I’ve always been an avid meat-eater, but a fair portion of vegetables is pretty much compulsory for the sake of keeping my palate balanced. At times, after having too many meat-heavy meals in a row I would feel the need for a 100% vegetarian day. I’ve been eating a lot of korean BBQ, meaty Italian dishes and steaks lately so on this sunny November day in London, I decided to visit Yotam Ottolenghi’s Islington deli to get my #fitspo food fix. (yeah and so that I can post pictures on instagram with tags like #eatclean #instahealth #fitstagram)
Ottolenghi, also known as “the man who sexed up vegetables” (only found this in wikipedia, hah), is an Israeli chef specializing in middle eastern cuisine that draws influence from around the world. My good friend Eiko told me about his fresh and flavourful salads a while back, so I had to seize the opportunity to try them out whilst in London.
Whilst waiting in line I noticed that despite being famed for veggie dishes, the cakes and pastries looked highly appetizing as well. Queueing up next to the heavenly spread of goodies pictured below (imagine the beautiful smell as well) while being hungry for lunch was both mentally and physically tormenting. The queuers infront of me were unable to withstand the torture and called for some pastries from the take-out counter whilst waiting to be seated. I, however, knew that if I were to do that I would not be able to stop myself from eating too much before sitting down so I refrained from doing so.
For lunchtime, everything on the menu is already laid out at the front of the deli. Pumped up by the sight of all the colourful salads, I had already planned in my head to get a portion of everything.
And finally I got seated inside.
I ended up getting a portion of every single salad for my table of 3, sharing also a platter of Ottolenghi breads and 2 main courses. I did not care much about the main courses as I really only came for the salads, and yum! Every salad was prepared with noticeably fresh vegetables, bursting with bold, exotic flavours. The only dish that could have been better turned out to be the char-grilled brocolli with chilli and garlic, which was in fact the first thing I picked from the menu because I’ve always been a fan. The brocolli here was slightly too hard and dry for what I expected; perhaps chargrilling for less time would have been better? (btw I subsequently had a wonderful brocolli salad at Bea’s of Bloomsbury).
One of my favourites turned out to be the roasted aubergine with black garlic yoghurt, fried chili, caremelised hazelnuts and herbs. The unique combination of flavours complimented very well with the perfectly roasted aubergines, which were neither too chewy nor mushy.
The roasted sweet potato with ginger yoghurt, lemon, pickled red onion, black sesame seeds and parsley were also delicious, despite looking like a giant mess. This was probably the most addictive of the salads. The potatoes with Jerusalem artichoke, ras el hanout, almonds, sultanas, chilli and preserved lemon was less interesting in terms of flavouring. Simple and good, nonetheless. And here’s the mixed peppers and brown bulgar tabbouleh with mixed nuts, red onion and pomegranate seeds. And of course, hummus! Ottolenghi’s special butterbean hummus with roasted mushrooms cumin, cinnamon, chilli & parsley
The two main courses we went for were the filo parcels with burnt aubergine, feta, parsley, walnuts and sweet basil yoghurt and the free range chicken with cloves, cardamom, garlic, preserved lemons and turmeric. I had fairly low expectations for these so was quite happy to find that the chicken was not as dry as it looked and that the filo pastry was not oily at all.
The Ottolenghi bread platters are prepared at a tiny corner inside the restaurant – each plate consisting of freshly baked & cut sourdough, cornbread, Italian white and focaccia.
All served with some extra virgin olive oil of course.The dishes were actually presented in a style reminiscent of what I used to get at the college canteen – large spoonfuls of each salad/main course piled onto plates, like this
this,and this. Anyway, I left Ottolenghi feeling like a satisfied cow that just devoured a nice, organic, healthy meal. I’ll probably come try dinner next time (which I believe is served much more formally).
Obviously, upon stepping out the door I had to grab a few of these treats to make myself stay fat ‘cos you know, I love being fat. Well not really … I’m on a diet to be honest but who can resist stuff like this!!
287 Upper Street
London N1 2TZ
Tel: 020 7288 1454
Website : http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk