Rovi is everything Palomar is not.
Palomar is dark and claustrophobia-inducing. You have to squeeze past ten diners’ bums on bar stools to enter the restaurant, itself a tight, gloomy, un-windowed space. Rovi is spacious, vibrant and airy, the tables circling the room with enough space between them to avoid conversation leakage. The waiters are friendly and attentive without being overbearing, and the open kitchen flashes in the background, fulfilling the promise of the restaurant concept of “fire and fermentation”.
I’ve had multiple debates about small plates, my distaste for them reaching fresh heights at Palomar. Done badly (as in the aforementioned restaurant), they are lazy and mean. In the case of Rovi, however, the opposite is true.
The meal started with hot spiced butter beans that melted on the tongue. They were an on- the-house opener, which was a nice touch. These were swiftly followed by the tempura stems with Szechuan, mandarin and kaffir lime vinegar, the batter so light and so crisp that I crunched my way out of previous tempura-ambivalence.
The spaghetti squash followed, its rich, sweet resplendence counterbalanced with the cold zestiness of the ezme and mandarin yoghurt. Next came the hasselback beets - lifted from their unassuming earthy roots, caramelised and roasted without being messed around with unnecessarily.
I hate to bore you with endless eulogizing but I cannot fail to mention how the red cabbage was glorious with little pops of sweetness from the grapes, or how the celeriac shawarma was so cleverly elevated from the oft-scorned and rejected vegetable that often assumes a mouldy jacket in the bottom of my fridge, to a crispy, umami, centre stage.
Dessert came in the form of fig clafoutis, olive oil and lemon ice cream, and plum and juniper doughnuts, bay leaf cream, and almonds. All was delicate and light, sweet, but not teeth –curdlingly so. But the winner was the salted miso caramels, so good that if I concentrate hard enough I can summon up again their umami, caramelized fudgy- sweet/ savouriness.
Unfortunately, I can’t conjure up any negatives to indulge anyone's schadenfreude (if you’re looking for that, click here). I can, however, thoroughly recommend the well-balanced, carefully flavoured food served in Rovi. This is Ottolenghi at his best, contrasting textures, flavours and temperatures, and pushing ingredients to their limits.
Good for: brunch, family lunch, vegetarians, vegetable-lovers, Ottolenghi obsessives, healthy eating