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The Copper Kettle

London, Reviews

Oklava

Oklava entrance

A foodie friend recommended Oklava. Soon after, I booked a table for lunch with said friend and another equally lovely and equally foodie friend. As the day to eat there approached, the hype got bigger. The expectations and the amount of saliva in my mouth grew in equal measure.

As you arrive, you are greeted with a most unassuming welcome. The restaurant is a small room dominated by grey concrete and grey fixtures, glass and metal, with modern and simplistic décor throughout. Very Shoreditch. And in true Shoreditch style this is a thoroughly relaxed place. The partially exposed kitchen giving out that relaxed vibe like none of the other features does.

So far so good. But what about the food? The menu is perfect in size – on the small side but with enough promise to keep you changing your mind about what to order, scared you are missing out on the other delicious dishes your stomach won’t be able to hold. The good news is that between the 3 of us we should be able to cover most of the really interesting ones (however, we will have to come back to eat the others, damn it).

Oklava's menu

Oklava’s menu

Well, I can only say they had me at the date butter. From then on, the meal was an endless parade of clever dishes and delicious flavours. Food with soul and lots of love.

Let’s go back to the date butter – not even a dish but just a standard couvert option offered to everyone. For the date butter alone (and the amazing Baharat bread, served warm) I would come back here. After a lot of involuntary satisfied murmurs and positive interjections from the 3 of us, we moved on to the dishes we actually chose.

Baharat bread with Medjool date butter

Baharat bread with Medjool date butter

We started with ‘snacks’, the first one was grilled Haloumi with lemon and London honey. The smoky charred flavour and glistening honey elevate the humble haloumi to a level I hadn’t experienced before.

Grilled Haloumi with honey and lemon

Grilled Haloumi with honey and lemon

Some almost-healthy-sounding courgette, feta and mint fritters followed and they were creamy and crispy at the same time, both light and moorish. Definitely one to repeat.

Courgette, feta and mint fritters

Courgette, feta and mint fritters

A fabulous whipped feta with candied pumpkin on top of chilli crostini came next. What a handsome dish – white creamy feta topped with translucent jewels of sweet pumpkin, with flavours to match. Probably our top choice for ‘snacks’ and also one to repeat.

Whipped feta with candied pumpkin on chilli crostini

Whipped feta with candied pumpkin on chilli crostini

For ‘mains’ (although this is a tapas/small plates kind of place) we ordered the sour cherry pearl barley with crispy kale, yoghurt, chilli butter and sheep’s cheese. This dish is oh-so-good… Even though most of the ingredients are associated with bland super-foods we eat out of guilt, there is nothing bland about this dish. It was sweet and sour, salty and spicy, creamy and crispy and moist. I forgot I was eating pearl barley with kale and felt like I was eating a feast of forbidden foods. This was also one of the top 3 of dishes for the day.

Sour cherry pearl barley with crispy kale

Sour cherry pearl barley with crispy kale

Another huge surprise was the chilli roast cauliflower. A humble not-so-hot vegetable that managed to make it to the top of the leaderboard. The smoky and buttery flavours contrasted beautifully with the freshness of the vinaigrette and red onions and the nuttiness of the pistachios. A little crunch ensured the perfect texture. Who knew cauliflower could provoque such pleasurable sensations?

Chilli roast cauliflower with red onion, parsley and pistachios

Chilli roast cauliflower with red onion, parsley and pistachios

I then spotted the word ‘octopus’ in the menu. If you read my blog posts you probably know by now that octopus would be my death row meal, should I ever indulge in capital punishment crime. So I couldn’t resist the braised octopus flatbread with ricotta, honey, olives, pickled caper shoots and thyme. This was delicious and quite substantial, so if you are looking to fill your boots with one dish, then this could be it. I really liked the dish but have to admit I have eaten better octopus in Portugal, but that is not necessarily a derogatory comment for Oklava’s octopus, just that my standards for octopus are very high (some of the best octopus I’ve had was here).

Octopus flatbread with ricotta, olives, honey, pickled caper shoots and thyme

Octopus flatbread with ricotta, olives, honey, pickled caper shoots and thyme

Another favourite for the day was the crab and green chilli Gözleme and cheese fondue that was a kind of stuffed chapati, wonderfully crispy and buttery. I know cheese and crab sounds like a strange combination and although the restaurant calls it a fondue, I would say it’s more like a cheese sauce. The combination really works.

Crab and green chilli Gözleme & cheese fondue

Crab and green chilli Gözleme & cheese fondue

We also tried the short rib flatbread, which was also lovely and the crispy pomegranate-glazed lamb breast, which was also very nice.

