier in the week and visited Islington’s Upper Street’s Ottolenghi for my morning caffeine fix.
The Islington shop and restaurant is an über cool place where delightful deli meets distinctively designed restaurant. The space is long and narrow with white-painted walls and a planked floor. There are two long white shiny communal tables in the centre of the room and along one wall some smaller tables for those who prefer to dine a deux. All this white could prove monotonous but it doesn’t as there are plenty of enlivening splashes of colour from: flowers; primary coloured chairs; wall decorations; and the massively inviting colourful food displays.
I was in Ottolenghi to have a coffee and the latte I ordered was smooth and flavoursome. I can as Oscar Wilde said ‘resist anything but temptation’ so having feasted my eyes on the eye watering display of patiserrie I caved in and had some excellent cake. The service was casual-friendly and struck just the right note to chime with the food and the surroundings.
‘We take our food extremely seriously. We make everything right from scratch. We don’t buy anything other than raw ingredients, and we only produce things that we would want to eat ourselves. We don’t use colouring or preservatives, we don’t freeze and we don’t refrigerate for long periods. We buy mostly local produce …’
I will go back to sample further …