Tuesday, October 30, 2012

London, UK Restaurants: Nopi, Ottolenghi, Barbacoa, Hedone, Koffmann's, Hawksmoor, Locanda Locatelli

Nopi is Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's reservation style resto. There are 4 other wonderful no reservations, very popular take out/eat in cafes, scattered about central London. The hallmark of their cuisine is how they bring together an incredible, unique symphony of disparate flavours, fragrances, textures and colours, in every dish. Frankly, their approach and the results are addictive! If you are a vegetarian, and their cuisine is not specifically that, you will be in heaven at their restos.

House made lavash crackers, covered with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, cumin and nigella seeds, accompanied by burnt eggplant with a touch of pomegranate molasses, pomegranate seeds and molasses.

Sweet potato, fig, goat cheese, scallions and roasted red and green peppers.

Roasted eggplant, with feta, coriander pesto and pomegranate, had a sweet creamy texture with no bitter flavours.

Roasted cauliflower and farro with barberry, crushed almonds, celery and arugula.

Steamed bok choy with crispy garlic, crispy shallots with a very bright citrus dressing.

Crushed new potatoes with capers and roasted garlic.

Very tasty and very ungreasy felafels accompanied by labneh.

Fried zucchini flowers filled with ricotta and date, and drizzled with molasses.

Nectarine galette with pistachio topped white peach sorbet.

Chocolate flavoured with spiced hazelnut and orange oil with a dollop of orange oil flavoured creme fraiche.

A rich, creamy caramel and roasted pecan ice cream with a marvellous, well matched, rich, dark chocolate sauce.

The desserts here are a remarkable success and worth coming for, in themselves.


The food at Ottolenghi is served in a small cafe with very limited seating and no reservations. The array of mostly vegetarian salads and vegetable service, along with the mouth watering desserts, is truly daunting when you walk in. This spread is mostly for takeout but is also well represented on the menu of the day.

Mixed tomato, red onion, kefalotyri cheese, sherry vinaigrette and basil.

Red, yellow and candied beetroot with labneh, spring onions, pistachio, roasted garlic and herbs. On the same plate, toasted buckwheat, basmati rice and wild rice, mixed nuts, caramelized onions, radicchio, mixed herbs and barberries.

Stuffed portobello mushrooms with moghrabiah, cherry tomatoes, feta and red breadcrumbs.

A spinach tart topped with sesame seeds.

Baked chocolate tart with caramel and almonds and a chocolate ganache topping. Flourless almond cake with orange, topped with brittle and creme fraiche.

Carrot and walnut cake with cream cheese icing. Frangipane tart with fig and chopped pistachio. Let me stress that the desserts are as amazing as the other courses and should not be missed!

This is Chef Jamie Oliver's attempt at BBQ, and a very credible one, for a European resto, indeed.

Generally speaking, meat is smoked for 6-12 hours over a combo of hickory and apple wood, depending on the meat and the cut. The beef is hung on sight and dry aged on premises for 5-11 weeks.

The hanger steak, "pit beef", smoked 6 hours and at the finish, brushed with a viscous, sweet BBQ sauce and topped with coriander sprigs. For me, the sauce was just too sweet and was rather 2 dimensional in flavour. The beef was plated over beans. The BBQ beans had a very nice texture, clearly made from scratch. But, the sauce was a bit too sweet and suffered because there was no smokey element to the flavour. The beef, although ok, could have used more smokey flavour elements.

Duck fat fries were ok, but could have been crispier. Some of the frites had a beautifully crunchy skin. Why the inconsistency?

Creamed spinach with shallots, covered with sauteed bread crumbs on the right; Creamy, purple cabbage and purple onion cole slaw, with julienned carrot and sprinkled with caraway and fennel seeds, on the left. The spinach was very good, with a very pleasing texture. However, I found the bread crumbs a rather extraneous touch and they added nothing positive to the experience.

Pulled pork with a very good crispy waffle. The pork was my favourite BBQ dish, very juicy and tender, redolent of smoke and properly dressed with a minimum of BBQ sauce. The cole slaw and the caraway seed flavours went well with the pork.


Hedone has been open for about 1 year and was just awarded a Michelin star. It is a bit out of the way, close the Chiswick underground stop, west of central London, but, I felt it was worth the journey.

White crabmeat and apricot in a paper thin, crunch tart.

