287 Upper Street
020 7288 1454
by Phil English
The ravening hunger in my stomach is replaced by a sinking feeling. Peering past the meringue ziggurat in Ottolenghi's window display it appears that the only available seats are at the long communal table between two battalions of doting mummies and daddies and their offspring. I shouldn't really be surprised: Ottolenghi is Islington boiled down to its trendy-specked, buggy-wheeling, whole-grain quintessence. It is Upper Street's shrine to urban middle-class fecundity. With wacky furniture.
Fortunately, being a broad-minded sort of fellow (who is shown to a secluded table for two at the back of the restaurant out of range of regurgitated baby pap), I am able to give the food my full attention.
Gastronomically Ottolenghi is hard to fault. The menu was 100% orderable, offering a nice range from toast and pastries to heartier, eggier fare. My home-made baked beans with ham hock is a delicious and extremely generous quasi-cassoulet, which comes with an excellent fried egg perched atop a spicy round of black pudding. Eggs Benedict with blood orange hollandaise is silky, rich and citrusy. The eggs are poached à point, gushing with yolks the colour of Le Creuset cookware. The drinks are less impressive. Tea comes, bewilderingly, potless and in bag-form, while café latte is served in one of those tall glasses that are occasionally inflicted on the froth-hating anti-cappuccino brigade.
At the end (or rather the beginning) of the day, breakfast is about so much more than food. If you prefer the rustle of the newspaper to coochy-cooing before lunch then give Ottolenghi a wide berth. On the other hand, people who like this sort of thing, will love this sort of thing.