Ottolenghi, Islington

Spiced cauliflower, Ottolenghi, Islington

Spiced cauliflower with onion, almonds and ras el hanout, celeriac tahini and quail eggs (£11)

Any middle-class Londoner worth their Maldon sea salt has at least one Ottolenghi cook book, and at least one jar of pomegranate molasses at the back of their cupboard, making a sticky, tangy ring on the shelf that will remain for all days. My cupboard also harbours tahini, ras el hanout and too many kinds of sesame seed, but despite my devotion to the Turkish corner shop it took me years to actually eat at Ottolenghi proper, on Upper Street.

Everyone knows it’s bloody good, and had told me so as the reservation crept closer, but I was still impressed at just how bloody good. A few of the plates from the salad bar missed their mark – multicoloured carrots that were highly recommended by our wonderful waiter tasted of not much other than carrot, and at £9 a portion I’d imagined something more special. But the proteins and hot dishes could barely have been improved upon.

Pork belly, Ottolenghi, Islington

Roast pork belly, prawn and chilli sambal, pickled
kohlrabi, nashi pear and char-grilled baby leek

A briefly seared chunk of yellow-fin tuna was dressed with a sweet and savoury soy, honey, spring onion and ginger sauce that was even greater than the some of its parts. The spiced cauliflower puree was also lovely, but it was a juicy oblong of pork belly that I still long for, with its perfect fat/meat/crackling proportions and richly flavoursome prawn and chilli sambal paste.

You could spend a lot of money here, and if you don’t you’ve probably missed out on the highlights, but the prices are fair considering the kitchen’s skill and innovation, and we paid £45 each for plenty of food, a bottle of wine and a pudding. But best to leave the salads for your dinner party menus and tuck into the glorious meat.

★★★★★   £££
287 Upper Street, N1 2TZ, 020 7288 1454


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