You can feel the warm glow of Oklava before you even pass through its doors. There’s that busy air of a beloved local about it – one that’s earned the trust of its customers’ tastebuds time and time again – and with good reason. Founded by renowned chef Selin Kiazim a few years ago, her take on modern Turkish-Cypriot cuisine continues to delight (so much so that she now published an Oklava cookbook). But despite its reputation, it’s not a fussy sort of place. Conversation dances contently around its bare walls as diners sit huddled around small tables. Its a simple, pared back interior that provides an impeccable backdrop for Selin’s vibrant culinary creativity.
Each dish on their short, snappy menu offers a symphony of flavours – most cooked in their charcoal grill (mangal) and stone oven. Expect the likes of house-cured lamb bacon with mulberry molasses, and whipped feta, candied pumpkin and chilli – and that’s just to start. Their style of ‘small plates’ luckily justifies being able to try lots on the menu, but even so, you’re still likely to over-order. ‘Mains’ consist of veg-centric dishes such as hispi cabbage with yoghurt sauce, chilli butter and smoked almond salsa and chilli roast cauliflower with red onion, parsley and pistachio. All cooked to crispy, umami perfection. For those after a bit of meat, the pomegranate glazed lamb breast is a must: rich, tangy, sweet and lip-smackingly moreish, it tastes even better when washed down with some Turkish wine (Gali merlot).
In Turkish, ‘Oklava’ is a traditional rolling pin, so it’s perhaps not surprising that Selin and her team have perfected their ‘doughy’ offerings. From the Baharat spiced bread with a medjool date butter to the cheese and kale pide (stuffed Turkish flatbread), those cross-cultural favourites of bread, butter and cheese have tasted so good together. And that’s before we’ve even mentioned our hero dish: künefe – a traditional Arab dessert made with shredded, noodle-thin pastry, and stuffed with cheese and pistachios. A glorious, syrupy sweet finale to an educational culinary jaunt.
74 Luke St, London, EC2A 4PY