My husband and I visited London during the Christmas holidays and I was excited to try Ottolenghi's latest restaurant in Fitzrovia, Rovi. I have been a long-time admirer of Ottolenghi's cookbooks and have made made veggie lovers of my carnivorous friends with recipes from his Jerusalem and Plenty/Plenty More books.
For those of you who have visited Otoolenghi's other restaurants in Notting Hill and East London, you are in for a surprise at Rovi. It is different than his more casual (take-out oriented) menus. This new restaurant is modern and sleek (with a spectacular bathroom). The heart of the menu is still vegetables, but brings a fresh focus with fermentation and wood fire cooking.
It is a medium-size restaurants (85 seats) dominated by a large bar (best place for two people to eat.). The vibe is easy and casual, but the service is on par with Michelin Star restaurants--attentive, professional, with a great attention to detail.
The night we were there the chef was dining at the bar and during our time in London, some celebrities, such as Nigella Lawson stopped by. Reservations book quickly here, especially for prime dinners hours. We had to book a week in advance and still had to eat at the bar at 6:30 (only other reservations were after 9:30). The good news is that you can book on OpenTable.
We started our meal with cocktails and I would recommend trying their concoctions, nicely balanced with a strong citrus, herbal focus. My husband for some reason wanted a Margarita, which they happily made and it was delicious.
The focus of the food is Israeli/Mediterranean. They start you off with an amuse bouche. For us it was butter beans in an Israeli spice mixture. Their menu has small bites to eat with your drinks. We had the Lobster Crumpets with a kumquat and chili sauce along with parsnip and pecorino croquettes with smoked garlic aioli with pickled walnuts. The lobster was tender and the sauce sour/hot was a perfect complement. We even got the recipe so we could make it with the kumquats from our garden.
We then needed to choose a wine with dinner. The server not only provided recommendations, but poured us different options to taste before we decided. The majority of the wines were from Italy with a small selection from France and Lebanon. After we chose our wine, we sampled two vegetarian dishes.
The grilled onions with whipped feta and green gazpacho were delicious. The onions were caramelized and sweet which contrasted with the saltiness of the feta and spicy/herbs of the gazpacho. Whipping the feta was a nice touch as it provided a good textural contrast.
The next dish was confit wild mushrooms (hen of the woods) with black fermented vinegar, polenta, and chili. It was an unami bomb with a slight kick of heat.
Our last savory dish was squid and lardo with a red pepper glaze and fennel salad. Cooked on a wood fire grill, it was smokey and the red pepper glaze brought a slight bit of het while the fennel salad was cool and crunchy. I loved the play of flavors and textures in this dish.
Finally, we could not leave without dessert--plum and ginger doughnuts with bay leaf cream, and almonds. It was tasty and most importantly not too sweet.
Overall, Rovi is a great value. It is not a budget restaurant, but without drinks, prices range from 6-9 pounds for small bites and 13-21 for entrees. It is equivalent to eating a nice dinner in my home area: San Francisco.
Next time I visit London, Rovi will be on my list of places to eat. I hope this review helps others interested in a veggie forward meal.