The name 'Oklava' means a traditional rolling pin in Turkish, which is used to make breads, pastries and pides (Turkey's version of pizza - long oblong-shaped dough with minced meat, herbs or cheese - simply delicious). As a female lead looking to put Turkish cuisine on the London food map, Selin Kiazim has created a contemporary menu of Turkish-Cypriot fare.
Upon entering Oklava, we were surprised to find it packed. For a restaurant that had only opened a few months prior, the word had certainly spread quickly that this was a very good place to eat at. It was quite cramped, with ten small tables, and seats at the bar where all the action takes place. The kitchen is evidently central to the whole dining experience and everyone gets a peak wherever one may be sitting. It is a lively, yet comforting and "under control" ambiance, almost like dining in a family kitchen.
Oklava has an upscale bistro feel to it where copper and black tones subtly co-exist. The lighting is discreet, basking the restaurant in an inviting and intimate glow. The service is efficient, friendly and knowledgeable. Staff was on hand to offer advice on the menu and answer all our questions. We had some immediate favourites but also let ourselves be guided by our waitresses' recommendations. As in many middle-eastern restaurants, the food is served "tapas-style": it is all about sharing, tasting and experiencing many different dishes. It is a delight from beginning to end.
The menu offers a contemporary twist on Turkish food. Yes, there are pides but with ingredients that you would not necessarily expect (e.g. Spiced Short Rib, Tomato, Çemen Yoghurt & Green Chilli). Lamb, fish and a glorious selection of vegetarian dishes are the principal heroes. We opted for quite a selection:
Courgette, Feta and Mint fritters
Baharat bread and Medjool date butter
Sour Cherry Pearl Barley, Crispy Kale, Yoghurt, Chilli Butter & Sheep’s Cheese
Imam Bayildi with Yoghurt
Chilli Roast Cauliflower, Red Onion, Parsley & PistachiosMonkfish, Citrus, Urfa Chilli Dressing & Coriander
Seftali Kebab, Red Onion Salad & Lemon
Chocolate, Prune & Cardamom Delice, Blood Orange Cream & Praline
Oklava is quite a find. It is refreshing to taste a whole new world cuisine with ingredients that we have become familiar with: pomegranate, cardamom, pistachios and dates, to name a few. We had a fantastic evening combining creative and wholesome dishes, great and unexpected wine (all the wine is Turkish) and lots of inspiring conversation.
I have vowed to return with our next set of guests!
(photos courtesy of the restaurant's own website)