NOPI, Soho, London
I learnt a lot of things when we visited London the other weekend. I learnt that perhaps I'm not the best with telling 24 hour time (1440 does not equal 2.20pm). I learnt that I'm not the best with directions; leading us in completely the opposite direction from NOPI coming out of Oxford Circus tube station. And I also learnt that sometimes you should pay more than a cursory glance at a menu when you're looking for somewhere to go for lunch. Particularly if you're looking for somewhere cheap. That's how we ended up having lunch at NOPI. I had a 3 second glance at their menu on my iPhone, saw dishes all under £12 and though we were onto a super budget winner. We weren't. I failed to realise that it was sharing plates, so you were more likely to be spending around £30 a head. No bother, it was my own fault for not looking properly as it is very clearly marked on the menu. In the end, it was a very happy misfortune: it was our one month wedding anniversary after all, and we were treated to an amazing meal. NOPI is a beautiful, crisp and clean space that is instantly relaxing. Until you get to the bathroom that is, then you might get lost trying to get out again (hint - look for the arrow on the floor!).The menu has a great selection of dishes, and is easy to read and to narrow down dishes. We ate:
Spicy aubergine tart, goat cheese, datterino tomato - £9
I'm still deciding, but I think this was probably my favourite dish of the day. I am crazy for aubergine (or as us crazy Australians call it, eggplant) and this was perfect. I loved the smokiness, and there was a perfect balance of goats cheese and pastry. Heavenly.
Seared scallops, pickled daikon, green apple - £12
This was another favourite - a lovely crispy outside with the soft, silky texture inside was great, and I loved the sharp bite of apple with the delicate scallop. A light, refreshing dish.
Softshell crab, nashi pear, peashoots - £12
I loved this dish for all the different flavours in it and all the different textures in the crab. Some may consider this a daunting dish to eat but it really is a wonderful treat and filled with contrasts of flavour.
Chargrilled octopus, salmorejo sauce, morcilla - £10
I didn't love this dish. I felt like the octopus was lacking flavour or punch, it just didn't seem to deliver like I wanted it to because it looked beautiful (in a creepy octopus kind of way).
Miso quail, grapes, verjuice, honey - £12
By this point, I was pretty full and flavour-fatigued to be honest. I loved this. Look how beautiful those chives are! My chives at home certainly don't look like that. Quail and grapes are a great combination, the tartness of the grapes cuts through the meaty flavour of the quail to deliver a really well balanced dish.
Spare ribs with smoky corn
This doesn't seem to be on the NOPI menu online so I can't tell you how much it was. I'm not a ribs person but this dish persuaded me that they can be amazing. These were wonderfully meaty which I wasn't expecting, and the meat was succulent and fell off the bone.
Mixed berries, white chocolate ice cream, angostura bitters - £7
Chocolate, peanut brittle, mace, crème fraiche - £8
This is what happens when the waiter delivers the crushing blow that the dessert you really want, the doughnuts with plum wine anglaise and berry compote is not available (doesn't that sound wonderful?!). Your husband then graciously allows you to get the chocolate dessert while he gets the berries. (I'm pretty sure we've found the key to a perfect marriage already). I tried my best to convince him that the chocolate was awful and that he wasn't going to like it, but the fact I was shoving it down my cake-hole as fast as I could was a dead giveaway.The berries were a refreshing contrast to the chocolate dessert and I really like the bitters over the icecream. While this didn't quite scream "amazing restaurant dessert" to me, I think the freshness and mixture of the berries was great, and I will definitely be adding bitters to icecream for special occasions. We were so happy to have lunch at NOPI, it was a pleasant surprise and a really relaxing way to spend an afternoon before hitting Wireless festival. Since eating at NOPI, I've been cooking as many Ottolenghi recipes as I can find on the internet and have a new-found love of all things vegetarian.
What are some of your favourite vegetarian dishes?