North of Piccadilly, or NOPI as it’s commonly called, is an undeniably beautiful restaurant. Unlike Yotam Ottolenghi’s other eateries, it doesn’t have a take-out counter, large bowls of meringue or a salad bar as it’s his first wholly dedicated brasserie, serving food inspired by the Middle East and Asia.
Now, before I focus on the food, it’s worth describing NOPI in a little more detail. Although in no way tacky, the restaurant looks a bit like a palace, with its white marble floors and use of the colour gold on everything from the low hanging lights to the napkin rings. But, you haven’t seen anything until you go to the bathroom, which can only be described as a gold version of Willy Wonka’s glass elevator.
I don’t think I’m the first person to take a picture in this bathroom, and I doubt I’ll be the last, so if you ever go, please open the door carefully to avoid banging into a budding photographer.
Moving onto the food, the menu is divided between veg, fish, meat and sweets, all designed for sharing with six or seven options in each section. Starting with the veg, we went for cauliflower with ricotta, golden raisins and capers…
as well as courgette and manouri fritters with lime yogurt…
…and from the fish selection, we chose seared barramundi, salsify, peas, broad beans and Chinese sausage…
and seared scallops with a fennel puree and apple salsa (almost half the fish dishes were seared – clearly a favourite method at NOPI).
The cauliflower was delicious, but that’s no huge surprise as Ottolenghi is a bit of an expert when it comes to flamboyant vegetarian dishes. Kept moist by the Greek manouri cheese, the courgette fritters were also immensely satisfying, as was the barramundi, a white fish often known as Asian sea bass. However, my favourite of these four had to be the scallops, which were interestingly paired with an apple salsa – a refreshing alternative to bacon, which is the common and, in my opinion, overpowering scallop pairing.
For some reason, when it comes to food I’ve always associated Ottolenghi with fish and vegetables, but never really with meat. Because of this, I’m surprised to say that the best thing on the NOPI menu were the meat dishes. First there was the divine rabbit pastille, which I like to describe as a meaty eccles cake with its light, flaky pastry and sweet rabbit filling.
Even if the rest of the food had been terrible, the pastille was good enough to make me want to go back to NOPI time and time again. Sadly I don’t think it’s on the current menu, so if you ever happen read this Yotam, please please being it back! Also notable was the delicately intense presa iberica carpaccio, served with pine nuts and Ottolenghi’s old favourite cheese manouri.
If all that wasn’t enough, we also had a jar of slow cooked pork belly, which was teamed with a coco bean cassoulet and served with salsa verde. Unfortunately the pork belly cassoulet didn’t quite pack the punch I was expecting, but luckily the salsa verde gave it the flavour it needed.
Even writing this makes me feel full, so it probably doesn’t come as a surprise when I tell you we didn’t have room to sample anything from the tempting dessert menu. Maybe next time I’ll go a little easier on the savoury dishes, as the chocolate hazelnut slice with mahlab and cherries almost sounds too good to be true. Also unsurprising is the price, as any restaurant with a glass elevator bathroom is going to be expensive, so it’s probably worth waiting until pay day before booking a table.
NOPI, 21-22 Warwick Street, London W1B 5NE