Yes I know, we sound like gluttonous beasts… no shame there I guarantee you. And yes, we could barely walk and had no space for dessert (definitely need another visit!). And we rolled into work with the mental capacity of a goat. I feel not a hint of regret. If anything, I left feeling slightly annoyed that I work so close to this place and hadn’t tried it before. I will be back and it will be soon.

This is what I call a 5 stars place. It is 5 stars not because it produces Michelin-starred food or it houses Damien Hirt’s art suspended from the ceiling, nor it is housed in a 5-star hotel. It is 5 stars because it delivers 5-star quality food in tandem with what it promises to deliver. It is meant to deliver delicious carefully-crafted Turkish food and does exactly that. Not more, not less. Furthermore, it is honest both with respect to what it offers and how much it charges. It is what I call a ‘well worth it’ £50 meal (for one, with wine), and one of the best I have had recently.

Where: Shoreditch, London

Cuisine: Turkish, small plates

Type: Restaurant

Occasion: Lunch or dinner

Price: On the pricey side but good value

Rating: 5 stars

Would I go again? Yes, already booked

 

Recipes

Slow cooked pork chops with apples and dates

slow cooked pork chops with dates

I find pork chops quite uninteresting, even though pork is my favourite meat. Of the cuts, I think the chop is the least exciting and I often find myself shallow frying it and adding interest by means of a mustard sauce of some sort. This time I decided to treat the chop as any other cut that can be slow cooked (think pulled pork…).

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Inside Saboriccia
Food Drink Cooking

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2015 ended with a familiar picture – a week in the city of Porto, in the north of Portugal. I unreservedly LOVE this city. Not only because I was born here and lived here for over 25 years, but because it is genuinely one of the top cities in Europe to visit. It has everything: tradition and culture, sea and sand, river, architecture, rich history, lots of sunshine and, of course, beautiful food. I won’t dwell too much on all the positive aspects of this city or go into too much detail about food in Porto – that would need a whole series of blog posts. What I want to do is give you a little glimpse of this last food week, using photos I took (when I remembered!).

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Reviews, UK

Jeremy’s

Inside Jeremy's

Inside Jeremy’s

We had been meaning to try this 2-Rosette awarded restaurant set in the grounds of Borde Hill Garden (West Sussex) for a while. We have eaten at its younger sister Café Elvira a few times but were always intrigued by the more luxurious Jeremy’s just next door. In the surrounding villages, Jeremy’s seemed to be well-liked and was often mentioned by locals as a place to go.

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Recipes

Game sausage croquettes

Game sausage croquettes

I love croquettes, they take me down memory lane and remind me of when I used to walk home from secondary school and stop at the local grocery to get some, which I would finish off by the time I got home. They were the best croquettes I have ever eaten but sadly that grocery store is no more. The memory lives on, however, and I will continue making croquettes in search of that perfect taste and texture.

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Recipes

Easy prawn curry

Easy prawn curry

This easy peasy curry is inspired by a recipe by Mimi Spencer – one of the authors of The Fast Diet. Mimi’s purpose was to create a low-calorie delicious meal for fasting days. Here I have removed that restriction and made my own version, which is not particularly fattening but probably not suitable for those days, if you happen to be following the diet.

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Food Drink Cooking

Love a good beer

Oberon Session IPA

Please don’t think I am an expert in beer. I’m not. But I do love a good beer. And if you do too, you will know that the Belgians do good beer, and so do the Dutch and the Germans. Before I came to England I never thought the English did good beer. And when I tried ale for the first time I couldn’t understand why anyone enjoyed this lifeless, warm liquid. As people raved about it I kept trying. And then I tried some more… with the trying came curiosity about local and seasonal ales, a bit of reading and some more tasting.

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Recipes

Wellington burger parcels

Wellington parcel ready to eat

I love Beef Wellington! Quite frankly anything inside (or outside, for that matter) puff pastry tends to meet with my approval. But Beef Wellington is hard work. Something I tend to let hard-working chefs cook for me in exchange for money. But I wanted to evoke the Wellington-ness of this classic and make my own easy version using burgers. I’m not sure if I can call this dish Wellington at all but I guess it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that these were d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s. And really easy. Nothing the mere mortal cook can’t make.

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London, Reviews

Taberna do Mercado

 

As a Portuguese person living in England and working in London I was really excited to hear about Nuno Mendes’s new place in East London. Taberna do Mercado is a little tavern-evoking restaurant serving typical Portuguese food. And for once, it really promised typical Portuguese food and not some adaptation, even though it has been upgraded to a more fine dining level. I had to go try it and soon!

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