I have already done one post on Ottolenghi but I was very hungover that time and I figure I should just do it again.
Ottolenghi is a vegetarian or cake lovers heaven. It is also one the best places to go for brunch and lunch in London – in my opinion anyway!
The word vegetarian has been tarred with the wrong brush over the years. People expect vegetarians to live on a diet of Linda McCartney sausages, carrot sticks and celery. Ok, maybe that is a bit far but Yotam Ottolenghi has shown us over the last few years just how exciting the humble vegetable can be.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting his restaurant in Islington (or the three take away cafes branches in Notting Hill, Belgravia or Kensington), you may have been lucky enough to see one of his two cookbooks. The first, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook was written by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi and took influence from their home towns of West and East Jerusalem. But their culinary repertoire does not stop there as the book also features recipes with Italian, American and Lebanese infuences to name a few. The most recent book, Plenty, is yet another delectable mix of cuisines and lets face it, proper food porn.
Ottolenghi doesn’t just like to make dishes taste great, he uses vibrant colours and mixes them together to make the dish look appealing to even the biggest carnivore. It is refreshing to know that Ottolenghi himself is not even a vegetarian – he just understands that the humble vegetable can be so versatile in both taste and visually.
So it’s no surprise that his salads are renowned – there are non veggie options in the restaurant but everything is served cold. Don’t let this put you off though as the seared tuna, seared beef, lamb kebabs and salmon fillets are tasty winners.
Every time I have been, I say to myself that next time I visit I will order the French toast but every time I go back I can’t help but order the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on toast with a rocket salad. He uses Foreman and Field smoked salmon, which I know from visiting the Foreman restaurant is top quality salmon. I wondered for a long time how they managed to get the yolks so orange until I recently came across Clarence Court Burford Brown Eggs. My boyfriend and I had tried to recreate it a few times at home and added a bit of Turmeric to the eggs before scrambling, which worked but we soon realised that this is not the method used in the restaurant! I’m not sure if Ottolenghi uses Clarence Court Eggs but the yolks have the same rich orangey colour and taste fantastic.
We also ordered the Welsh rarebit and shared the two dishes. It was a huge error on my part – I totally forgot that Welsh Rarebit has a big dollop of mustard smothered over the bread so I was slightly disappointed as I am not a fan of mustard. At all. My boyfriend lapped it up though and left me with the majority of the scrambled eggs, which I was grateful for.
We ordered a plate of corn bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a side dish to share. I am gutted that this recipe isn’t in either of the books – I really want to know how to make it. It is utterly delicious – sweet but with a slight hint of spice from the chilli.
For dessert (yes you can have dessert at breakfast time too!) we ordered the cake that my boyfriend has become utterly obsessed with, the Macadamia Caramel Cheesecake. I have tasted a lot of the Ottolenghi cakes and I have to say that this is my favourite too. An absolute winner – with a biscuit base and a not too rich cheese centre, a creamy caramel sauce, crunchy macadamia nuts and crunchy caramel. Definitely not one for the health conscious. This recipe is in his first book but I haven’t tried making it yet – I just have a horrible feeling that after all the effort (there are a lot of stages), I will be disappointed with my attempt.
I ordered a pot of tea to go with the cake at the end of the meal – I just love the tea pots that are served at Ottolenghi. Another great thing about the restaurant is that the fresh produce is on show and the chefs have to come out of the kitchen to grab another aubergine or tomato. There is one long communal table, which spreads out along the length of the restaurant but there are also a few tables to the side for couples.
Chances are you have walked past it a few times – so you’ll know what I mean when I say that next time you pass the cafe/restaurant with the huge merringues in the window, you must go in for brunch or a cake and a spot of tea.
287 Upper Street
020 7288 1454