Fig Bistro

My lovely friend JK, who is as much a foodie as I am, liked the idea of trying Fig Bistro in Barnsbury when I suggested it. She often drives past the restaurant, which with its candlelit window, looks cosy and romantic. I’ve never been past the place but I liked the sound of it because Chef Christoffer Hruskova’s CV read well. Having spent a year at King Hans, Denmark’s longest running Michelin starred restaurant, Christoffer embarked on a worldwide culinary tour, taking in kitchens such as Tetsuya’s in Sydney, one of the ‘50 Best Restaurants in the World’, and the now closed Patria in New York City which I use to love when I lived in NYC.

The restaurant is as cute as JK described. It’s warm and homely with brick walls and woodwork furnishings. But our meal got off to an unpromising start. Our waitress had no idea what was in the Cornish charcuterie, one of the starters on the menu. She sent another waiter around to answer our questions, but he was also unable to tell us what was in the Cornish charcuterie or how a main course of Herdwick lamb rump Provencale was cooked. I was floored that the waiting staff at a restaurant could be that ignorant about the dishes on a menu, especially one as short as this (about 5 to 6 options per course).

For starters, I decided to go for the pan-fried scallops and cauliflower (£8) which was part of the ‘Bistro Special menu’ (4 courses for £35). Initially the waiter declined to let me order it (as it was part of the set menu), but with a gentle nudge he finally relented.

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Ottolenghi – Islington

I can never resist the patisserie delights at Ottolenghi. Whenever I walk past the branch on Ledbury Road in Notting Hill, I invariably end up gazing longingly through its shop window at all the treats on display and walking away with one a few minutes later. But Ottolenghi does much more than the sweet stuff. There is also a savoury selection at the display counter, and at the Islington branch (there are also branches in Kensington and Belgravia), there is a laid-back communal dining area, furnished in white, where you can choose from a menu (Islington is the only branch to offer this serviced dine-in area).

This menu is updated daily, and is split between dishes from the display counter and those ‘from the kitchen’. The dishes are all starter-sized, and so Ottolenghi recommends that you order three dishes per person. There were 15 choices on the menu on the evening of our visit (the menu is updated daily), and as there were 5 of us, K came up with the excellent idea of ordering all 15 dishes for us to share. I love to share! And I love to taste lots of little things, so this was ideal for me.

Left in a clockwise direction: tuna, pear, pumpkin, beef, aubergine

Left in a clockwise direction: tuna, pear, pumpkin, beef, aubergine

We started with the dishes from the counter selection. A line-caught seared tuna (£8.80) wrapped in nori (seaweed) and panko (breadcrumbs) was resoundingly fresh, and given a burst of life from the gentle heat of an accompanying wasabi cream.

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