There aren’t very many places where you can nip in whether or not you’re feeling hungry and always leave with a bag full of goodies, or even take your place in the long queue before sitting down to some great food. Ottolenghi on Upper Street, Islington is definitely one of my favourite places. Every time I go there, I’m inspired and usually, quite stuffed. But the difference here is that the food is decidedly healthy and just full of goodness. Yes, at lunch they only do the salad bar, but what a selection. There are always the usual suspects – aubergines with varied toppings and mint, which is always the first dish I go for. Beetroot’s another frequent visitor and with good reason – the beautiful sweet scarlet vegetable eulogised by Tom Robbins thus:

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.

Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.

The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip…

The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.
The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.”

Of course, there are other juicy, crunchy and healthy salads on display as well as some beautiful grilled salmon and baked chicken, lamb kofta, rare roast beef to tempt you past the beet, and the squash!

And that’s before you on the other side and see the army of cakes and sweet treats, tempting you as sirens would lure unsuspecting sailors. All manners of fruit and chocolate expertly designed and executed, I only wish I could safely endure a portion of every dessert on show. Apart from the fresh food, Ottolenghi has an array of pickles, relishes, chutneys, sprinkles, mueslis and the list goes on.

The fact that Ottolenghi has a perpetual line of people waiting to eat says enough. It’s simple, but exciting – a myriad of flavours and combinations all being thanked profusely by your belly!

Overall Experience: 8
Recommend you to go? 9
Food: 9

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