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THE VITAL INGREDIENT

Yotam Ottolenghi - Ottolenghi

22nd Jan 2013

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Yotam Ottolenghi's Notting Hill branch which was the very first Ottolenghi to open, in brief sells mainly food and pastries to take-out. Yes, this is very true but in reality it's more than that. It's now an absolute necessity for many locals who are hooked on Ottolenghi's legendary flourless chocolate teacakes for example, or even the chargrilled broccoli with garlic and chilli, that people take home on the way back from work. The interior of his restaurants are clean, minimalist and simple; fuss-free just like his food. If you are dining in at the Ledbury Road branch, a small table at the back seats a maximum of 10 which is inevitably always packed to the rafters. We recommend to get in there quick. Luana the manager, prints the daily menu at 11am who will gladly put aside dishes from the menu should you email her in advance. She's even been known to put orders in taxis for customers, should they request it. Where needs must.

How to describe the food? It's familiar and straight forward, yet highly innovative. Familiar because it's personal; made and served by a group of people who love preparing food as well as indulging in it, gorging on it and chatting about it endlessly. Food here is a way of life, somewhere between a healthy obsession and a bad habit that they can’t kick. This kind of fixation pushes the chefs to experiment and invent, to look at what they prepare from extraordinary angles and try to make it even tastier, more sensual and vibrant. Drawing on an abundance of culinary traditions with a focus on the Mediterranean, Ottolenghi and his chefs strive to surprise and stir by using bold flavours and daring colours. Favourite ingredients firstly fresh whilst also the “noisy” type: lemon, pomegranate, garlic, chilli. Everything here is made right from scratch, buying only raw ingredients to produce delights that they would want to eat themselves. Ottolenghi has said himself,

"We are highly aware of how unusual our food often is; food that is closer to the source: uncomplicated, unadulterated and emanating from genuine instincts."

This idea of simplicity is one of Ottolenghi’s basic principles. It is, along with a sense of generosity and trust, their driving force.

Yotam Ottolenghi is without a doubt the haute-couture creator of worldy food-to-go, right on your doorstep. Ottolenghi worked as a pastry chef at The Capital restaurant in Knightsbridge. From there, he moved to Kensington Place and eventually became head pastry chef at Baker & Spice in Chelsea. In 2002 he established the Ottolenghi deli with Sami Tamimi and Noam Bar.

As of 2010, Ottolenghi has four outlets in London: Notting Hill, Kensington, Belgravia and Islington. The Islington branch is the only branch which has a restaurant, while the other branches are take-away delis/cafes but seriously all as good as each other. In February 2011 NOPI opened, a restaurant on Warwick Street in Soho, which revered food critic Jay Rayner notably hailed as a success. Ottolenghi himself writes a weekly food column in the Guardian weekend Saturday magazine, for four years the column was titled The New Vegetarian, and in 2011 it was expanded to include other recipes.

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Ottolenghi has also published three best-selling cookery books; Ottolenghi: The Cookbook written with Sami Tamimi, and Plenty which was winner of a Galaxy National Book Award 2010. Jerusalem has probably been his greatest literary success, where spiced-stained and turned up pages can be found in many a London home. Whilst his recent programme on Channel 4, Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Feast portrayed Yotam as the warm and humble man that he truly is, which shines through in his cuisine.