cafés

Ottolenghi II: The Tea Ladies were mesmerized

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The Sugar Bar is my baby and the cellulite of my life. I can’t get rid of it no matter how hard I try. Can’t stop loving or working at it either. I’d feel completely lost without it. Blogging’s become such second nature, it’s almost impossible to recall what I used to do to past the time before I started foodblogging in 2005. And that was just one of the things us Tea Ladies, Mowie from Mowielicious and Su-Yin from Bread et Butter, discussed at our Ottolenghi lunch last Sunday.

 

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We spent a sleepy morning queueing for a table at the Islington branch and whilst it was rather a long wait, we were given sustenance to make the wait less torturous in the form of cheesey breadsticks. Why torturous? Torturous because Ottolenghi’s yummy fare was within ridiculously close range. Torturous because you couldn’t just sneak a bit of bread (even if you were the best fingersmith of East London) when we standing next to it. Torturous because we were starving and no one (not a single one of them satisfied customers bums stuck firmly to their chairs) was getting up to leave…just yet. (Word of advice: be prepared to queue. It just kept going from 12 all til 3ish pm)

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However, that all went and we were ushered to a table. I really like Ottolenghi’s service. Of course, they’ve got some stone-faced matron types but their staff’s generally really friendly and amicable. And they aren’t afraid to chat to you and take part in a bit of banter. Always a plus to any café/restaurant. A fair amount of time passed in complete silence – the food voyeurs were weighing up the menu. And we thought it good. I haven’t got any pictures for you of our lunch but let’s say we were thoroughly impressed with the simplicity but complexity of flavours in every salad choice and every main course choice.

You’ve got to go check it out for yourself and then you’ll understand the magic of Ottolenghi.

 

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Our lunch went too quickly for our happy stomachs but oh, within seconds after sitting down you could tell us Tea Ladies were completely hooked. If Ottolenghi wasn’t going to reel us in, we’d go to it. Got us completely dancing to their mesmerising tune. Mowie was an Ottolenghi virgin but oh no more. And to discover the joys of dessert take-away! Faced with such an array of beauties, it’s always a real problem trying to choose what to get and when to stop. I managed to stop at two, but only because I was quite satiated from a Bailey’s Chocolate Cake post-lunch. Didn’t manage to get a picture of that either but it was a beaute! A super beaute in fact, coming in close second to my all-time love Lemon, Pistachio & Polenta cake. On my next trip, I will make sure I get a picture of it for you lot! A must-try.

It was a sweet Sunday and other than the little bits of sugar gold I had in a bleached white paperbag, I had a couple of pictures of my beautiful Tea Ladies furiously snapping their cameras away outside Ottolenghi. Absolutely love it! There’s no other human species quite like us foodbloggers. We’re a curious kind. Food voyeurs. Our regressive animalistic behaviour is incurable. And if we had the option of being permanently attached to our cameras (tourist-y camera strap or no), I’m sure we would. Our friends think we’re incorrigible and our inherent need to photograph food or talk about it 24/7 sometimes frustrating. But seriously, I bet they envy us. Look at us, anywhere we are, people stop and stare. Yea. Wanna know what they’re thinking? Probably something like, ‘Oh yea, check em out them cool kids. They’ve so got it.’ And don’t forget that some of us have some monstrous bling-bling big-bang type cameras. Now that’s gotta be totally sexy, no?

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White Chocolate and Cranberry Cheesecake Tart – I love tarts and part of that is to because I love the tart crust best. If the filling doesn’t interest me enough, I eat the crust on its own. If the fillings too delicious to ignore, I save the crust for last. Ottolenghi, as usual, gets it right with their desserts. The crust was delicious and not overly sweet. It was sensationally buttery. Right amount of crust, right amount of filling and I ate them both at the same time (of course I saved a little chunk of crust to savour at the very last moment). The white chocolate cheesecake in the middle was stupendously good. Unlike most cheesecakes, it didn’t leave me feeling a little too queasy, only just a little because I breathed the thing down my throat in about 10 seconds. That gives me reason to feel a little woozy. But it was  generally very light and the cranberry coulis on top was fab, cutting through the cheese and making me feel a little bit of Christmas (even though that’s just gone and done now sadly). A thumbs up to the crushed pistachio and dusting of icing sugar – definitely very Christmassy for those slightly post-holiday depressed. A great pick-me-up. Small, compared to other Ottolenghi treats, but power-packed.

 

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Raspberry & Strawberry Financier – I thought this was very similar to the Lemon Blueberry & Almond Cake I tried some time ago. The texture is very similar and the taste of lemon really stands out. But of course, raspberry goes really well with lemon so I couldn’t fault how delicious this pairing was. Absolutely loved how the raspberries and lemon wasn’t too tart – the sugar glaze on top of the financier was beautiful to look at and definitely helped balance out the flavour. The dollop of whipped double cream on the top was quite perfect as well. Part of me wondered if they could’ve infused the cream with vanilla seeds but I finally decided it didn’t need that extra bit. It was simple and gorgeous at it was. A smooth, dense and flavoursome cake. Ottolenghi sure knows what they’re good at and they’re especially great with their lemony treats. This isn’t excluded, not at all.

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Now all we’ve got left is to send Mowie on a mission to steal the recipes.

Jokes.

I am joking. Don’t panic, alright