Sunshine has the power to transform, from the very first few glimpses into lengthening days to waking up to sunny mornings to spending long sultry evenings with a chilled glass of something in hand, the very notion of summer has Britain smiling.
Diets begin in earnest, and when the weather begins to transform, you can absolutely justify an alfresco ice cream as part of a healthy eating plan. We start to look at more fresh foods, BBQs, more vegetables and salads all start being high on the eating repertoire.
Yotam Ottolenghi has built a career out of extolling the virtues of the vegetable, his recipes are always colourful, cheerful and it seems to me, just filled with sunshine or at least, the promise of it.
On a warm, but rainy spring day (So typical London), I make my way to Nopi – part of the Ottolenghi suite of restaurants, an airy and buzzy vision in white.
You’re greeted by a salad bar glittering with the fruits and vegetables of the season, large crusty loaves, small plates of nibbles and fresh flowers and that sets the tone for what you’re about to eat – and it already has me wondering how I’m going to be able to choose.
There are small plates, nibbles and mains and since we don’t need the concept of small plates explained for must be the 700th time, we decide to share a few things, well actually pretty much everything we like the sound of, until we’re offered restraint advice by the very helpful staff.
We opt for a combination of the vege plates and the sides with just one seafood dish because I can never resist the sound of grilled prawns.
There were absolutely no duds – we had the roasted butternut squash with tahini, pine nuts, za’atar, the signature Ottolenghi courgette and Manouri fritters (Which I admit I was doubtful about), with sides of truffle polenta chips and chargrilled purple sprouting broccoli.
My two highlights were the wibbly wobbly Burrata served with blood orange segments and the prawns. Fresh, vibrant, spring like, they were putting a big spring in my step.
For drinks, we’d chosen a wine that was interesting but not one we thought we’d try again. Unfortunately I just can’t remember the name of the wine, which is not very helpful at the moment for you readers.
But when it came to thinking about our dessert, we got to chatting it through with our waitress – not to complain but just to offer our own feedback and she extremely kindly threw in a couple of blocks of their chocolate to have alongside our teas and coffees. Tummies were a bit full though so this was packed up to some grateful recipients at home.
We are living in a world where increasingly we are becoming mindful about what we eat, how much meat we eat and the provenance of what we eat and sometimes it can feel like a really conscious decision to decide between a vegetarian and meat eating diet, but at Nopi it felt entirely natural to gravitate towards the vegetable dishes.
You feel that Ottolenghi treats vegetables with the exact same importance, love and attention you see in meat dishes, nay probably even more.
I really enjoyed my lunch at Nopi, I loved that flavour transformation from what I expected; yes there were the Middle Eastern/ Israeli/ Mediterranean flavours I had expected, but a hint of the South Asian in there elevated this experience for me. It’s an excellent middle of the road option for a lovely lunch or evening out and I will most definitely be back.