@timhayward took me. I've been wanting to go for ages. I've got the book. What interested me about this place is that they do great things with vegetables. Vegetarian food has such a terrible image...all brown puddles, worthiness, hairy toes. You say the word 'vegetarian' and your heart sinks. It's the culinary equivalent of going on a protest march. And I'm a vegetarian. (I eat a bit of fish sometimes, when I'm out..)
Ottolenghi has enormous meringues in the window. Some people think they are never changed, that they are props, dusted occasionally. Tim and I stayed so late I can confirm that the meringues are fresh, new ones are brought out at night. By elves.
There are a few bar stools (hate bar stools. I'm short and don't like my legs dangling in mid-air, like a child) but the room is dominated by two long communal tables. Decor inside is white and glossy. Meringue-like. It could be a hospital except for the candlelight.
You are advised to order three dishes each. When they arrived I could see why, the portions are tapas-style. But the taste...every flavour was separate. The combinations...every mouthful an explosion of pleasure. Pink peppercorns, preserved lemons, purple fronds of cress and chives, pillowy goats cheese, caramelised nuts, smokey barbecue flavours, olive-oiled baby vegetables danced around on your palate. Some of the ingredients were getting up and doing the hokey cokey.
Tim and I gossiped, using our fingers to dip into our food. I was hard pushed not to lick the plate. We talked about digital versus print journalism and TV. How TV companies only pay what they call a 'sofa fee'; for £75 you sit on their sofa and talk for ten minutes. You fill a bit of airtime. How nobody wants to pay properly... trying to get your services for free because it is good for your 'profile'. (So true, one's 'profile' will slim down considerably on that kind of money). He alluded to a secret forum which sounded like a 'Bohemian Grove' for foodies; visions of food critics getting together in a forest, dancing naked around a fire, worshipping a giant Perigord truffle rather than an owl.
Complaints...I have a few, too few to mention. Well I will mention them. £120 for two and I was still hungry. No free bread. Why? Is it for people on the Atkins diet? Fortunately the drunk people sitting next to us on the communal table, one of them was actually moo-ing, gave us their half-eaten desserts, so we scoffed our way through the pudding menu at a bargain price. Passionfruit meringue tart...divine. Blackcurrant sorbet, not bad. Cheesecake, average, could get better in any Jewish deli. Some sort of ginger sponge thing, allright.
I went home feeling very inspired by Ottolenghi's food. Now going to work my way through their book's recipes...