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