Ottolenghi – Restaurant Review | Condé Nast Traveler


Middle Eastern

Tell us about your first impressions when you arrived.
People visibly slow down as they pass this place—it’s impossible not to, once you’ve glimpsed the cakes arranged in the window, from frangipane tartlets and vanilla-cherry cheesecakes to giant, berry-swirled meringues. Inside, past the counter of daily-changing salads, it’s almost monastically simple; airy and white-painted, with long communal tables. Candles come out in the evenings, when it’s noisily atmospheric. Try to score one of the tables for two, to escape the good-natured throng.
What was the crowd like?
The core clientele is Islington’s cultured, foodie locals (who own all of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, but would way rather eat here). In the morning there might be small children playing tag around the tables, laid with serve-yourself toasters and spreads; evenings are more grown-up, and the long tables buzz with conversation.
What should we be drinking?
Wines are natural-leaning and come sourced from small producers, with a good range of options by the glass; try the amphora-aged, orange Moscatel from Bernabé Navarro. At brunch, it’s all about the Mimosas, served from 10 a.m..
Main event: the food. Give us the lowdown—especially what not to miss.
Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s food is full of color and spices, rooted in the Middle East but open to new ideas. What’s on the counter changes every day, but will include some of the most delicious-looking salads you’ve seen in your life (green beans with orange, cashews, and tarragon; roast zucchini with saffron yogurt, pomegranate, and pine-nuts). The breakfast menu runs from cinnamon brioche pretzels to more substantial plates, like scrambled tofu spiked with rose harissa, or salsa-laced corn cakes. Our favorite? The plump Dutch baby pancake with poached fruit, orange yogurt and a dusting of sugared star anise.
And how did the front-of-house folks treat you?
Staff are cool and unflappable, even with toddlers on the loose, and happy to advise on the crucial decision; what cakes you should try (one’s not enough).
Anything else to know before we go?
There are four outposts of Ottolenghi now, but this is the original and our favorite. You can reserve in the evening but not at brunch, which is overrun at weekends; come on a weekday if you can, when the vibe’s sunny and unhurried. Before you go, pick up some supplies from the deli: jars of fragrant dukkah and za’atar, plus the lemon and vanilla marmalade.