Cafes

London 2013: Ottolenghi Notting Hill

6/22/2013 07:47:00 PM


Ottolenghi
63 Ledbury Road
London
W11 2AD
Ph: +44 20 7727 1121
Website
Ottolenghi on Urbanspoon

I had two days in London, and I made three visits to Ottolenghi! As you could see from my post: The London Weekend, my little trip to London was all about food! I'm a huge fan of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, having cooked many of their recipes (see my "Ottolenghi" label), and I was super excited to visit one of their cafes in real life! Spoiler alert: it looks just as lovely as the photos in their original cookbook!

I only visited the Notting Hill branch, which was less than a five-minute walk from my fab accommodation - perfect location! In my pre-trip research, I saw that the Notting Hill branch only has a small communal table, and was concerned that we'd struggle to get a seat on the weekend (scarred by Melbourne's constantly busy and queue-plagued cafe scene, perhaps?), and thought that we might be better off commuting to the Islington branch, which is apparently quite a bit bigger. However, after our first breakfast at Notting Hill on our first morning, I realised that it was quite low key, and that we wouldn't have a problem getting a seat there. Besides, there was certainly more than enough variety in the food to keep us occupied! (FYI there's also a branch in Kensington branch, which only does takeaway, and one in Belgravia which also has a small communal table).

Food photo time! This is the breakfast spread that was available on the Saturday morning, which they kept refilling and refreshing as the morning went on. Oh wow! Way too much to choose from - I was paralysed by indecision!
Breakfast spread
Here are the cakes! I know that here in Australia, Ottolenghi (the man and the brand) is more well-known for his vegetable-based and vegetarian recipes, but might I make a suggestion that you check out his cake and pastry recipes too?
Sweets and pastries at Ottolenghi Notting Hill

More cakes!

I want it all!
So, we secured a spot at the communal table out the back, and ordered a round of coffees to start. As you can see, they weren't the world's best coffees, but they did the trick. (The girl whose flat I stayed in highly rates the nearby Coffee Plant for good coffee, so that's worth checking out too).
Latte - £2.50

Cappuccino - £2.50
Much more exciting were the pastries. Clarice went for a muffin, which I believe was passionfruit, mango and coconut. (Apologies for not remembering exactly - it was a total sensory overload that day!) The muffin was moist and fluffy and totally delicious! One of the guys working there generously shouted us a rugelach each, when Clarice admired them as we were ordering. How sweet of him!
Muffin, rugelach
Now, I don't normally order rugelachs (not even at my beloved Beatrix!), as I have childhood memories of dry and uninspiring ones that my dad would bring back after working at Jewish weddings, but I was really impressed by this one! The dough was nice and moist, with the perfect amount of chocolate on the inside, and a thin sugar glaze.

My carrot and walnut cake was ordered after much, much indecision.
Carrot and Walnut Cake, Rugelach
All the cakes and pastries looked amazing, but the reason I chose this particular cake because there's a recipe for it in the original Ottolenghi book, and I knew that if I loved it, I'd be able to recreate it at home, hehe. Yeah, totally amazing too. The cake was lightly spiced (cinnamon and cloves!), very moist, and was covered in a generous slick of cream cheese icing. Super love!

Let's have another look:
Fluffy fluffy cake
We'd gotten there at around ten-thirty, and as the morning wore on, we saw the trays and plates of their famous salads being brought out. Wow! Yup, the decision was made then - we'd definitely be back for lunch the next day. (And making sure that we arrived just before eleven-thirty, when the lunchtime takeaway crowd seems to descend on the tiny shop!)
Omg! Amazing salads!
The next morning I couldn't sleep in, so early in the morning I made a sneaky little solo expedition to Ottolenghi again, picking up a cappuccino and a pecan and milk chocolate cookie and having a walk around the area. (Hot tip: most shops seem to be closed at ten in the morning on Sundays).
Milk chocolate and pecan cookie - £1.50 (I think!), Cappuccino

Later that morning, there was just a short fifteen minute wait for a spot at the communal table, so we had another coffee and waited on the two stools just outside the front door.
Double Espresso - £2.50

I just had to sneakily snap another pic of the salads on our way through to our seats!
Amazing salads

The salads and mains seem to be rotated every day and are sold by weight for takeaway. However, if you're eating in you can choose two or three salads, with or without a main (for the mains, think things like: seared beef fillet with watercress, horseradish and mustard sour cream; quinoa, feta and courgette arancini balls with saffron yogurt; or roasted free-range chicken with dried fig, rose, lemon and maple). We each went for salads with mains, making sure that we didn't order the same thing, so that we could share a little and try the widest variety possible!)

