Ottolenghi

Why go here:

Ottolenghi is one of the most iconic restaurants in the country with its unique blend of exquisite, fresh food, abundantly presented in a cutting-edge, elegant environment. Ottolenghi is the celebrity chef is credited with introducing Israel cuisine to the London restaurant scene. Ottolenghi’s cakes and breads are equally famous.

What it looks like:

The Spitalfields branch of Ottolenghi is the newest and largest of them all. It includes a deli counter showcasing its array of colorful salads and freshly made cakes, a bar serving exciting cocktails such as with kumquat and passionfruit and a more formal dining space with all white walls, candelabras and low lighting. Sculptured artwork made of cardboard has been added and apparently they used a 100 year old photo of the street to help get it back to its original look.

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The food:

The head chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi are inspired by their respective childhoods in West and East Jerusalem but rest on numerous other culinary traditions, ranging from North Africa to Lebanon, Italy and California.

The dishes are quite small and they recommend ordering 2 to 3 dishes per person. The four of us decided to share six plates and then get desserts. The fish dishes arrived first. The sea-bass fillets were served with fennel and tomato salsa and topped with a delectable, green kohlrabi and basil labneh.

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The pan fried Pollock came with cauliflower puree and hints of Indian with the sides of chana dal, carrot and radish pickle.

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The prawns in a sumac and fennel marinade was quite spicy but the heat was balanced well with the feta, although I felt the bitterness of the fennel to be overpowering at times.

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Next we got to the meat dishes. The tea-smoked lamb cutlets were succulent came in a garlicky, charcoal-grilled aubergine mix, jalapeno sauce and pickled lotus root. An absolutely lip-smacking combo. The twice cooked pork belly was one of the dishes I found a little less exciting because the side of salted cod potato seemed to be lacking on the flavour front when compared to the other dishes. The venison koftas with green tahini sauce, lemon syrup with coriander was a wonderful take on the Turkish kebabs.

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The dishes were all noticeably tiny though, so that we definitely all had space for dessert. Thankfully, these were all enormous. The passionfruit and meringue tart was probably the best. The meringue was soft and gooey while the custard had a rich flavour and creamy texture.

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The chocolate fondant cake and as well as the apple, raisin and carrot cake were both soft, moist and delicious. The crumble with poached pear and marzipan was probably the only one I could fault because it was more like a big muffin than a crumble in terms of texture. Overall, the desserts were definitely a success though.

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Service can be a little aloof but is efficient. They were also open to getting us extra servings of delicious, freshly baked breads.

Verdict:

One of the most exciting fusion menus you can find in London and with dishes all perfected in taste and presentation. Yotam Ottolenghi has sold multiple cookbooks worldwide and introduced the Brits to Israeli food and a visit to this new venture of his makes it evident why they all love him so much.

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