21-22 Warwick St
London W1B 5NE
It’s not often that Gourmet Belly would choose to dine at 10pm on a Friday evening…but when it’s for a table at one of London’s hotly anticipated restaurant openings of 2011, the opportunity was too good to pass up.
NOPI is the new venture of Yotam Ottolenghi, founder of London’s highly successful gourmet deli/cafe chain “Ottolenghi”. As a huge fan of deli, his columns in the Guardian newspaper, along with the recipes from his best-selling cookbooks, I had very high expectations of NOPI.
Upon arrival, it was fairly obvious that much thought had been invested into the minor details of the restaurant. The golden “O” in the NOPI logo appeared to be a re-occurring theme throughout; from the coat tags given out at the front reception, the brass coloured vase, the shiny brass bar area at the back, right down to the napkin rings gave the restaurant a very stylish feel. And it was great to see the good man himself sat at the bar with friends ensuring that the cogs in the restaurant were running smoothly too!
As with all the “hot tables” sweeping across London, with the likes of Bocca di Lupo, Polpo and Polpetto, the dishes are designed for sharing and it is recommended that you order three dishes per person. Our table of four ordered the following:
Seared scallops with pickled daikon and green apple
- Grilled garfish with vine leaves and chermoula
- Slow cooked pig cheeks, celeriac and barberry salad
- Poached sea bass with tomato essence
- Burratta, blood orange, coriander seeds
- Grilled hake kebabs, lemon pickle, yoghurt
- Fondant swede gratin, savoy cabbage
- Baked blu di pecora cheesecake, wild mushroom
Seared prawns with feta, fennel and oregano
Chocolate, peanut brittle, mace, crème fraiche
Pineapple galette, pandan, coconut ice cream
The Garfish was a brave choice to include on the menu given what a bony fish this is. Despite Gourmet Belly being quite experienced in de-boning the flesh off fish, I still managed to get a bone lodged in my throat for about 15 minutes during the meal!!
Never one to let choking to death ruin a potentially fantastic dining experience, I dived into the complimentary sour dough bread served with a pea and mint dip without chewing, and washing it down with my Grapefruit and lychee cooler cocktail managed to rid the minor disruption to our meal. Not only was the bread and dip incredibly delicious – “Last night the sour dough saved my life!!”
- Our meal at NOPI
Highlights were definitely the slow cooked pigs cheeks, which were incredibly soft and melted away with every mouthful, the voluptuous Burratta, scrumptiously creamy yet light when eaten with the juicy blood orange; and the baked blu di cora cheesecake, albeit rich, was very moreish indeed.
But what had the Gourmet Belly most excited was definitely the seared prawns with feta. This was a surprise winner given we weren’t too sure about the combination to begin with, and without a doubt on the dessert front…the Pineapple gallette! You wouldn’t have guessed that I’m not a huge fruit dessert fan as I launched into the thing – clearly eating beyond my quarter ration and practically licking the plate 🙂
The bill came to about £40 per head including a cocktail per person. Admittedly with a couple of mixed reviews warning that prices were steep (£10 average per plate) and not to expect Ottolenghi’s usual fare cuisine wise, I was a little bit apprehensive. But after our dining experience, I thought the meal was well worth the money based on NOPI’s ethos of food quality, freshness and general gorgeousness.
Cocktails were probably a bit overpriced, and a huge shame we didn’t make it for the soft openings offering 50% off, as the belly could have quite comfortably eaten through the entire menu. Oh well…it looks like I’ll be back!
Did You Know?
- The name NOPI is derived from the restaurants Warwick St location – NOrth of PIccadilly
- Yotam Ottolenghi was previously the head pastry chef of the reknown Chelsea Cafe, Baker & Spice. This is where he gained some of his most valuable professional experience