Main with two salads - £13.70
Sweet potato and courgette flower tortilla with sour cream and smoked paprika
Butterbean hummus with muhammara, walnuts and parsley
Roasted aubergine with feta yogurt, pickled cucumber, pink peppercorns and herbs
The roasted aubergine was very much like my favourite Ottolenghi salad of grilled eggplant with saffron yogurt and pomegranate. The sweet potato and courgette flower tortilla (thick Spanish egg omelette, not Mexican corn-based wrap!) was served cold, and was complemented well by the sour cream and smoked paprika. Clarice mentioned that the butterbean hummus, whilst delicious, would have been better served with some bread or crackers, as it was essentially just a bowl of dip. I gallantly (haha) gave her some of my new potatoes to help out.

And here's my fab plate:
Main with three salads - £16.20
Seared sesame crusted tuna with pineapple, sesame, ginger and chilli sauce
New potatoes with wild garlic, broad beans, samphire, Swiss chard, sorrel, radicchio and lemon
Char-grilled broccoli with chilli and garlic
Roasted butternut squash with lemongrass soured cream, chilli, lemon zest and coriander
I don't really know how to describe it, except to say that all the salads were lovely and fresh, and that the seared tuna was a wonderful treat of a meal! Obviously now that I'm home, I'm frantically looking through all of his books for the same and similar recipes!

Now, while Clarice and I were enthusiastically ooh-ing and aah-ing over our fantastic meal, snapping photos on our phones and being generally thrilled with the experience, there was a couple next to us where the guy (an Aussie dude, incidentally) was totally disinterested. He'd come in with his girlfriend, who appeared to be a regular, and whilst she was tucking into lunch and trying to encourage him to have a nice morning, he just sipped on a coffee, complained about his hangover, and looked at the food like it was from another planet, saying loudly: "I wouldn't wish that stuff on my enemy!" Sorry, you wouldn't wish delicious, creative and thoughtfully prepared meals, made with high quality ingredients and served with a smile on your enemies? Pff! Funnily enough, this theme of us sitting next to totally disinterested people at wonderful restaurants continued throughout the weekend - so I'll tell you more as I blog the meals.

Of course, we had to have a little something sweet as well. Clarice went for the Persian love cake, which was a moist, dense, almost marzipanny little loaf of almond cake, served with a little dollop of cream and a pretty sprinkling of green pistachio pieces.
Persian Love Cake - £3.00

I chose a white chocolate cheesecake. The dense, creamy, vanilla-flecked cheesecake mixture was encased in a crisp shortcrust pastry, and topped with contrasting sharp blueberries. It was really decadent and luscious - mega love!
White chocolate cheesecake tartlet - £4.40


So that was Ottolenghi! Obviously it totally lived up to my hyped-up expectations, and I'm so glad that we made repeat visits over the weekend! Total deliciousness.  On the way out, I couldn't resist picking up a bag of "salt caramel chocolate brittle", which I hand-carried from London to Paris, to Strasbourg, to Offenburg, to Lampertheim, through Dubai and finally back to Melbourne!

Salt caramel and chocolate brittle
It's kinda like a lavosh cracker, topped with thin layers of crunchy salted caramel and dark chocolate, and sprinkled with crisp hazelnut brittle. I've kept it in an airtight container, and have slowly, slowly been picking at it since we came home, trying to extend the holiday!

We also made a visit to Ottolenghi's restaurant, Nopi, on our first night in London - so keep an eye out for that post!

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7 comments

  1. And now you will make the carrot cake and share the recipe... right? ;)

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  2. I don't blame you for making three visits! If I ever make it back to London believe me I'll be going there at least once! :P

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  3. Hannah - Here you go! :) http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/recipes/carrot-cake

    Lorraine - I'm sure you'll love it! :)

    xox Sarah

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  4. So jealous you are in London at Ottolenghi - I used to live around the corner from the Notting Hill store. Such a treat. I always loved walking past the window displays (and eating) the huge meringues.

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  5. You have killed me with this post! OMG.. arrrggghhhhh

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  6. Can't blame you for visiting the same spot over and over again when it's so close and so fabulous! Did the same thing when we were in Hoi An in Vietnam...Brad and I went to the restaurant next door 5 times in 3 nights! :d

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  7. So glad you made it to Ottolenghi - it's great isn't it!

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