Having been open for a few years now, it feels as though ROVI has really settled into itself. We wonder if Ottolenghi’s accessible reputation means that ROVI is rarely considered among London’s higher restaurant echelons, but on the strength of our experience, this is a fascinating restaurant that isn’t afraid to try new things.
ROVI’s pine dining room seemed sleek and beautiful when it first opened - the Instagramification of London’s restaurants since has left it looking a bit plain. The bar in the centre is a very smart centrepiece, but tables do feel rather too efficiently packed in, and a little cramped as a result.
Still, food is where ROVI truly excels. Neil Campbell has carved a unique, distinctive style at ROVI that leans heavily into the tang and funk of ferments, pickles, kombuchas, shrubs and everything in between. These may seem like trivial additions, but they really lift dishes to new levels. The celeriac shawarma is an icon at this point, but it’s the fizzing fermented tomato salsa that blasts it into the stratosphere. Smoky lamb ribs are slow-grilled to perfection in a black garlic marinade, then lifted by the simple addition of a pickled chilli.
Desserts are so often an afterthought, but clearly someone in the team has a real talent for pastry. A blood orange treacle tart provides layers and layers of intrigue - bitter orange treacle, the crunch of superb pastry (with hidden cornflakes), and a creme fraiche sorbet that cuts through it all. It’s exceptional - worthy of any top restaurant in London.
Not everything is quite so successful. Grilled octopus with preserved lemon and cascabel oil promised much but felt a bit flat, and a dish of coffee-roasted beetroot with basil and grapefruit, though a fascinating combination, wasn’t quite for us. This is a restaurant that is always striving to innovate - it doesn't always come off, but it’s breathless stuff when it does.