A visit to Oklava is likely to induce giddy childlike excitement simply from the sheer exoticism of chef Selin Kiazim’s innovative Turkish-Cypriot inspired menu. You could spend hours googling the ingredients or thankfully their extremely helpful staff are on hand to give you a quick, brief explanation.
The decor is on the right side of minimalist so that you know they have given the design careful thought with the white and aquamarine colour scheme rather than just a new restaurant with no budget for decorations. The unusual features are their outdoor terrace tables which are essentially ledges facing into the restaurant: ingenious use of space given their narrow nature of the Shoreditch streets.
Dishes are not necessarily cheap here with sharing plates going up to prices that are £17.50, which would be main course prices anywhere else. However this is no ordinary Shoreditch hipster restaurant, the incredible quality and unusualness of the ingredients shine like a glowing beacon through the city calling on foodies to flock to Oklava. Their spotless open kitchen with a stone oven and a real charcoal grill is a temple to highlight Selin’s dedication to cooking perfection.
They offer an unusual Baharat bread which has a grey tinge using a mixture of Arabian spices and comes with a heavenly sweet medjool date butter. In fact the butter is so famous, they even sell it now at Selfridges. The grilled Cypriot pastirma sausage was gently charred and satisfyingly salty, although it definitely belongs in the snacks section, offering only 5 small pieces.
The monkfish was sturdy and perky. It is well-flavoured especially when matched with spiced runner beans and cemen(cumin) crumbs. I’ve never actually tried fish combined with a poached egg, but the yolk soaks invitingly into the body of the monkfish to create an even more appetising dish.
I never thought I would say this, but the highlight of my visit was a vegetarian dish: carrot borani, muhammara, filo and tulum shards and smoked aubergine puree. It is everything you would not expect from a vegetarian dish: it is very filling and vibrantly exciting with the contrasting textures and flavours and the presentation is top-notch. There was plenty of love for the silky smooth aubergine puree and the delicately fine filo and tulum shards. This dish must be on the nominee list at least for the best vegetarian dish I’ve ever eaten.
They have a fascinating list of Turkish wines on their menu and helpfully separated into light, medium and full-bodied. The Oklava experience might not come cheap, but it is the kind of culinary adventure you couldn’t put a price on. If you are a self-respecting foodie, pick up the phone and make a booking with Oklava today.