Veg out at Rovi – for style and substance
17 October, 2019 — By Tom Moggach
Rovi’s Jerusalem mixed vegetable grill
EVERY detail at Rovi bears the stylish hallmark of Yotam Ottolenghi – even the wireless password. You type “celeriac” to get online, one of the many vegetables he’s helped to rescue from obscurity.
Tap in his name and get more than two million search results. This Israeli-English chef has exerted a huge influence on food in Britain. Most keen cooks keep one of his bestsellers in their kitchen.
Rovi in Fitzrovia is his grandest restaurant to date, a masterpiece of chic design and on-trend cuisine. The heavy wooden doors are 9ft high. Heft them open to reveal 90 seats and a large oval bar hogging the centre of the room, shelves stocked with homemade infusions such as Thai basil vodka or chocolate gin.
At the back of the curvy space, chefs toil around a large open fire kitted out with ingenious pulleys, grills and hooks.
Ferments are a feature, with rows of large Kilner jars stuffed with pickles, kimchis and gently fizzing kombuchas.
I’ve visited Rovi a couple of times and it’s a thrilling experience. But breakfast is your best bet if you want to keep the cost down.
The full house, £14.50, is pitch perfect: a coil of beef sausage skewered with a sprig of rosemary and licked by the flames; a wedge of deep-fried rosti; homemade beans; curls of crispy bacon; and a simple fried egg.
I took mine with a side of zingy avocado salsa. After pestering, a chef says he mashes then mixes the avo with fresh herbs, chilli, lime juice, Chardonnay vinegar and a touch of wholegrain mustard.
Other breakfast options include green shakshuka, Jalapeno cornbread and a dish of Manouri cheese with grilled peach, bacon and za’atar honey for £9.50.
The proper fireworks start in the evening, when Rovi is invariably buzzing.
Much of the menu is small plates and nibbles. But be warned – these delights vanish in seconds.
I suggest slowing down the pace of your meal.
Order several portions of sourdough bread and olive oil, then a first wave of food.
A snack of oyster mushrooms, deep fried in polenta, comes with swirl of mojo verde sauce from the Canary Islands.
The dainty kofta kebabs, made with beef mince and offal, are lifted by a pinch of fragrant allspice. Smashed cucumber cuts through the rich flavours.
Celeriac is a cunning replacement for meat in Ottolenghi’s shawarma kebab with bkeila, an extraordinary Tunisian condiment made by cooking down armfuls of spinach to a black paste.
These smaller dishes typically cost £7-10. The prices crank up with the larger plates – steak, halibut, smoked mussels or the Jerusalem mixed vegetable grill. (The latter is slightly underwhelming for £21.)
The drinks menu also dazzles, with imaginative cocktails and a thoughtful selection of low-intervention and natural wines.
Rovi is all about style and exhilarating flavours – a pure distillation of the Ottolenghi ethos.
59 Wells Street, W1A
020 3963 8270