You might be thinking - Nopi? What in the world is that? Let me decipher that for you. It means NOrth of PIccadilly, which is also the name and location of a wonderful new(ish) restaurant by the people behind Ottolenghi. Situated on Warwick Street (just off Regent Street, and indeed yes north of Piccadilly Circus), this beautifully designed restaurant is like a more polished and sophisticated cousin of the casual and relaxed Ottolenghi. It is by no means stiff and formal but the white and gold room definitely has a posh air about it. Some parts of it were definitely a bit too gold for me but I couldn't take my eyes off the beautiful gold flower lamp that hung over the reception.
Since last July, the Ottolenghi team has documented the entire project of conceptualising, designing, implementing and finally opening Nopi on their blog here. After 7 months of hard work, Nopi opened its doors to the public in February. It's amazing to read their journey, if you have time, hop over and look through the posts and you'll be rewarded with insights to and appreciate the amount of work that goes into opening a restaurant.
I've always loved Ottolenghi and I'm so happy that they've decided to open another concept that's based on the same values that made Ottolenghi successful - emphasis on distinctive design, food that showcases the quality of ingredients as well as interesting flavour pairings, and communal dining. And Nopi lived up to my expectations, and in fact surpassed them. It's been a while since I've been surprised and won over by a dish, and I think I had 2 such dishes at Nopi. Don't get me wrong, I've been eating plenty of very good, well-executed food but I guess the danger (?) of being exposed to too much good food is that the bar is set pretty high, and it's getting more and more difficult to wow me. But Nopi managed to do just that.
The menu is a series of small plates for sharing divided into sections - Veg, Meat, Fish, Sweets (at least for lunch which was when I went) with average prices of each dish between £8-12. It is by no means a cheap lunch, since the server recommends to get 5-6 dishes between 2 people, not including dessert. My lunch partner and I proceeded to order 5 savoury dishes - the fish carpaccio (forgot what fish it was!), burrata, seared scallops, swede gratin and the slow cooked lamb belly. The portions were not very big and we were just about full (and we are small eaters) so I guess if you were feeling ravenous or with a bunch of meat-loving guys, this probably isn't the place for you.
My favourite dish hands down was the Burrata. This was one of the creamiest burratas I've ever tasted and it really got me hooked on burrata over the next few months, (I'm still looking for a place to buy a burrata that is this creamy!) looking for it at every restaurant I go to but none can compare. The Nopi burrata is served with bits of salad, blood orange slices, spiced pita chips and dressed lightly with some olive oil. The genius in this dish is the toasted coriander seeds. Having been toasted, the usual pungent taste of the coriander seeds was toned down and instead, tastes like kernels of popped corn. The combination was just amazing, I still think about it.
You can tell that the restaurant knows which are their winners as these are the dishes that stay on the menu, while the rest vary on a daily basis. Another staple is the seared scallops with a pickled radish salad. While not written in the description, the scallops are served with a dollop of spicy prawn paste sauce (better known as sambal belacan to me!). Even though it was more salty than spicy, it was a familiar taste and reminded me of home. Again, it was a superb combination of flavours.
The other dishes we had were alright but I would return for these two dishes alone (and have!). The dessert is worth a mention as it once again evoked familiar tastes. The pineapple galette with coconut ice cream and pandan syrup was crisp, had the right balance of sweet and sour and who can fault coconut with pandan?
The great thing is they seem to change their dishes on a daily basis, presumably depending on what's in season/available, which is good for repeat visitorship. However, the price point is slightly high, compounded by the need to order at least 3 dishes/person in order to be full, means I can't go as often as I would like to. But perhaps for the sake of tasting that burrata again, it is time to make another visit.
Can't resist one more shot of the beautiful gold lamp!
21-22 Warwick Street
London W1B 5NE
+44 (0)20 7494 9584