I am not a fan of slow food. With slow food I don’t mean good quality food that’s sourced locally. I mean slow food, like in waiting one hour for your food. If you’re hungry and you’re drinking your third aperitif because the food is not coming, then you’ll end up drunk at table. That’s probably not the ideal scenario for a romantic dinner.
Last weekend I was in London with my wife for a surprise weekend, including romantic dinners, in Margot, top Italian food, and in Nopi, the restaurant of celebrity chef Yotam Ottolenghi. We certainly did not have to wait long for our food in these restaurants. Actually, we hardly had to wait at all. There was even no time for an aperitif before dinner. I bet it was after about five minutes, no longer, when they already served our starters. Amazing, you think. Efficient! How do they do it?! Nice food, nice setting, nice company. So far so good! We finished the starter, chatted a bit about the nice things we did in London that day. Relaxed. Chilled. Whow, there comes the main dish! We just finished the starter… Okay, well, let’s eat then. Nice food, nice setting, nice company. Good. Main dish finished. Hmm, enjoyed that. And hoppa! There’s dessert! Seriously?! Guys, I can still taste what I ate five minutes ago… No mercy for the eating here. Thou shalt have dessert! Fine, whatever, then give me a coffee too. And the bill while you’re at it. Goodbye. Thank you.
What a rush… A good night out in a restaurant for me is a total experience. Good food is probably the most important thing in a restaurant. All the rest can be great, if you’re food is not good, you will not be satisfied. But good food is not enough. You want to relax, be greeted with a smile, enjoy the company, and certainly not have the feeling that you’re being rushed. A good night out is a moment I want to remember for long. So that in a couple of years I can still say : “hey you remember that night in … “. We will remember both places though. Also for good reasons, because we ate really well. Margot serves authentic, high-level, really tasty Italian food. Just like the food you get in Italy, and that is probably the best complement you can get from me when it comes to Italian food. So complements to the chef! The food in Nopi was also amazing! Being fans of Ottolenghi’s mediterranean taste explosions, we had high expectations. And they were met! Ottolenghi is a master in combining flavors that you would not expect , but that actually work out really well together. The octopus with sweet corn, chipotle and avocado was probably our favorite. The grilled octopus melted in your mouth, I loved it.
Unfortunately, the speed of the service was not the only minus I will remember. In both places they managed to serve the food before we got our wine. I’m probably much pickier about something like this than other people, but I find it important that the wine is good, of course, and also that you get your wine together with your food. Most of the times what happens is that you get your wine way too long in advance and that your glass is empty before you get your food. I don’t like that either. But having eaten half my dish before I get my wine? That’s not good. I wrote a few blog posts about food and wine pairings under the category “one and one is three”. That’s because I want the food and the wine to push each other to a higher level. That’s not easy, but when that happens, I am very happy. I am also happy when I get good wine in a restaurant. Even that is far from obvious. But when I don’t get my wine with my food, I get nervous… I know, that might sound exaggerated. But in top restaurants, these things need to be right, don’t they?
Was it because they don’t have a sommelier? I don’t know. Their wine lists are good. Honestly, I think the staff are just being rushed too much. It’s very hard to coordinate when everything has to go so fast. In Nopi they don’t do one shift, they do several. So we entered at 21.15, after the previous bunch of people had left. You can only have several shifts if you rush people. And then that’s what happens. You have to eat too fast, you don’t get your wine on the right moment, and we were also told that the kitchen was going to close in the middle of our main course, so if we still wanted to order something, we had to do it then. I guess these are all pretty minor issues, but when you put all of this together, there remains a lingering feeling of sitting on a conveyor belt. Pity, because both places could actually offer the perfect dining experience. If they only slowed things down a notch…