Ottolenghi, Islington, London

HONESTLY’S VERDICT
In a word:  Original
Food:  Favourites are the salads (all of them) and breakfasts
Service:  Great service from familiar faces
Presentation:  Sleek, shiny and polished. Food.  Flowers.
Ambience:  Busy buzz of talk over the communal tables, avoid this with a breakfast visit
Location:  Our local is Islington, right in between Highbury & Islington and Angel tube stations.  Branches at Notting Hill, Spitalfields, Belgravia, and NOPI in the West End.
Value for money:  A personal fave: £18 for a large box of takeaway salad that easily fills two.  Breakfasts between £5 and £10. Coffee or tea £2 to £3.
Worth a visit?: Yes, this is a must visit foodie establishment.  Plus their almond croissants are our of this world amazing!

Ottolenghi is original, a much reproduced original, although very few manage to hit the high standards in the deliciousness stakes of Yotam Ottolenghi and his team.

Food-wise,  it’s a casual, European dining style with a couple of large communal tables with a few small tables along one side of the restaurant.  The menu is very much seasonally influenced with enduring favourites making a regular appearance.  Flavours are a mix of Mediterranean, Middle and Far Eastern and ingredients are sourced from the UK and Europe with a focus on small scale, artisan producers and growers.

I love Ottolenghi for breakfast, it’s about the only time that I can be bothered to go (not because the food isn’t amazing, it is) because it’s the only time I can get a seat without feeling like I’m the envy of those queued up waiting for a table, their eyes drilled into the back of my head wishing me to hurry-the-f**k-up so that they can get a table!  It also gets pretty loud in the small space on Upper Street, and unless you’ve booked, you’ll be lucky to get a table.

Food:

Breakfast treats on display

Breakfast treats

Breakfast has to be our fave time to dine-in at Ottolenghi.  On a Saturday morning, the Islington branch is quiet up until about 9.30am, which for me is perfectly timed to get up and about and eating before stepping into the world to take on the weekend!

Weekend morning essential: green tea and water

Weekend morning essential: green tea and free mag to flick through!

There is a small but inclusive breakfast menu; from toast and jam, all manner of pastries, to the famous shakshuka, to scrambled eggs on toast, to granola and berries.  All the classics, usually with a seasonal twist.  You’re sure to find your breakfast fave on the menu.

The Bircher-style muesli

The Bircher-style muesli

Love the presentation: granola, berries and yoghurt

Love the presentation: granola, berries and yoghurt

I tend to mix up my Ottolenghi breakfasts and between myself and the other half, have had everything on the men.  The muesli is divine especially when done Bircher-style with coconut, mango, dates and toasted almonds…mmm, hungry just thinking about it!

The shakshuka

The shakshuka

The shakshuka is so good, as good as my all time fave from Baker & Spice in Dubai.

Breakfast it great, however, my absolute fave thing to eat from Ottolengi has to be their salads, especially the roasted aubergine/yoghurt/pomegranate one (so, so good: it made it into the people’s top 10 of London dishes in Timeout).

If the weather is looking good outside, I’d recommend grabbing a large takeaway box and heading to the nearest green space to enjoy.  And if it’s a cold, wet and miserable Monday night, then you should grab yourself a box and scoff your face full (a large box is more than enough for two people) of the most amazing flavourful salads from the selection on display at the deli/takeaway counter.  It will be the best £18 you’ve ever spent on food and your body will thank you for it.

We don’t do the salad selection as an eat-in, as I think you get more for your money in a takeout box…call me greedy!  (please, please, please Yotam Ottolenghi don’t let this ever change!)

Oh and the dessert….immense.  I can highly recommend their cookies, granola bars, carrot cake, financiers, the brownies everything in the window display!

And the almond croissants. Possibly the best we’ve found outside of France.  Big call.

Almost forgot, the savoury muffins are amazing too!

Service:

Always efficient and professional.

I love that they seem to have a low turnover of service staff, it seems like such a rarity these days.  You see the same faces week after week (yes, we’ve been going a lot recently!).

Presentation:

One of the two communal tables

One of the two communal tables

I love the red Dualit toasters, so stylish

I love the red Dualit toasters, so stylish

I love the sleek shininess of the Islington deli and restaurant – lots of light, white tables, red Dualit toasters, and shelves, surfaces and windows decorated with food – platters, shelves and windows full of amazing looking and tasting food.

The flowers in the toilet, one of my many faves about Ottolenghi!

The flowers in the toilet, one more of my many faves at Ottolenghi!

One more thing I love about Ottolenghi are the toilets!  The fresh flowers are always unusual and beautiful, and they are always stocked with Aesop products; the gritty Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash and Hand Balm. Love it!

Value for money:

Brekkie dishes are between £5 and £10 with an almond croissant coming in at £3.80 (worth every penny).  We usually wind up with a bill that comes to £25 for two: teas, brekkies and a treat (or two).

The takeaway salad box comes in at just under £18 and serves two very hungry adults easily, or four if accompanying a main, like fish or chicken.

Contact:

287 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 2TZ

Tel: +44 (0)20 7288 1454

Email: upper@ottolenghi.co.uk

Website

Opening hours

Monday to Saturday 8am to 10.30pm

Sunday 9am to 7pm

Online bookings via Opentable: www.opentable.co.uk/ottolenghi

Branches also at Notting Hill, Spitalfields, Belgravia, and sister restaurant NOPI in the West End.

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