It’s taken me a while to get to Ottolenghi (there’s also one in Notting Hill and Islington) even though I’ve always heard good things. It’s one of those restaurants that sits quietly in the background without making a song or dance of things, yet is always packed.
Walking into their Spitalfields outpost, we were first greeted with a melange (I can use big words too) of lovely looking cakes and savoury deli-style dishes. We were seated at the counter which was fun; it all felt very relaxed and serene filled with happy, middle class people.
We started with one of the those cold dishes we saw as we walked in; beetroot in a kataifi pastry (£9.50) which was divine. The thin strands of pastry were crispy and the soft, vibrant filling was cool and refreshing.
A generous selection of house bread was particularly good, apart from a slice of corn bread which had a weird flavour of detergent about it. The accompanying olive oil was quite spectacular.
From the larger hot dishes, twice cooked pork belly with salted cod potato (£13) was only let down by a splat of sauce on the plate – not a big deal sure, but these things are important! Flavour was cracking though.
Lamb sweetbreads (£13) came with a truly wonderful almond-anchovy sauce which was worthy of dunking the bread in. Thin slices of crunchy cauliflower added some much needed texture.
Marinated prawns with Pernod, sumac, feta and fennel (£12.50) also featured a delicious sauce. The heads came off the flesh with the merest touch of the fork – they were cooked to perfection.
Courgette flowers (£11), covered in the lightest tempura batter you’re likely to find, were stuffed with ricotta and goat’s cheese then drizzled with honey – a now common combination but one which never fails to excite.
For dessert, we shared the chocolate cake with a Baileys cream (£5.75) which was indulgent, rich and rather bloomin’ tasty. The Baileys cream was hidden inside which was impressive.
It would be really hard not to like Ottolenghi. It ain’t the cheapest of places; for the small, sharing plates the prices are that of larger dishes elsewhere in this fabulous city, but when food tastes that good, it doesn’t really matter.