photo credit: Adam Luszniak
Ask anyone into sci-fi films what we’ll be eating in the future, and they’ll say one of two things: protein gruel, or noodles. Whether it’s from Terry Gilliam’s mind or Ridley Scott’s, the consensus is clear. One day, our dining habits will resemble those of a Ladbible aficionado. It’s going to be a pretty sorry state of affairs. Or, maybe it won’t be, if Rovi - the restaurant from Yotam Ottolenghi - is anything to go by.
There’s something of the not too distant future about Rovi. Its menu is primarily vegetables, and the method of cooking is, basically, fire. Things like corn ribs with apricot sauce feel like a conscious decision. As if the people here know about a future we don’t. A pig uprising. A boar war. But actually, it’s just that they’re good enough to not really bother with meat. A lot of the menu reads straightforward at first. The main ingredients are familiar - grilled onions, squash, beetroot - but made complicated by the spices and sauces they’re paired with. If Cormac McCarthy had come to Rovi, all sorts of grim things could have been avoided in The Road. What we’re trying to say is this: in a dystopian future, we should all be thinking about scorched tomatoes with yoghurt, or charred peppers with polenta. Sod a human shawarma. Have a celeriac one instead.
Lots about this restaurant is familiar and welcoming. It’s five minutes from Oxford Circus and serves every meal of the day. The ideal post-apocalyptic haven. But it’s also, and not in an exclusive-show-offy way, different. Not just for its all-day accessibility, but for the way they make certain things so delicious. To the point that you just keep going on and on about it all. There is meat and fish here, but it’s all about the vegetables. Where else are you going to have tempura herbs? Or red cabbage that tastes like this? What about those spiced butter beans they give you at the bar? And that gooey beetroot and chocolate fondant you said you didn’t have room for. Trust us. You’ll go on, and on.
There’s a touch of the eco-futures about the space. It’s simultaneously modern and retro. As if Deckard from Blade Runner went on Grand Designs feeling all sustainable. It’s big, light, with lots of wood, and some coloured art deco touches. In fact, the whole place just feels quite filmic. Everything runs as it should do, and there are endless characters at the bar and sitting on the curved sofa seats. It’s buzzing and active, with a never ending loop of extras.
The best thing about Rovi is that although it feels a little futuristic, it’s very much in the present. It’s a restaurant full of familiar things done differently, and ideal for anyone, at any time, which is what all restaurants present and future should be aiming for, really. But anyway, why are you still reading this? You could be eating a celeriac shawarma. Right. Now.
Tempura Stems And Herbs
This is the best tempura we’ve ever had. The szechuan vinegar is like being tasered in the mouth. But in a good way.
Crumpet Lobster Toast
This is the cumpet's next evolutionary stage. This is a crumpet at the pub after watching half a TED talk. It’s crumpet 2.0.
Corn Ribs, Apricot Sauce, Chipotle Salt
‘But they can’t be ribs if they’re not from an animal’. Says everyone before eating these and promptly shutting up.
Hot Tomatoes, Yoghurt, Urfa Chilli
Everything about this plate glistens. The tomatoes lolling in their own juices. Their yoghurt duvet. The charred and oily bread soldiers. Your eyes looking at the plate. The person at the opposite table salivating.
Spaghetti Squash, Ezme, Mandarin Yoghurt
The spiced tomato-y dip that’s plopped on this squash is excellent. In fact it’s all excellent.
Red Cabbage, Gorgonzola, Grapes
Brits often only associate red cabbage with roasts and Christmas dinner. After you eat this, you’ll realise how backwards we are.
Peppers, White Polenta, Yolk Bottarga
This genuinely looks like peppers and gruel. But it’s got a kick to it as well. If this what the future holds, then sign us up.
Hasselback Beetroot, Lime Cream, Herb Salsa
Hasselback sounds like a dad shouting on the sidelines at a Sunday league game, but it’s just slicing something very thinly, so that it has pages, almost. We’d want lots and lots of pages of this beetroot.
Celeriac Shawarma, Bkeila, Fermented Tomato
We are enormous advocates of shawarmas and all of their kebab brethren. A celeriac one though? Really? Yes really. It’s up there with the best. Even your 1am favourites.
Squid And Lardo Skewer
We’ve banged on about the vegetables at Rovi, but if there’s one meat or fish to order, it’s this. A melt in your mouth skewer.
Onglet Skewers, Chilli, Peanuts
Onglet isn’t our favourite cut of beef, but these are nice enough. Though your money and time is much better spent on other things.
Plum And Juniper Doughnuts, Bay Leaf Cream
In theory these are cute and great. In reality there a bit disappointing and sad. Like a dog wearing Uggs.
Beetroot And Chocolate Fondant
Very gooey and very good. You should absolutely be finishing your meal with this.