21-22 Warwick Street London W1B 5NE - 020 7494 9584

I first encountered the food of Yotam Ottolenghi on a balmy summers lunchtime a number of years ago, back when I was interning at Temperley. Round the corner from the idyllic cobbled mews was the equally idyllic west London "local cafe." Between the towers and turrets of sweet treats I glimpsed ladies lunching on perfectly pink seared meats, and milling around the towering mounds of assorted rainbow vegetables tousled in nuts and herbs. It was a beautiful sight. Real live food porn, compelling you to buy buy buy! And I did and have been doing ever since, because the food always tastes as good as it looks. So when the winning formula is spun on its head and dishes are sold on the traditional restaurant confines of written words on a menu, will the offer still be as attractive?

Prior to my visit to this spot just north of the bustling Piccadilly, I had most commonly heard of it being recommended as an excellent destination to brunch at, which now I am guessing is because your pretty penny will be a bit more stretched here. Perhaps it's the gold trimming and marbled floor we are paying a extra for, however any grumbles are laid to rest as the food is equally as excellent as any other Ottolenghi outpost, each dish is a gloriously vibrant medley of flavours, spanning influences from across the Middle East and Asia. I particularly like the ode to the beginnings with a small shrine of salads at the front, teasing each customer in further to smell, wanting to touch and order.

The menu is aimed to attract a crowd who could be after a nibble or a full on chow down at any time of day, so there are a handful of hearty mains but there is a heavy sharing dish bias. Where re orders and additions can easily be made, we followed suit quite happily. Starting with the unleavened crackers, lavosh which were covered in a trio of seeds and served with charred aubergine and sweet red pepper. The prawns tasted as if they had a dose of teriyaki treatment, sticky and sweet but hinting at smokiness from the bacon sauerkraut. A similar savoury sweetness appeared on the cod dish, but only in a dash through the velvety creamed corn and juicy cod but then reappeared in the chunkier form of the corn kernels and cured sausage pieces.

Ottolenghi is known to make even the most dedicated of carnivores stray and eat, dare I say a wholly vegetable based meal! This runs true at Nopi, the ricotta stuffed courgette flower drizzled with molasses was a joy as too was the asparagus, samphire and nigella seeds. Even the side salad deserves a mention; true, it was just a collection of herbaceous leaves but it was remarkably fresh and full of punch, with sweet bitterness from the intact stalks. 

 I almost forgot about the turrets of perfectly swirled meringues as pudding came, a spiced apple tart with mint invigorated pineapple and vanilla ice cream, another mini trip to an exotic land in a matter of mouthfuls. With the last gulp I was still unable to answer my own question of what has this fancier outpost offered that is positively different to what is already known and loved. The setting is more lavish but not in an over imposing way with the staff all smiles, there is the absence of picking up a cheeky piece of macadamia cheesecake. Though the food is just as exciting, having the ability to transport you to markets and lands you wish you had already known. I admit defeat, the food holds its own and that is good enough for me!

NOPI on Urbanspoon


Brasserie Zedel

20 Sherwood Street, London W1N - 020 7734 4888

Turning off from the brash bright lights of Piccadilly and into the more warm and forgivingly lit room of Cafe Zedel you are transported immediately to the otherside of the channel. A top hatted doorman assists you with the door then your eyes are led like Alice through the looking glass with curiousity from mirrored turn to the next, spiralling down a warren of art deco to an elaborate underground cove of grandeur. As if preserved for over half a century the marbled columns edged with gold and caramel inlaid wood floors look exotic in comparison to all the white tiled and bare bulb interiors that seem to decorate all new openings of late. As for the menu it read almost wholly in French, whilst I adequately dceiphered the confit de canard from the boudin noir we struggled with the likes of Cuisses de Grenouille and Carrelet Meunière. After asking the waiter for assistance and then requesting an English menu I was slightly embarrassed and felt like an ignorant tourist in my own city, making the experience that bit more authentic to that of ordering in France. All forgiven though as soon as the sliced baguettes and creamy butter arrived.

The choice was vast, each course offered atleast fifteen variations and this is without the inclusion of the plats du jour or fixed price menu. We opted to share an onion galette to start, which was a delightful simple golden flaky pastry topped with sweet slow cooked onions studded with salty anchovies and black olives. From the starter and salad section we ordered dressed carrot to accompany our mains, on reflection if we doubled up on starters and had the carrot dish that trio would have made very handsome meals on their own. The promise of dressed sauerkraut with a selection of meats from the annexed part of the menu of Choucroute tempted me over any of the other French classics. A frankfurter, thick cut smoked pork belly and slices of garlic sausage adorned a mound of delicately pickled cabbage and perfectly turned potato boulders. You got creaminess from the starchy potatoes, smokiness from the meats all cut through by a pleasant pang of acid from the cabbage, a perfect winter meal, if I missed out the starter I would have been able to squeeze in the superior version that included the ham hock and Moreau sausage for a humble £15.

Expectant crowd pleasers like steak and fries sat alongside more regional favourites such as the above Alsace platters and normandy fish stew. The meat offer was equally balanced with various fish options ranging from grilled and doused in a herb butter infusion or pan fried and dressed in an escabeche.

Although we were defeated by our savoury courses the indulgent chocolate mousse for sharing or perhaps the lighter option of sorbet and champagne was still tempting us. All of the dozen deserts were pulling at our sweet tooth and all coming in at under five pounds, caution was ever so nearly being thrown to the wind. But alas, although we pretty much felt as if were in Paris, we were in London and not on holiday, and indulgent overeating couldn't be justified.

Brasserie Zedel is old school in its approach, deflecting little from all classic aspects of a brasserie; a plethora of affordable food and drinks, served by waiters in well pressed monochrome and open for all main meals and anything in between. When you would be lucky to get change from a tenner when you stop for a sandwich and flat white at your favourite trendy Aussie coffee shop, feasting on two courses then finishing off with a coffee in lavish surroundings for the same price is a steal. Zedel's offering is a handsome and affordable one, the odd high nosed disgruntled waiter is the only sour point, but even this makes for a more realistic experience, like a true mini break but in your own city.

Brasserie Zedel on Urbanspoon


Shacking Up!

The Classic Cheeseburger
I have just been catching up on food news and new arrivals and almost fell off my seat at the confirmation of Shake Shack setting up shop in London! I am a self proclaimed Shack mega fan, despite only sampling the blessed burgers a handful of times, each has made me more of a devout fan. A couple of times from the original at Madison Square Park and more recently at the Mall of Emirates in Dubai. Everything on the menu has become somewhat legendary; quality burgers, crinkle fries (crinkled supposedly to maximise the surface area and increasing crunchiness), concretes from flavour heaven - it is fast food but made to perfection. Under Danny Meyer's watchful eyes he is now bringing his slick burger operation to Covent Garden early next year, opposite MeatMarket no less. With the ridiculous influx of burger joints around the capital, this has to be the hotly tipped one yet!
Just couldn't decide. so ordered the whole menu!
What dreams are made of.