Flavours by the dozen – (Ottolenghi) – 7.5/10

Many moons ago one’s American chum, Remington, who is an ardent fan of good food and fine dining had been impressed after his visit to Ottolenghi in North London. So on a wet, dreary London evening Fortescue and I set off to meet up with Remington and Myerscough. We arrived, somewhat soggy, to a lively very white restaurant entrance festooned with tempting cakes, more cakes and a selection of enticing dishes from which one could choose. You see dear readers,the novel twist is that it is both a delicatessen and a restaurant. Fortescue immediately spotted the oversize meringues of which he is most fond and licked his lips with the obvious knowledge that dessert was now decided.

The restaurant caters to a trendy Islington crowd and pre-theatre diners for the Almeida which is opposite. We were seated on one of the two large white refectory tables which dominate the back of the restaurant. This is communal eating at its uber trendiest. The restaurant is quite small which lends an intimate feel to the experience.  The choice of food and wine is eclectic. The menu offers a choice from the kitchen or from the delicatessen.

From the interesting and reasonably priced wine list we selected a Hungarian Kekfrankos. An underrated wine producing country with a history tarnished by the 1970’s success of the cheap but drinkable Egri Bikaver or Bull’s blood. We all agreed that this was a most palatable wine. As one might remember, one was recently in Budapest and found some wonderful rich, full-bodied red wines. If only one had made a note!

We were brought bread and olive oil as is de rigueur in more trendy establishments. Remington was disappointed as he asked if there was any of the corn bread. Fortunately there was and it didn’t last long as we all tucked in.

The idea in this restaurant is that one chooses a selection of dishes from the menu and these are then shared. It’s an interesting concept and led to some interesting discussion about how we would select the dishes without running up an extravagantly large bill. Harrumph, one must say that this was becoming a bit too hippy for your dear Doctor. Communal tables, shared meals, whatever next? Would we be sitting round a camp fire at the back singing kumbaya my lord?

So we each chose two dishes and trusted that this would suffice. Amongst the highlights there was some delicious rare beef (cook take note!), All the flavours were constructed with the utmost care. Beetroot was succulent and oh dear…one really should take some notes…tuna? cauliflower done in different ways…. We all agreed that some of the flavours were exceptional…except Fortescue who really would prefer a slice of beef with roast potatoes.

Desserts were selected from the tempting choice in the window. One should not eat here if one is hungry as it is easy to get carried away. Fortescue had his large meringue and beamed at us.

Overall, one felt that the ambiance did not lend itself to a relaxing, lengthy dinner as the pace was more of a café. It’s an interesting concept and the flavours are wonderful. One would most definitely return but maybe book one of the small two-seater tables for a more relaxed meal.

OTTOLENGHI Islington
287 Upper Street
London N1 2TZ
Tel: 020 7288 1454
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Categories: Doctor Lunch, European, London, Stable (££), UK, Worth a visit

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