A recent trip to London got me and Susie thinking about which fun restaurants to try out. After much thought it occurred to us that we had never been to any of Ottolenghi’s ventures despite being big fans of his cuisine. And so that is how we found ourselves at Nopi one Sunday afternoon.
Based on the outskirts of Soho, Nopi is unassuming from the outside and full of clean white and luxurious burnished gold on the inside. As we entered and were shown to our table our noses were filled with tons of aromatic and inviting smells.
The menu was fairly straight forward with a range of small dishes (to share as tapas or have as a starter) and about 5 main courses. The small dishes sounded amazing to me so we opted to pick a few to share so that we could try as many things as possible. In terms of drinks, we were still slightly jaded from the night before and so opted for a mocktail (don’t tell anyone!). I had a lush passionfruit juice with kumquat syrup. It came full of bright sunshine colour and tangy, refreshing flavours, I loved it! Susie had a cranberry, apple and cucumber cooler, sour and tangy, with the cucumber adding a note of freshness.
So, onto our dishes…first up were slices of chewy and crisp sourdough bread with a beautiful grassy olive oil to dip it in. This was followed by crushed carrot with labne. The carrot was like a humus style dip and was flecked with earthy cumin and punchy spring onion. It came adorned with rose petals, deep-fried beans and a generous dollop of creamy and tart labne. This was my least favourite dish of the whole ensemble but was still very enjoyable. For me the slight bittersweetness of the carrot was slightly over powering.
Next up came our fish courses. I was worried that having small dishes would mean we wouldn’t have enough food. However each dish was more than enough for us to share and both came with their own unique and stunning presentation. My favourite was the buttermilk cod with dal and crispy fish crackling. The fish was stunningly moist and creamy. The crackling was so good we ate it before remembering to take a photo. The daal was extremely comforting and warming – it reminded me to have fish curry more often. The other fish option was sea bream fillets with spiced potatoes, kale and a lovely mustardy broth. We had three generous fillets, again cooked to perfection with super crispy skin and turmeric infused potatoes in a sour and spiced broth.
There was a bit of a wait before our final meat dishes came. This was agonising as we kept seeing amazing food coming out of the kitchen but it wasn’t ours! When it did arrive we were not disappointed. We had pork cheek slow cooked in a sweet soy gravy and polenta. This was out of this world with the cheek so tender it fell apart at the touch and the sweet, rich sauce a perfect partner to the salty, cheesy polenta fries we had also ordered as a side. We also enjoyed curried lamb fillet that came pink and in thin slices with a celeriac remoulade and swirl of coriander salsa. The lamb was lovely and tender and the salsa had a fantastic spicy kick. By this point I was almost stuffed to the hilt but had to carry on eating as I didn’t want to waste any of the beautiful food.
Overall the Nopi experience was very fast, which we were impressed by. We had finished eating and had paid within an hour and given the quality of the food we had this was no mean feat! We liked the relaxed, opulent but not overstated dining room but felt that this wasn’t pompous fine dining, which was great as it meant the food could shine without being pretentious. We sat upstairs (ground floor level) which was nice and airy. I did pop downstairs to go to the loo (as instructed by Susie as they are an amazing sight!) where there is a more communal dining area looking on to the kitchen. This seemed completely out of character to the rest of the restaurant as it was a bit rough around the edges. The toilets didn’t disappoint – full of even more gold and a hall of mirrors! I couldn’t work out how to open any of the doors or turn on the taps, which was slightly stressful! Susie managed to take a photo – bizarre!
All in our meal was £40 a head for our array of small dishes and mocktails. We didn’t have room for dessert but the choices promised lots of intriguing flavours such as orange oil and fruits in many guises. I thought the price we paid was fair for the quality of food on offer. One small thing that irked us was the fact that a 12.5% service charge was added on without asking our permission. Perhaps this is still a common fad in London, most restaurants I’ve recently been to up North leave it to you to decide what service you pay. Often if the service has been good then we are prepared to pay a bit more. I think for places like Nopi, where prices are above your average eatery, then the service charge needs to be negotiated with the diner, I think it shows a bit more respect. Anyway that was a minor gripe at what was overall a superb meal.
21-22 Warwick Street
London W1B 5NE