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NOPI

NOPI is an amazing place, but would you expect anything less from Yotam Ottolenghi? Yes, I’m one of many enthusiasts of his food, his cookbooks and his culinary philosophy. Tons of vegetables, phenomenal mixtures of flavours, skilful use of herbs and spices, all with hints of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Sounds like a perfect meal for me.

Ottolenghi has several places in London. So far, I’ve only been to this one, but there’s no way I’m stopping here. The restaurant has two levels - the upper floor is a bit more elegant, the downstairs - more casual and cosy. I don’t like thick tablecloth and uncomfortable chairs, so, just in case, I booked a place downstairs, at the common table and facing the open kitchen. But the upstairs looked very friendly as well, it’s a dose of elegance that even I could handle. The interiors are fairly simple, filled with warm light, flowers and golden details.

A fairly large section of the menu consists of small dishes, perfect as starters for one or even more perfect for sharing. I love composing a feast of small dishes, that way you get to try more. And I wanted to try pretty much everything at NOPI.

Making decisions was tough, but it had to be done eventually. My friend and I started with burrata with blood orange and coriander seeds. It’s safe to say that it was the best burrata I’ve ever had, creamy and perfect. We loved scallops with apple and yuzu puree, sweet potatoes with feta, tangy roasted eggplant and the okra salad. The venison with blackberries was spectacular: tender, seared to perfection and flavourful. The menu changes according to the seasons, so the dishes may differ, but I’m sure everything they ever serve is perfect. And burrata, one of the signature dish created by Ramael Scully, is always there.

I’m being overly enthusiastic, but it really is a delightful place with delicious food, stellar service and convivial atmosphere. Perfect for an evening of wining, dining and talking. So try it out yourselves whenever you have a chance! Not surprisingly, NOPI is rather popular with hungry Londoners, so make sure you have a reservation.

NOPI, 21-22 Warwick Street, London

Cereal Killer Cafe

Over 120 types of cereal that you can combine with 30 varieties of milk and 20 different toppings. Even if you're not a fan of the whole cereal for breakfast thing, you have to admit that cereal cafe is an interesting idea.

London's Cereal Killer Cafe offers a wide variety of American and British cereal, as well as morning delicacies from France, Spain, Australia and Argentina. Apart from cow's milk (whole, semi or skimmed) there's a handful of plant milks options (soya, oat, rice, coconut, almond and hazelnut), all of which you can combine with different syrups, including bubble gum, peanut butter and mint.

Most people get pretty confused with endless cereal possibilities (or at least I did), so the Cereal Cocktails section can be a lifesaver. I know nothing about cereal, so I went for "Double Rainbow" and was very pleased (it was colourful and sweet, what else can a girl need?). Good thing the Cereal Killer Cafe is a regular cafe too, as I really needed a strong espresso after all that sugar.

Cereal Killer Cafe, 193 Brick Lane, E1 6SB London

Borough Market

Borough Market is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London. London Bridge attracted traders since the 11th century. Borough Market was a very popular place to buy and sell gran, fish, vegetables and livestock. In fact, it was so popular that in 1755 it was closed by Parliament, due to enourmous traffic congestion it was causing. However, a group of locals raised enough money to buy a patch of land, once the churchyard of St Margaret’s, and reopened the market in 1756.

Today the market is a popular foodie destination, frequented by chefs, amatour cooks and all types of gluttons, such as myself. It has everything, from variety of vegetables and cheeses to kangaroo burgers and scallops with bacon. Some of my favourite stalls sell seafood paella, fresh oysters, new potatoes with melted raclette cheese and freshly squeezed juices in all coulours of the rainbow.

Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, London

(closed on Sundays)

Oyster & Porter House

Oysters and beer? Some might find it rebellious and disrespectful, but it's not even a new idea. The tradition of pairing dark beer and oysters comes from 18th century, when oysters were a cheap and popular snack in taverns, mainly eaten by the working class. In the early 20th century, most of oyster beds were destroyed. The scarsity increased prices and oysters became an expensive delicacy, served with a glass of champagne instead of a pint of beer.

London’s Oyster & Porter House serves both oysters and beer. It is situated right next to the Borough Market, so the culinary competition is enormous. It’s a proper oyster bar, with a selection from France and Ireland, as well as Spain, Japan and New Orleans. The food menu changes daily, depending on availability of fresh fish and seafood. You can try Cornish crab, shell-on Atlantic prawns or a delicious beef, Guinness and oyster pie. The traditionalists, who only pair oysters with bubbles, shouldn't be disappointed - there's a wine and champagne list available.

I can now officially confirm that dark beer and oysters are a match made in heaven, especially if it’s an oyster stout we’re talking about. Some modern oyster stouts are simply beers that go well with oysters, but some breweries remain faithful to the tradition and actually add a handful of oysters to the barrel.

A half dozen of oysters and a glass of stout always make a perfect lunch.

Oyster & Porter House, The Wright Brothers

11 Stoney Street, Borough Market

London

Flambeeria

Tarte flambée - a traditional Alsatian flatbread, made with bread dough and baked in a wood-fire oven with crème fraîche, sliced onions and lardons. Contrary to what the name suggests, tarte flambée is not actually flambéed, but baked in flames - the borders of the crust should be at least golden brown, or even slightly burned. The best (and so far the only one) place to enjoy tarte flambée in Warsaw is called Flambéeria. Let’s see what its co-creators, Agnieszka Wiewiórska and Krzysztof Wołyniec, have to say about good wine and the secrets of a perfect dough.

