In addition to coveted cookbooks and a mini empire of restaurants all focused on vegetable-forward Middle Eastern cuisine, did you know that Yotem Ottolenghi does breakfast? A dish or two by the Middle Eastern master is a damn fine way to start the day, and now breakfast is served until noon at his Shoreditch restaurant.
The space is rarely crowded mid-morning, so there’s lots of room to enjoy yourself. The furniture is all white, leaving nothing to distract from your meal. Some of the tables have their own toasters with their concertina wires plugged into the sockets in the ceiling, and there are big plate-glass windows looking out onto a narrow cobbled street. The whole feeling is rather of a light, spacious, designer cafeteria.
The waitress, immaculately clad in black, takes our order with precise efficiency and brings coffee with milk, perfectly pitched between creamy and dark, in smallish cups. The menu doesn’t offer up the usual selection of eggs any which way, bacon, or maple syrup. Come on, what do you think Ottolenghi would offer up for breakfast? It’s a tough call, ordering here. Scrambled tofu and rose harissa? Welsh rarebit on sourdough?
As well as the substantial main dishes, we tacked on a couple sides as well. Go for portobello mushrooms in vinegar and slow-roasted garlic. These are astoundingly good, meaty, and steeped in balsamic vinegar with flakes of garlic on top that melt on the tongue. Our other side of deep-fried artichoke is less exciting with dainty little crisps to dip into jalapeño salt and crème fraiche. But perhaps that’s just because I always hanker for the Roman-Jewish version, where the artichoke is flattened out into a fan shape and then, deliciously decadentl served up deep-fried and sprinkled with salt. Admittedly, that’d be a bit heavy for breakfast.
The most exquisite main choice is the braised eggs with leek, spinach, preserved lemon, and za’atar. Digging into the layers of flavors, the perfectly poached eggs break open. I will actually have to return to try this for myself (and not just steal bits from my dining companion). I’d also love to try the signature shakshuka, a North African combination of eggs, peppers, and tomatoes. I opted for the polenta, feta, and sweet-corn cakes with poached eggs and guacamole, all as rib-sticking as it sounds and almost too robust — but pure comfort food, made delicate through a touch of lemon cream and given bite with green chile.
With prices at around £10 ($12.49) per dish and sides for £3.50 ($4.37), this is an amazing value way to start the day and even more so for brunch. Who’d have thought that Shoreditch could deliver such serenity?