21 Warwick Street, W1B 5NE
tel: +44 (0)20 7494 9584
One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday morning is wander lazily into the kitchen, still in my pajamas, make a cup of Earl Grey tea, flop on the couch and flip through Yotam Ottolenghi's newest cookbook Plenty. With it's soft white cover and silky pages filled with gorgeous photos, it's one of the favorite books on my shelves. I like to call it my kitchen porn.
Even though, I've been an avid reader of Ottolenghi's weekly column in the Guardian, and have tried lots of his recipes, I've never actually eaten at one of his restaurants. That changed on Easter Sunday, when I made my first visit to his newest digs: NOPI. It stands for North of Piccadilly and is located on an obscure side street in Soho beside the posh Sanctum Hotel where the cheapest room will set you back £230 a night. Similarly, NOPI ain't cheap. I booked a table for brunch after many bloggers, including one of my faves - LondonEater commented on the hefty price tag of lunch and dinner.
Just like Plenty, NOPI is quite beautiful. The white and gold interior was quite Miami Vice-ish. I didn't get a picture, but the mirrored maze in the toilets downstairs is something to behold. Be sure you take a trip to the loo. I vote it the most beautiful toilet in London. But much more importantly, the food is beautiful too. I decided on the chorizo, chickpea stew with a fried egg (£8.50). I admit, my first impression was disappointment. I forked through four small pieces of chorizo and felt a bit ripped off. But tucking in, I was wrong. The flavors were enormous and in the end, the portion was perfect. The sourdough toast it laid on was crispy on the surface and soft in the middle. The chickpeas were cooked in a gorgeous herby tomato sauce. The chorizo, divinely spicy and rich.
I thought my dish was the winner, but as it turned out, my husband's was. The young, bubbly waitress proudly put down a dish of shakshuka (£8.50) in front of him. On the menu, it's described as a "North African dish of braised eggs with pepper and tomato" and I recognised it from Plenty. The flavors were instantly foreign and evocative of our honeymoon where we could see Morocco from our balcony from the southernmost tip of Spain. Hints of cumin, onions, thyme and saffron mixed with creamy poached eggs tickled the palate.
We started with strong Americano coffees but finished with Bloody Marys. These were one of the highlights of the entire brunch. They were a cut above any other breakfast vodka I've had - ever. I became obsessed and tried to sweet-talk one of the waiters into giving me the recipe. He shook his head, wagged his finger and said, "no chance." I jotted down some giddy notes on the ingredients I could spot: basil, fresh tomatoes, cucumber, lemon, celery and lots of vodka. I got home and tweeted @ottolenghi, begging him for the recipe. No luck; no response. I suppose I can't blame him. When you've got something great, keep the mystique going and the punters coming.