Nopi has arrived, a worthwhile addition to the Soho food scene from Ottolenghi. I am a fan of Ottolenghi – both the restaurant and the cookbooks – and I was excited to try it. I love the style of cooking, the big flavours and the bright colours, and while it isn’t always perfect, it is always interesting and mainly delicious.
The room at Nopi is beautiful and bright, and instead of being greeted by a towering pile of meringues as at Ottolenghi, a copper bowl of chillis greets you at the door at Nopi. Pointing perhaps to the savoury domination of the menu, which is divided into Veg, Fish, Meat & Sweets. I love the ordering, veg is the star of the show here, as you would expect.
The menu points to lots of big flavours and interesting combinations and for most dishes delivers. Some tweaks are needed, a herb salad with the hake kebab had an alarming amount of dill which dominated and killed other flavours, and the pickled mushrooms with the otherwise delicous baked blu di pecora cheesecake were intensely bitter. There is a lot of potential here though and I think it will develop.
There were several highights, one was the burrata & blood orange with coriander seeds, although sadly the burrata didn’t ooze cream as I expected it would.
Brisket croquettes which were rich, intense and delicious, a lively asian slaw was a perfect addition.
Polenta with osso buco was a joy, rich creamy perfect polenta with intense shreeded osso bucco.
The hake kebab was really a fish cake, and underwhelmed, a shame as I love to see hake on a menu. My main issue was with the salad which dominated and distracted.
The desserts were gorgeous. The vanilla ricotta with blackcurrants and raw rhubarb was fresh, lively and perfect for lunchtime. Cardamom rice pudding with rose syrup and pistachio was comforting and aromatic.
The bathrooms are worth a little mention. A design feture decked out in mirrors, they are startling and amazing, resembling Supermans crystal cave. I can see a lot of tipsy diners getting stuck in there.
I loved the style of cooking and the atmosphere, and I do think that it will grow to become a favourite and a bit of a Soho institution. It will no doubt become a breakfast destination when they start serving them.
The only real down side for me is the cost, lunch without alcohol was £46 each for the recommended 3 dishes and a dessert, and while I feel that the prices are in most cases deserved (e.g the polenta with osso buco is a work intensive dish and was pitch perfect), it is a shame that it couldn’t be priced in a friendlier manner, like new Soho stalwart Koya or similar, where the following evening I had gorgeous quail for £7. I appreciate that they have different offerings, but the prices at Nopi could be a little cheaper. That way I could regularly enjoy it whereas for now it will remain a rare treat.