Happy Birthday: Ottolenghi

If you like vegetables, or like food in general, you’ve probably heard of Yotam Ottolenghi.  You may own one of his cookbooks.  It wouldn’t be surprising.  I heard of him and tried some recipes that I found online.  They were good, but I didn’t quite understand what everyone was raving about.

That was before I went to Ottolenghi.  I get it now.

As I walked through London, I started to get a bit hungry.  Apparently Pierre Herme and Selfridges really are that far apart.  I debated stopping at Pret or even Eat, but that seemed a bit too ordinary for my twentieth birthday.

As I approached Pierre Herme, I noticed that Lansdown Street was right by Motcomb Street.  Now, why did that name sound so familiar?  A quick consultation with my beloved iTouch revealed that it was home to an Ottolenghi outpost.

I didn’t prepare for London as well as I would have liked to.  Life and essays bogged me down.  The morning I left, I quickly jotted down a few addresses, but wasn’t able to map any of them.  Arriving there and seeing Ottolenghi felt like a little miracle.

In I went.  And inside I found the answer to my hunger.  Get some food from Ottolenghi, of course.

The Belgravia store is small.  There is a tiny circular table in the back that can accommodate maybe six people, family style.  That table was full.   There were some people getting food to go, packed into the front of the tiny store.  I was overwhelmed with choice and immediately asked the counterwomen what she recommended.

How did everything work here?  It was a bit confusing.

There are several ways.  You can either get a box of food and pay by weight (very Whole Foods-esque) or you can get little individual boxes.  They have plenty of dishes set up and there are constantly new things coming out.  You can choose from pastries, vegetables, grains, proteins and breads.

Since I did have a bit of lunch earlier, I controlled my urge to try everything.  I had the just-left-the-kitchen broccoli, hummus and roasted potatoes.  All together it cost about £7.  Not exactly cheap, but for the quality it’s not exactly expensive.

I walked to Hyde Park, sat down on a bench and ate.  Opening the box was exciting like opening up a present.  Everything was incredible.  The broccoli was fresh, the hummus was well-balanced and the potatoes were rich.  In fact, the potatoes were my favorite.  There was a bit of radicchio in there and a zucchini flower.  I don’t even really like potatoes and radicchio that much and I was in awe over this.

Next time you are in London, go to Ottolenghi.  I most definitely will be back, hopefully to sit down in the Islington restaurant.  At the very least, get the cookbook.  You won’t be disappointed.

And don’t be fooled.  Wooden utensils don’t work.

Do you have a favorite vegetable centric cookbook?

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