Nopi, 21-22 Warwick Street, London W1

It's unusual for a group of cafés to spawn a restaurant. Usually it works the other way round, with star chefs lending their names to more democratic versions of their original venues. But the four Ottolenghi delis aren't just any cafés. They're a foodie cult, whose devoted congregations tithe substantial sums for Middle Eastern/Mediterranean fusion food, eaten at refectory tables, or taken away for private communion at home.

Through his cookbooks, high priest Yotam Ottolenghi has spread his gospel of esoteric grains, tahini-drizzled vegetables and complex spicing; anyone who has attempted one of his recipes will be familiar with the reverse loaves-and-fishes effect whereby 5,000 ingredients are required to make one simple plateful of roast vegetables.

And now a new temple has been raised. Nopi is a proper, full-service, all-day restaurant, named for its West End location (NOrth of PIccadilly), a bit of urban rebranding about as likely to catch on as the recent attempt to turn Bermondsey into South Central. From outside, Nopi is restrained and posh-looking, the white and gold scheme suggesting an upmarket jewellers. Inside, a single altar bowl of red chillis and a heap of crosshatched loaves provide the only Ottolenghi-ish touches in a minimal room which can't quite decide if it's Bond Street or Borough Market.

The canteen-like Ottolenghi look has been recreated here in beautiful, expensive materials, the floor clad in sheets of marble, the white-tiled walls diffusing light from pendant lamps hanging over each table. But the opulence is tempered by humble, café-ish touches – there's a wall of rough, whitewashed brick, and tables are dressed with sheets of paper, plucked from slots in the wall, as in some old-fashioned grocer's.

It all feels more like a gallery or a stage set than a place you'd linger in to have fun, though a chic young crowd are packed in on a Friday lunchtime. "Who ARE all these people?" marvelled my guest, Alexei Sayle, as we applied ourselves to a longish menu divided simply into veg, fish, meat and sweets. I realised Nopi might not be Alexei's kind of place while he was listening, incredulously, to my attempt to explain that burrata was, as I had read in The Independent, the New Cheese. "The brave people of Benghazi are fighting with their bare hands," he snorted, "and we're talking about the New Cheese...?"

Ottolenghi's trademark fetish for esoteric ingredients is present and correct here, but the cross-border combinations that seemed radical when the Notting Hill original opened in 2002 have since entered the mainstream; we need no longer fear such Scrabble-hand specials as kashk and labneh. Head chef Ramael Scully's menu still reads thrillingly, particularly the focus on slow-cooked dishes, including ossobucco and pig's cheek, partnered with fruit like pomegranate seeds or barberries.

All the dishes are served as small plates for sharing – the menu suggests three savoury dishes per person. With most priced from £9-£12, that doesn't make Nopi a cheap date. Alexei, whose last meal out had been the £4.95 all-the-trimmings chicken dinner at the Colindale Asda, was nonplussed not just by the prices, but the relatively small size of the portions.

Dishes come to table, tapas-style, as they're ready. Best of those we tried were both meaty. Braised lamb belly with wild mushrooms and sumac had a smoky depth of flavour, the meat soft as butter. Twice-cooked baby chicken – first poached in stock, then blasted under the grill – was vividly spicy, and further revved up by a sweet chilli sauce. Grilled garfish, served whole, was so bony that it seemed to grow once we'd stripped it of its morsels of flesh.

A warm ball of the fabled burrata (to mozzarella what spun silk is to raw cotton) was cut by toasted coriander seeds and blood orange; coming soon, to a dinner party near you. Probably not so, slices of raw kohlrabi, like a big radish without the personality, served with sour cream and salad leaves. All the dishes look beautiful, for as long as they last; as with Ottolenghi, this is chick food – big flavours, few carbs.

Desserts stay true to that; a galette of caramelised pineapple with coconut ice cream, and a quince jelly holding slices of fruit, topped with a Vin Santo sabayon, like posh trifle. Service is first-rate, charming and informed, and no charge is made for filtered water and excellent sourdough.

Good though most of our dishes were, we both found something disorientating about the Nopi experience, with its unfamiliar ingredients, unpredictable meal structure and unclassifiable décor. That disorientation intensified after a visit to the loos, a nightclub-style hall of mirrors which makes it hard to avoid catching unexpected views of yourself mid-act. I'll do anything for lunch, but I won't do that.

My faith in Yotam Ottolenghi and all his works remains solid. But I don't feel able to hail Nopi as the second coming. In fact I can't quite imagine when I'll find the right occasion for a second visit.

Nopi, 21-22 Warwick Street, London W1 (020-7494 9584)

Food 3 stars
Ambience 3 stars
Service 5 stars

Around £40 a head before wine and service

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff"

Side Orders: Spice of life

Asia de Cuba

Try the calamari salad with hearts of palm, banana, chicory and sesame orange dressing (£21) at this glamorous Covent Garden eaterie.

St Martins Lane, London WC2 (020-7300 5588)

Chino Latino

This award-winning restaurant specialises in fusion cusine such as black cod with passion fruit miso (£23).

41 Maid Marian Way, Nottingham (0115 947 7444)

Barn Asia

Sweet miso salmon with Chinese sausage and yellow noodles will set you back £12 at this popular local eaterie.

Barn Asia, Waterloo Square, Newcastle upon Tyne (0191 221 1000)

News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition