Last night, for my 29th birthday, my sister took me out for dinner at NOPI. The restaurant is the newest offering of Israeli-born, London-based chef Yotam Ottolenghi, and has been open for about a year and a half.
Those who know me will tell you that I’m a huge fan (okay, practically a disciple) of Ottolenghi’s eponymous London deli chain. The clean decor, laid-back service and fresh and creative food are right up my alley. I could eat lunch at the Upper Street location every day for the rest of my life and not get bored, I kid you not.
So clearly I was stoked to try out NOPI, and not just for the food. I’d seen images of the restaurant before and even peeked my head in while wandering around Soho, so I knew that the design wasn’t going to disappoint, either. But I wasn’t prepared for just how hard I’d fall for the brass-on-white, Middle East-modern decor of this place. Observe:
Fantastic, right? When you walk in, you’re hit over the head with some amazing brass details (the coat hangers on the wall! the table of food in the centre of the room!) right off the bat. Obviously, I was all over this. There’s a seating area to the left, and a long one stretching to the back of the restaurant, where the bar is. One wall is whitewashed brick and the opposite is glossy white subway tile- I loved how these two finishes, so similar in shape but opposing in texture, played off one another.
The tables and chairs were also great- sleek, unfinished oak, with brass tops. Modern and clean, yet rich at the same time. I’m also dying to know what kind of marble was used for the floor and downstairs tables– my money’s on Calacatta Oro, but shout if you have a better idea!
The first things I noticed on sitting down were the chic, simple details at our place setting: a brass napkin ring, a well-designed menu with the date on it (I should have taken it, no?). It’s the little details like this that set a restaurant apart.
I’ve mentioned the brass, right? Good. It was truly everywhere, from the fantastic pendant lights and the venting in the ceiling, to the bar, door handles and handrail leading downstairs.
Images: London Design Guide, Eleanor Busing
Speaking of downstairs, there’s a less formal dining room there, with large communal (marble) tables that look over the working kitchen. Also, there are the washrooms– which feature some insane faceted mirrored walls. There is actually an arrow on the floor pointing the way “Out”, since you’re likely to get quite confused in here! I loved it.
But of course, all this is besides the real point. What of the food, you ask? Well, I can happily report that NOPI was as delicious as expected. My sister and I shared several small plates, mainly vegetable dishes with some seafood (and a complimentary chicken dish for my sister, which she couldn’t stop raving about). We also indulged in some wicked cocktails (mine featured champagne, saffron and elderflower) and a tasty dessert to share.
However the best news (for my wallet, at least) is that I didn’t prefer it to my beloved Ottolenghi. While NOPI was amazing and I’m sure I’ll be back at some point, for the money and food, I’d still take a lazy Saturday afternoon in Islington.
Even if the design doesn’t rock my boat as much as this.