Even though tarte flambée is a regional Alsatian dish, Flambéeria is not an Alsatian restaurant.

It was never our goal to move Alsace to Warsaw. Tarte flambée is just a starting point; we would describe our cuisine as European, with influences from many different countries. The whole concept was based on our memories from various culinary travels. Our team is a mix of friends and acquaintances - everyone brought their ideas, experiences and inspirations. What’s really funny is the fact that it wasn’t France where we first came across tarte flambée, but Kiev and South Africa.

How did you get the idea to base your menu on Alsatian tart?

In fact it didn’t start with tarte flambée, but with wine. We had this idée fixe for quite a while - to create a place where people can come and drink really good sparkling wine at really affordable prices. We wanted to add an interesting snack and at one point we realised that thin tart and sparkling wine are a match made in heaven.

I totally agree, this combination is amazing!

Well, it was only the beginning, as it soon turned out that it won’t be easy to recreate the crust. We were lucky to have met Krzysztof, an expert on bread dough and our master of tarte flambée.

Krzysztof, how did your passion start?

It all begun with another passion, my crazy love for Italy. I have always known that l’Italia is my place on earth. My friends make fun of me, because I recognise only one travel destination - Italy. I go there whenever I have some spare time. A few years back I’ve decided to stay for a little longer. I wanted to taste the Italian lifestyle and earn experience, I didn’t know if I would stay for a month or a year. I lived in sunny Abruzzo for almost four years. I’d tried different jobs, but what intrigued me from the beginning was the pizza dough and all the secrets of its preparation. I worked in several restaurants and finally I was given a chance to run a pizzeria. All these places were traditional, honest, with locals coming for dinners.

I was able to live my love for Italy every day. My work didn’t start until afternoon, so I would spend the first part of the day on Adriatic beach. Each evening started with lighting the oven and ended with baking bread from leftover dough. It turned out that physical work with wood-fire oven - woodchopping, kneeling the dough, sweeping out the ash - was both fascinating and purifying.

Having come back to Poland, I made a point of bringing a part of Italy with me. I start each day with coffee and a cornetto, I don’t eat scrambled eggs for breakfast. The only things missing were a warm sea and a wood-fire oven. Luckily, I have found the oven and tarte flambée became my next challenge.

Is tarte flambée very different from pizza?

They seem similar at first glance. Tarte flambée has a different shape, is thinner and cut in a different way. As usual, the devil is in the detail - it took numerous trials and errors and laboratory precision to develop a perfect recipe. The ingredients of both doughs are alike - flour, water, yeast, salt and olive oil - but finding the right proportions and method required a lot of effort. Italian dough is formed manually, Alsatian tarte calls for a rolling pin, as it has to be extremely thin. I had to discipline myself along the way, so that I wouldn’t go in the pizza direction.

But finally we got it, the recipe has been written down. We have also recently perfected our recipe for a gluten-free crust.

The menu is short, but well composed.

So far we have two salads and a few kinds of tarte flambée. The first one is a tribute to the Alsatian tradition (classic combination of bacon and onions), all the others are our variations. The base, crème fraîche, stays the same, the toppings change. We have a spicy tart with chorizo and prawns, a Polish version with white sausage, potatoes and fresh rosemary, a lighter one with pear, gorgonzola and lavender buds. There’s only one dessert position, tarte flambée with apples, cinnamon and brown sugar, but we will soon add other sweet choices. The menu indeed isn’t long, but we’ve carefully composed all the combinations and we are sure that we can recommend them to our guests.

And then there’s the sparkling wine!

We used a similar system when choosing wines - we’re selling the ones that we have tested ourselves and that we really liked (we were just as serious about wine tasting as we were with the dough). We have sparkling wines, just as promised. Our favourite is the lively and refreshing Glera, both frizzante and spumante. We have a short cocktail menu based on Glera as well. There’s traditional Kir (but with a twist: we top French crème de cassis with Italian wine), Mimosa and our version of Bellini, with nectarine or pear (depending on the season) and rosemary chutney that we make ourselves. There are no-fizzy wines too - delicate Flying Solo from Languedoc and fuller, more powerful Italian wines. So far we don’t serve Alsatian wines, but we have stronger cocktails, beer and cider. Just as with the food, the drinks menu is a combination of different experiences, ideas and inspirations.

If you haven’t had a chance to try tarte flambée, make sure to do it. Personally, I was quite surprised to discover that I found the simplest one the most addictive. On the other hand, the combination of cream, bacon and onions sounds very right and can make you feel so much better on a cold, dark evening. What is more, it won’t hurt your wallet - the classic tart is 16 PLN, a glass of Glera is, as promised, just 8 PLN. I think that sparkling wine works for every occasion. I have to say that after discovering the scandalous marriage of hot dogs and champagne, I didn’t think there could ever be a more enticing couple. But a thin Alsatian tart and a glass of sparkling Glera is at least just as good. Flambéeria is a great place for long evenings with friends, when you can share different kinds of tarte flambée and toast with sparkling FlamBellini. But don’t forget that bubbles can be deceiving!

Flambéeria, ul. Hoża 61, Warsaw

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