Nopi is the latest restaurant from the group behind the successful Ottolenghi chain of restaurants. Its cuisine is an exciting mix of Asian and Middle Eastern influences and they postively encourage diners to share dishes, making for a fun and informal way of eating a wide selection of dishes. Ideal for the diner who craves variety.
There were originally different menus for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. But apparently they have decided to keep it simple for now and just serve lunch and dinner. Dishes for lunch and dinner are arranged in 4 simple categories: meat, fish, vegetables and sweet.
All the dishes were beautifully presented, like the rose veal carpaccio, beetroot and kashk (photo above). They were in small portions, similar to that of Spanish tapas or Chinese dim sum, as they were designed to be shared.
The seared scallops, pickled daikon and green apple (photo above) were a delight, they were seared and served with what we assumed was a variation of XO sauce. Scallops served with a sauce made of dried shellfish and oil. We loved it- and were in umami heaven. It was scallops raised to the power 2.
The beef brisket croquets with Asian slaw was very enjoyable. Imagine a cross between a Chinese yam croquette 芋角, and aromatic crispy duck 香酥鴨. A crisp crunchy shell with tender shredded beef inside with a hint of five spice.
The grilled hake kebabs, lemon pickle and yoghurt was light and refreshing. Even though it looked like a fish cake, the texture of the hake kebab was similar to that of good Chinese fish balls. We loved it!
It is best to go to Nopi in a group as you get to try more dishes. We went in a group of 4 and we ordered 3 savoury and 1 dessert dishes each which meant we could try 16 dishes in total. We were told that the dishes would come out as and when they were ready, but the 16 dishes came in groups of 4, with a good balance of meat and vegetables, so there were never too many dishes on the table to clutter things up, and we were never swamped with food, so nothing was left to get cold (Thumbs up to all for great attention to details!)
Coming from the Far East, we are used to ordering a large variety of dishes for sharing, so to make things easy for ourselves, we just put a tick on the menu next to the dishes we would like, just like we usually do in Chinese restaurants when we order dim sum. Happily this didn’t trouble the waitress when we handed the marked up menu back to her – it kept our ordering quick and clear! (Luckily the menu was just a double sided sheet of paper, printed daily, they wouldn’t have taken kindly to us scrawling on their menu if they were hoping to reuse them.)
Another favourite of ours was roast pork belly, red onion chutney, Szechuan pepper (photo above). We could not taste the Szechuan pepper at all- zero heat – and no numb tongues! However, the pork belly was succulent and the crackling was crispy (not chewy). Yum!
The ossobuco, sage and parmesan polenta was delicious. The meat was taken off the bone and already shredded. The ossobuco was rich in flavour and was very tender. It felt strangely comforting to have it with the parmesan polenta. Perfect for cold and gloomy weather like the day we went!
We went there for lunch, not dinner, so we cracked on with the cocktails. The grapefruit and lychee cooler was interesting- the lychee was sliced through the stone! It was certainly a talking point on our table. My pineapple and sage Martini was light was fruity and refreshing. I was initially a bit stressed when I sat down as Nopi cancelled our appointment via email the night before at 11.45pm and we could not get in touch with them to point out the error as it was late. (We were told when we arrived that it was a booking system error) But after this cocktail, I was a happy bunny.
I know I am supposed to be talking about the food but I was excited by Nopi‘s toilet. It was fun! Note: My first ever building design package (many years ago) was a toilet package (they always give the dirty job to the most junior architect). I have, as a result, developed a passion for toilet design. Anyway, Nopi‘s loo was full of long strips of mirrors placed together at various angles. The infinite fragmented reflections were fascinating! Of course, it would not be that fun if you were drunk and was desperate to go and do your business, as it was quite hard to identify the exit. There was a temporary paper sign on the door telling guests how to get out- hmm, a sign of impractical design. Perhaps it was more appropriate to have this toilet design elsewhere.
We also liked the fondant swede gratin with savoy cabbage. It was a creative choice of root vegetable, breaking out from the usual potato gratin. It was soft and was not too rich. Fantastic!
Poached sea bass, tomato essence
Braised carrot, mung beans and smoked labneh
Braised winter greens, tahini- yoghurt
It was not that exciting on its own but perhaps a good complemet to other more ‘dramatic’ dishes?
For dessert, we shared cardamom rice pudding, rose syrup, pistachio, whose appearance reminded me of the coriander and rose salt by Heston Blumenthal. Of course, it tasted nothing like it. It was warming but quite rich. We were too stuffed to finish it.
The roast hazelnut ice-cream we had was better than the chocolate ice-cream because it had nice large chunks of crunchy crushed hazelnut. The dark chocolate sauce at the bottom turned into semi-hard chocolate- a little strange but nice!
We were really looking forward to the Churros, fennel seed sugar and hot chocolate when we first saw the menu. Unfortunately, it was disappointing. It was a little too oily, and we’d have all preferred the more traditional cinammon sugar to the fennel seed sugar they served. We also had more fun dipping the churros in the aforementioned ice cream rather than the hot chocolate. Score one more the dish sharing philosophy.
Quince, quince jelly, Vin Santo Sabayon
It sounded nice on the menu but it did not taste that good. It was quite plain- there was no sparkle. What a shame! I never realised how close quince tasted to tinned pears.
For some bizzare reason, Nopi served the fresh mint tea in a big mug. I did not mind except that they were hinting that it was time for us to leave by giving us the bill (which we hadn’t even requested yet), pretty much as soon as dessert was served (this something that we’d expect to happen in a cheap Chinese restaurant). We had not been previously told that they were expecting the table back by a certain time, so we could not understand why we suddenly had to go. We also weren’t slow in our eating, as the pacing was to do with how quickly the dishes were coming out of the kitchen and appearing on the table. Given the sudden appearance of a time constraint I could not really enjoy the tea properly as it was too hot. Plus, for a restaurant that has just opened 2 days ago, the mug was strangely dirty, with tea mark all the way down the side and on the rim of the mug.
There are some nice details in the restauruant interior design. I like the white and brass colour scheme. The niches for the paper table covers were nice.
One of our party was delighted that that they talked to Mr Ottolenghi, (photo below) albeit only to ask for clarification which door was the restroom) maybe one day he’ll go back prepared with a cookbook for Mr Ottolenghi to sign.
Among the 4 of us, one was already an Ottolenghi fan (particularly of the salads and cookbooks), one had never been there before and one thought Ottolenghi was overpriced and not worthy of its popularity. After the meal, we all left happy with Nopi. We went on Nopi‘s third day of opening, it felt like they were still testing a lot of things, e.g. booking system and service. I guess, that was why Nopi offered all customers 50% off the total bill during their first week of opening. What a better way to improve than practising on real customers? I am happy to go back to Nopi in future on full price if the minor problems we encountered are tackled, as the food has potential and the place has a great vibe for an informal gathering.
By the way, we like the free sparkling filtered water!Nopi
Lunch for 4 with cocktails, £108, incl. service andd 50% off discount
21-22 Warwick Street
London W1B 5NE
Tel: (0)20 7494 9584~ review specially created by Winky and Gerald.