I’m in central London for 5 nights on a work trip. Most of my breakfasts and lunches are at the hotel, but I’m exploring the areas on foot and by tube for dinners and during my free times.
On the Thursday that I landed, it took 1h30m by Uber to get to my hotel (near Tower Bridge) from Heathrow. So much traffic.
I walked on foot to the Ottolenghi restaurant in Spitalfields at around 18:30.
I didn’t have a reservation but they did have a table for a solo diner. It’s been a long time since I’ve dined out regularly, and made the mistake of accepting some still water (£4.25), without qualifying it with “tap”.
Here’s the menu for the evening:
I think all the salads in the first section are premade at the counter, and available for takeaway.
I loved the cantaloupe and courgette one (£11.50). The fruit was ripe, and the zucchini had just enough bite. Salty pieces of cheese, combined with the crunch of pumpkin seeds made this salad a great start. I didn’t detect any lemon in the pesto.
The next section of the menu were the hot vegetable dishes. I had the taktouka (aubergine-tomato sauce), aubergine and whipped feta dish (£13.50). So delicious. I particularly loved the warm, ethereal cheese, the smokiness of the eggplant, and the zing of the pickled chilis. There were also some crunchy things scattered here and there. The ladopita (on the napkin) was alright, not very flavourful. It reminded me of the Lebanese saj in texture, a little chewy, not very substantial.
The octopus (£23) came out at the same time as the aubergine. This was less successful: I found the pieces to be a little too chewy in the centre, the char to overwhelm the licorice flavours I expected from fennel and raki.
I didn’t have any cocktails this evening, and stuck with water. Of course, I couldn’t resist dessert and ordered a fresh mint tea (£2.80) with a piece of the gooseberry cake with elderflower drizzle (£6.20). The cake was a good pound cake, with whole gooseberries embedded in the bottom. The “drizzle” turned out to be a substantial cream piped on top, maybe cream cheese.
As I was leaving, I browsed the front display of sweets and products. We’ve been cooking from Ottolenghi’s cookbooks for years, so am familiar with a lot of the ingredients he calls for. Turns out they sell them in the store, nicely wrapped up, things like dried barberries, sumac, dukkah, etc.
I couldn’t resist getting this tangerine and pistachio cake with yuzu icing (£5.30) to eat later in my hotel room. It was made with ground pistachios and probably almonds, with a generous amount of whole pistachios. The icing had a delicate citrus flavour. Wonderful!
This was my first time at an Ottolenghi location, and I wasn’t disappointed. Service was very pleasant and attentive, with only a minor hiccup when I was brought an aubergine dish I hadn’t ordered. The room was 75% full when I arrived, and was very lively. People were celebrating a birthday at one of the long communal tables, and lots of people were having post-work dinner and drinks.