Celery custard topped with a layer of liquid nori and wild foraged caragine seaweed coulis. This was a remarkable dish with incredible umami!!

Gazpacho, chilled dill flower and mustard cream, perfect compliments.

A supremely sweet, very low and slow braised Cevannes onion with pear, that provided a subtle contrast of flavour for the onion. The liquid is a reduced onion sauce with a touch of lemon and Sarawak pepper. 

Foamy duck egg omelette filled with blanched parsely puree, topped with chanterelles, set off beautifully by an apricot kernel foam and apricot puree.

Dorset wild sea bass, yellow zucchini and a seaweed and squid ink emulsion that provided a wonderful complementary umami.

"Our "royale" of hare": rare saddle of hare; melted fois gras over hare leg meat; a very sweet earthy puree of chestnut and chanterelles in an agnolotti; iced powder of wood sorrel. A truly remarkable dish and one of my very favourite hare experiences ever.

Roast breast and leg of 2 week hung grouse with raw pickled fig, curley endive and foie gras. Another exceptional dish. The grouse had a perfect gamey flavour. The bitter aspect of the curley endive (chicory) played well against the gaminess of the grouse and the rich aspects of the foie gras.

Lemon variation: myer lemon gelee, lemon custard, preserved lemon peel, over a thin cracker with lemon sorbet.

Chocolate bar: rich dark chocolate ganache accompanied by fabulous, tart, passion fruit ice cream and chopped pistachio nuts.


Pierre Koffmann owned London 3* restaurant Tante Claire, which he eventually closed when he decided to "retire". Koffmann has come out of retirement, opening the resto, Koffmann's, a relaxed brasserie in the Berkeley Hotel, where he cooks in the Gascon style from the memories of this mother's and grandmother's kitchens.

Puffed pastry topped with caramelized onions and black olive tapenade. A very savoury starter.

Gascony style black pudding (boudin) with Bethmale cheese, onions and beetroot. The perfect boudin composed of such savoury flavour.

"Pied de cochon, Tante Claire": pig's foot stuffed with fresh morrels and swetbreads, accomanied by creamy, mashed potatoes. THIS IS WHAT I CAME FOR!! I often think of this perfect dish. One could never have a better pied de cochon anywhere! I used to have this at Tante Claire every visit to London, but, when Koffmann retired, I was bereft until this restaurant opened. Perfection surrounded by a silken viscous pork reduction (OMG so perfect!). The skin is edible, soft perfection too.

Truly superb frites with great flavour, a very thin, crispy skin and a soft fluffy interior.

Blanc mange and poached rhubarb with vanilla pannacotta.


This is a very loud, male bastion of meat centric food. The ambient noise was off the charts. This resto is for folks under the age of 40 as no one older will be able to discriminate the sounds of conversation.

Roasted marrow bones.

Bruschetta of heirloom cherry tomatoes with pickled red onions, chopped chives and goat cheese presented on fire toasted bread. Very good.

Beef is grilled over a gas fired stone grill. The smallest bone-in rib steak was 850 grams!! 2 pounds. Beef is aged 3 to 8 weeks I was told. That is one heck of a variation and there was no justification expressed by the waiter. They also offer a rib eye without the bone at 400grams. The beef arrived cooked as requested and i rated the beef 8.5/5/7.5 (taste/texture/juiciness out of 10). The beef was a bit chewy but had good flavour.

The veggies had a lovely presentation, but the green combination so oily as to be almost inedible to me; snow peas, braised lettuce and peas. The creamed spinach was tasty.

The beef dripping fries were very crunchy but the taste was just ok.

Locanda Locatelli

Locanda Locatelli was first brought to my attention by my Roman gourmand friend, Armando Manni, maker of the very best white truffle oil in the world and perhaps one of the 2 best olive oils in the world.

Deep fried calves foot salad with mustardo di cremona (mustard fruit).

Risotto with Sicilian red prawns and zucchini flowers, all tasted redolent of the sea.

Potato gnocchi with Scottish chanterelles and chives. Incredibly soft, melt in your mouth gnocchi.

Grouse accompanied by classic bread sauce, game chips, chanterelles and lentils (see below).

Crispy, ungreasy and delightful fried julienned zucchini.

Cheesecake with vanilla violet jelly and strawberry sorbet.

Petit fours of almond cookies, strawberry fruit jellies and dark chocolate truffles.

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