If you are a regular reader, you’ll have figured out by now, that I am, in fact, a drama queen. Upon finding out I now had to follow a gluten-free diet, I gallantly told my colleagues at work “don’t include me on any upcoming media lunches. It is too much faffing around with menus and stuff, just leave me out for now”. Of course, I am lucky to be blessed with such nice colleagues and vendors, that on Wednesday we got taken to a restaurant that the vendor had specifically looked up for being GF and having a varied menu. So this was it, excitingly I was going for my first work lunch since being diagnosed as coeliac, and it was so sweet of the organiser Ellie to go to all of this effort I actually nearly had a little cry.
Looking up the menu or the chef in advance has always been standard for me anyway, so there was no drastic change in the preparation for the lunch. The menu at Nopi really intrigued me. I like to think of myself as an “ok” cook but I would never be as imaginative with flavour as the chef, Ottolenghi, whose restaurant this is.
I read the Wikipedia page on him and it says “Ottolenghi served as a pastry chef at three London restaurants: the Michelin-starred Capital Restaurant, Kensington Place, and Launceston Place in Kensington New Town. In 1999, he became head pastry chef at the artisanal pastry shop Baker and Spice, where he met the Palestinian chef Sami Tamimi, who grew up in Jerusalem’s Old City. Ottolenghi and Tamimi bonded over a shared language—Hebrew—and a joint “incomprehension of traditional English food”.
First of all, it certainly isn’t every day I get to eat at a restaurant where the chef has Michelin stars and his own Wikipedia page. After gluten nearly killed me, I have decided to live life to the fullest, and enjoy every moment of everything fun I do. I decided on this lunch I was going to try a bit of everything I could that was gluten-free, and luckily when you are on media lunches the person taking you (in this case lovely Ellie from TripleLift, if you work in programmatic check them out they are awesome to work with), will order one of everything.
The first thing I tried was the Roasted carrot, cardamom labneh, pistachio. If you are sitting reading this wondering how exciting you could possibly make a carrot, that’s cool, to be honest I would be thinking the same. I like a quality carrot, but it isn’t something I would salivate over. I also find that if I go out to eat no one cooks my carrots as soft as I want them to. But these carrots, were actually tasty and soft. Cardamom is quite a strong flavour so you would have expected that to take over but it was quite mild. Next up on the veggie list before we got the pork belly I had waited all week for was the Spiced broccolini pakora, lime tofu cream, preserved lemon. I have tried tofu when I worked in France, but it was plain and didn’t make much of an impression. Pakora have been off of my list since being diagnosed so I was pleasantly surprised to find out these broccoli pakora came on the gluten-free menu. It was tasty, it had a little zing to it but the lime tofu cream calmed it down a bit, and the flavours and textures went really well together.
When it comes to fish, I am not usually a huge lover of anything other than salmon and it usually isn’t on my radar, but when they put the Roasted cod, daikon cream, sea purslane, Urfa chilli butter it looked wonderful, so I had a bit of it and it was cooked to perfection. Very soft and fluffy and like the pakora the spicy flavours with the cream just worked.
And then dear readers, it was finally time.
The Membrillo glazed pork belly, celeriac, grapefruit slaw arrived, and this was the dish I had my eye on from the moment I read the gluten-free menu. It certainly didn’t disappoint. The dish was served with some bits of crackling which were a welcome addition, as I LOVE crackling. The pork belly wasn’t actually smothered in the celeriac and the grapefruit slaw, but it was covered just enough to compliment the amazing flavour of the pork, which was obviously of a very high quality. The next big hitter on the meat category was the Grilled lamb cutlet, almond coconut curry, gooseberry & jalapeno, which was absolutely incredible. Like the pork belly, the lamb was cooked to perfection, with the coconut curry and jalepeno giving the lamb a strong flavour without being too spicy to make eating it in any way challenging. The chefs at this restaurant are immensely talented, every single combination of flavours works and everything was cooked perfectly. I haven’t enjoyed a meal this much for a long time, and the atmosphere in the restaurant is also lovely, very laid back and relaxing, which added to the experience of having a lazy, luxurious lunch.
Nopi has a completely separate gluten-free menu, and it is quite large and varied. If you tell them when you arrive that you have an allergy or health condition, they will give you a separate menu and be mindful of cross-contamination. The waiter also very helpfully told us which of the dishes were and were not gluten-free when they served them.