Drink & Dine

Ottolenghi Islington – An oasis of Mediterranean tapas

Ottolenghi has always been a dessert place in my mind, but recently I had a chance to sample their main menu with some Yelpers. The menu reads more like the Italian version of tapas than anything else albeit more refined than rustic when it comes to preparation and style of food. It’s expensive, but as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for and in this case it might just be worth it.

The restaurant is the epitome of clean lines, smooth surfaces, and shiny metals. Everything seems designed to send the message that fresh and healthy are words to live by. However, in order to keep the vibrant space feeling open, there is very limited seating and reservations are a must.

Meeting friends?

Unfortunately, although Ottolenghi has a great wine list, there isn’t much room to chill out and wait for the rest of your group. Not a problem though as Slim Jim’s Liquor store is across the street if you fancy a cocktail. There are a number of pubs nearby and of course the bar scene of Angel is just a few minutes away. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, there is always 69 Colebrook Row or the Public House relatively close by for an top class cocktail to get your night started.

What to eat?

The menu is fairly well mixed with plenty of veggies and meats making an appearance. As to be expected, each dish is elegantly crafted but correspondingly small. In keeping with the tapas-style theme, you will want to order around 2-3 dishes per person and the best way is to order a bunch and share! Keep in mind that some items (particularly the veggies) are pre-made and served cold whereas the meats tend to be hot dishes that will take a bit longer to show up.

We opted for a wide range of items that encompassed almost every aspect of the menu. The standouts for me were the eggplant (aka aubergine) which was smoky and topped with a light feta yoghurt and picked cucumber, the seared yellow-fin tuna crusted with black and white sesame seeds, and the pig cheek schnitzel. This is even more impressive given that I tend not to like eggplant but this dish was absolutely fantastic. The tuna was top notch and just barely seared which allowed the rich fatty flavours of the fish to shine through. The schnitzel was interesting and boasted a deep meaty flavour – on its own it was good but I think as a dish it fell slightly flat as the accompanying chilli jam and apple sauce were weak and tasteless.

Of course, I can’t go to Ottolenghi and not get a dessert. Hell, my first visit to one of the locations resulted in me ordering every chocolate dessert they had because they looked so good! I was in danger of doing this again but since none of my dining companions wanted dessert (yeah I don’t know what’s the deal with that either) I had to select just one. This time I went for the rum and dark chocolate fondant cake which was just pure win. There wasn’t much of a rum taste and the accompanying cream made it a visual nightmare, but the silkiness of the cake and the gorgeous rich chocolate flavour more than made up for it. Even the “I don’t want dessert” trio I was eating with couldn’t help but dig in.

Ah, I need a drink!

Do you want wine? I hope so as that’s all you can get here. The wine list is about right for the place but focuses primarily on Italian and French offerings with the occasional Hungarian. While that doesn’t help my craving for Rioja, I did find a spicy Hungarian which I can’t pronounce or spell which did the trick. The wait staff are fairly knowledgeable about the wines on the menu which is a definite plus – a surprisingly not something you can take for granted in London even at this level of place.

Worth the dosh?

This is a bit tricky. 7 plates, 3 glasses of wine, and 1 dessert came to £140 including service. At £35pp, it was a bit on the high end given that it was a fairly light dinner but the quality of the food can’t be disputed. I’d say yes, but not a place I can venture to often as Visa is only so understanding before they ask for their money…

Find Ottolenghi – Islington here

287 Upper Street

London, N1 2TZ

020 7288 1454


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