James Beard Award-winning Israeli-British chef Yotam Ottolenghi has opened his seventh restaurant in London. ROVI, which debuted in Fitzrovia, one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods, “serves a menu with vegetables at its heart but with a fresh focus on fermentation and cooking over fire.”
“We wanted to develop a new restaurant and bar with vegetables at the core, but treated a little differently. At ROVI, vegetables will be the main event, cooked on the grill. We’ll mainly work with small batch suppliers and farmers, people who respect the environment and the produce, to bring the best quality food to our diners while supporting best-practice agriculture,” Ottolenghi says.
Ottolenghi, who owns five eponymous cafe-restaurants, as well as the more formal Nopi, in Soho, was born Jerusalem. He is of Italian and German descent and spent his childhood summers in Italy. In 1989, he joined the Israel Defence Forces and served three years in the IDF intelligence headquarters. After completing a combined bachelor's and master's degree in comparative literature at Tel Aviv University and working as an editor, he moved to London to study at Le Cordon Bleu.
Ottolenghi worked as a pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Capital Restaurant, Kensington Place, and Launceston Place. In 1999, he became the head pastry chef at Baker and Spice, where he met Arab-Palestinian chef Sami Tamimi, who had grown up in Jerusalem near Ottolenghi. Both bonded over their "incomprehension of traditional English food."
In 2002, the two opened the Ottolenghi deli in the Notting Hill with Ottolenghi’s ex-partner Noam Bar. The deli is known for its innovative dishes and Middle Eastern ingredients such as rose water, za'atar, and pomegranate molasses.
For ROVI, Ottolenghi promises a different “feeling and character.” The head chef is Neil Campbell, who worked as head chef at Bruno Loubet’s Grain Store in King’s Cross. He will be working with development chef Calvin von Niebel, and Ottolenghi and Tamimi will serve as executive chefs.
“The name, ROVI, is a little bit of NOPI and a little bit of Fitzrovia,” says Ottolenghi. "At ROVI, vegetables will be the main event, cooked on the grill.”
ROVI seats 85 and has a vegetable-inspired menu that focuses on fermentation and cooking over fire. The produce is sourced from organic farmers, and the fruit and vegetables will come from Brambletye in Sussex, and from Organiclea in East London. The restaurant also features a large central bar with cocktails based on seasonal spices and house shrubs and a varied low-intervention wine list.
“Think Jersey Royals smoked on top of hay, hand-dived scallops with cucumber kombucha, or peaches grilled over fire,” says Ottolenghi.