When asking for recommendations for London on Facebook, I received so many tips, I was about to cross off one of my pre-made list because I thought I wouldn’t need it considering so many cool new options: Ottolenghi.
I haven’t been following his career as long as many others, but fell for his cooking routed in Middle-Eastern kitchen, of course also because of his focus on vegetarian delights. But then, his network of restaurants, books, columns and thus his fame have grown so much, some wonder whether what you get at one of his four London joints is still “Ottolenghi” or just a spin-off. This, luckily, wasn’t my opinion so I almost couldn’t hold back my excitement when we were on our way to Islington to enjoy an Ottolenghi lunch.
The interior of his delis are alike, very white floors meet very white walls and very white Corian tables and very white Panton chairs. The bright white enhances the color palate of the salads – the main component of lunches here – that are presented on huge plates at the entrance of the restaurant, just next to the mouth-watering display of baked sweet treats.
Which instantly put me in trouble – how would I be able to taste all of this delicacies?? In cooperation with my lunch partner, I managed to be able to choose six of the offered nine which meant only crossing off three. Naturally, some where better than others and four salads is a lot to eat, but overall the mix of flavors, freshness of ingredients and originality of combinations made a great lunch.
It happened to me more than once that I was about to go for lunch in Berlin Mitte and thought I’d love to have a salad. By which I rarely mean a green one with pale tomatoes and Balsamic dressing. But Ottolenghi ones – roasted aubergine with saffron yoghurt or char-grilled broccoli with chilli or cauliflower with pomegranate seeds or potatoes with tapenade or…
The idea that a salad lunch can give you just as much if not more joy and fulfillment just hasn’t yet settled in Berlin. (Which also makes me remember the beautiful lunches we had at Gratitude in L.A. a year ago.)
Anyhow, as much chef-personality-fame as Ottolenghi is going through (the chalkboard at the entrance of his Islington deli will happily educate you about his summer travels) and although the space was a little too bright white for my taste, it should be on your to-do list when you go to London. It’s such a delicious yet healthy way to cook.