Saturday 17 October 2009

Otto-yummy-lenghi in Islington

It’s always fun to spontaneously treat yourself to dinner out on the town once in while, especially if it’s to somewhere you have been fantasising about for months.

Ottolengi is pretty much perfect in my eyes. Having bored Browny to tears with my endless chat about the deli in Belgravia after only a single visit, plus virtually numbing his taste buds with tons of recipes from the cook book, I was delighted when he took me up of the offer to visit the founding restaurant in Islington.

I am a massive fan of life south of the river, but I am increasing becoming drawn to the lights and excitements Upper Street up north. When we arrived at the restaurant I wasn’t surprised to see it was filled to bursting and relieved they managed to slot us in, despite a cock up on the booking.

A long, rectangular white box of a room, which accommodates long, thin wooden tables interspersed with mini ones, has all the potential to create a sterile, intrusive and noisy space to eat in. But here, they have been very crafty and managed to make this into a romantic, cosy and intimate eatery. The candles flicker, the voices and laughter seem to be magically absorbed and it’s vibrant yet relaxing.

The service was efficient, knowledgeable and delightful, but they did successfully manage to persuade us that Champagne and puddings were a good idea, when I had gone in with the firm intention to only share 3 or 4 main dishes. But when the quality of ingredients, cooking and presentation is this good, it is impossible to resist!

The bread basket was exciting enough. A variety of white, granary, nutty, fruity and cake-esque combos of bread arrived, along with pool of thick juicy extra virgin. It didn’t take long for these all to vanish and for Browny to get his mitts on seconds!

Following their recommendation, we decided to opt for 5 sharing plates to satisfy two hungry commuters after a hard day in the office. It was lovely to see the recipes which I have tried myself reproduced in front of us. The smoked aubergine salad with pomegranate seeds never disappoints and the fresh asparagus with crumbled pecorino was so refreshing it almost quenched my thirst.

The rare smoked pigeon salad with peppery leaves and shoots was balanced and autumnal. It almost echoed with woody flavours. The ginger beer battered monkfish with chorizo was very naughty - the crust had the crunch of a ginger nut biscuit and the inside flaked like a half hearted spy under interrogation. But the show stopper for us had to be the scallops with black pudding. The milky coloured flesh had a harsh char grilled edging. This delivered a wonderful smoky yet subtle flavour as well as creating exciting textures on the tongue.

The usual down side of sharing plates is that they often leave one corner of your belly feeling unloved. The only remedy for this was to order a vast raspberry cheesecake and also a basil and lemon ice cream. The cheesecake was, well, a cheesecake and somewhat uninspiring, but the fragrant ice cream on the other hand was one of the highlights of my summer.

This place is ace. Expensive. But truly inspiring.

By Cowie

All images are from the Ottolenghi blog which seems very interesting.


Jessica said...

Ah, sounds fantastic. I too am a otto cookbook devotee and get excited every time I think about making something from it for dinner. This place is dangerously near my house and so far I haven't been able to walk past without getting a meringue. Whole meals are out of the price bracket for the time being, enjoying staring and reading about others' experiences while I psyche / save up for it...

Browners said...

@Jessica Rose - When you get the chance to go you'll think I can manage with only a small salad and then before you know it you'll have ordered everything on the menu. Simply because it is just too good!

Helen said...

I loved it too. It is so pricey though! My colleagues bought me a voucher as a leaving gift and I had a fantastic time spending it. I am so glad you went during the day though, just for the sake of the photos! Mine were truly terrible as it gets so dark in the evening.

Unknown said...

I absolutely love Ottolenghi. I once had the Asian-style aubergine (best dish ever IMHO); it was grilled aubergine tossed in sesame oil and soy sauce. I was disappointed that it wasn't included in the cookbook, but every time I go back I cross my fingers and hope that they've got it back on the menu.

Browners said...

@Helen - It's really very pricey. But then again if they are following the recipes from the book (which I'm sure they don't have to by now!) then each dish has so many processes involved that I'm not surprised about the cost. I have to be honest the photos we took were abysmal so these are just lifted from the Ottolenghi website with a little credit and link back to their blog.

@Joseph - Thanks for the tip. Must try asian aubergine as soon as possible!

Helen @ World Foodie Guide said...

I keep walking past different branches of Ottolenghi and can't believe I've still not been to eat at any of them. I know you guys are big fans of the book! Maybe when I'm feeling rich...

Browners said...

@Helen - Just pop in for a quick lunch and you'll love it. But be prepared for it to be double the price of a normal worktime lunch!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin