Rovi is the kind of place to save for something special and to arrive at with a good appetite – there’s Plenty (both in his recipe-book sense and menu choice wise) to try. Like the theme of Plenty, Rovi serves small plates of food cooked mostly on coals, about two thirds of which is vegetarian. And this is certainly not the usual veggie suspects you might find on a restaurant menu. Rovi’s theme is “fermentation and cooking over fire” which can be detected both from a glance at the menu and the sight of the open kitchen at the back.
Buzzy and inviting, Rovi has a central revolving bar surrounded by individual tables and a communal large table. It’s much more spacious than the Upper Street restaurant and more buzzy than Nopi. Helped by the very welcoming staff, it feels totally happening – very Manhattan, with a perfect Friday evening vibe.
As mentioned, Ottolenghi is putting vegetables at the centre of the show here: all small plates are vegetarian, with vegan options available too. Each of these small plates has a USP of its own, with a distinctive spicing, assemblage and cooking method.
Just after we ordered we were presented with an appetiser: a very small plate of dainty butter beans swimming in the most deliciously seasoned olive oil I’ve tasted. From the very beginning, the food here is making an argument – just like Ottolenghi’s big-shouldered salads, even the tiniest of plates will smack you awake with taste.
Onto the small plates themselves, whilst between us, we ordered all, four sang out to me. First, was the Grilled Kasuzake Cucumber served with a peanut and lime sambal (£8.50). This triage of ingredients is testament to how interesting the menu is here. There are obvious Japanese references and the sambal which sat beneath the cucumber was singing with flavour. Though cucumber can sometimes be pretty boring, Ottolenghi’s spin on it is definitely not. Refreshing yet spicy, this nod to the Asia was a nice change from the usual Middle Eastern encounters that Ottolenghi’s food brings.
Second, was the plate of Hot Tomatoes (£9). Grilled and served with cold coconut yogurt, these vibrant tomatoes are then sprinkled with Turkish Urfa and chilli flakes and paired with batons of grilled sourdough. Its simplicity is juxtaposed by the pleasure delivered when these textures and temperatures come together. Piling the bread with the layers of yogurt and tomato was a DIY delight in itself – I felt like a kid. And the resulting mouthful was light and brisk because of the cooling yogurt, yet spicy and interesting.
Third, was the Courgettes (£10.50), served with goat’s yogurt, Aleppo butter and Malawah bread. I’m amazed by how diverse Ottolenghi’s dips continue to be – each one paired with a different type of bread whether it be pitta, sourdough or in this case a thin and crispy homemade flatbread.
And finally, were the Piatonni beans (£10.50) served with goat’s cheese, peach and smoked almonds. The sweetness of the grilled peach, probably my favourite summer fruit of the moment, was counterbalanced by the smokey flavour of the long green beans and crunch of the nuts. What a success.
Whilst you do end up building up your bill, it’s totally worth it. This is thrilling food. There’s this overwhelming sense of care and love at Rovi; a modern restaurant which celebrates vegetables and spicing in an unfailing way.
Rovi, 59 Wells St, Fitzrovia, London W1A 3AE