While Istanbul and in fact, Turkey in general, are massively struggling at the moment, Turkish food in London seems to be flourishing.
But perhaps the most talked about opening has to be Oklava (modern Turkish food), by Selim Kiazin – a young, hungry and exceptionally talented Turkish chef. She wowed throughout her stint at Carousel, and was so loved that she set up on her own in a quiet Shoreditch side street.
The result is rather satisfactory. It is a lovely little restaurant, with a busy open kitchen (and a kitchen counter to watch the chefs at work), large windows which open widely and a few seats outside too.
We arrived early and grabbed some of the outside seats to enjoy the warm Friday evening (and later moved inside to their kitchen counter). I tried their sumac and pomegranate Martini – am always a fan of a vodka cocktail – especially if they keep it quite simple. Sumac might not be your cocktail ingredient of choice, but it’s actually quite sweet and worked really well. We then moved onto the wine – all Turkish – which originally we (mainly Rob) were sceptical about. Until we tried the wine the lovely waitress recommended, and that shut us up.
The menu is quite succinct, with everything sounding as mouth-watering as the dishes looked as they were prepared in front of us. A must try is of course their ‘pide’ (flat bread), prepared in their special wood fire. We went for the ‘traditional’ lamb one (Lahmacun), but their potato, leek, mozzarella, tulum cheese and fresh truffle one looked incredible too.
Our culinary journey here started with fresh Baharat bread and date butter – superb. They were followed by whipped feta and pumpkin crostinis which were slightly disappointing, not taste-wise, but size-wise (and at £2.50 a pop, not worth it in my opinion). The courgette, feta and mint fritters came next, and while they also looked quite small, they were wonderfully filling and one of my favourite bites of the night.
After the pide we were suddenly feeling quite full, but then came Rob’s beef short rib which was melt in the mouth delicious, followed by my pomegranate glazed lamb breast with yoghurt. Both excellent.
In a city where restaurants are competing for attention, to properly ‘stand out’, Oklava does. The price can add up (as tends to be the case with sharing plates) but it is totally worth it.
74 Luke St,
London EC2A 4PY
Photo credit: Oklava (and the Instagram ones are mine)