It turns out that I’ve never actually eaten decent mozzarella before. I mean, I thought I had, but after sampling what was on offer at newly opened Obika in South Kensington I realised that everything I’ve ever tried beforehand has been second rate bland stringy generic cheese. Inside the sleek sushi-bar inspired interior of Obika, a couple of murky tanks sit full of the stuff and if you ever find yourself at a loss of places to eat in south Ken it’s well worth just popping in to perch at the bar and gorge on the cheese over a glass of wine. But Obika is much more than just a bar with some fine cheese, it’s a fully fledged Italian restaurant and over the course of our extensive meal we got to try some of it’s offerings. Things started simply with a short shot of crisp clean tomato soup. It was a great introduction to meal, with a lovely sipable texture and strong aromas of basil.
Sea bass Tatare (£8.95) was our first full sized starter and, whilst the sea bass was very delicately flavoured, the delicious slice of truffle and combination of fleshy fish and crisp bread was quite special. The dish was simple, but the remarkable quality of the ingredients really shone through.
Next up was the main event, three different sorts of mozzarella, three different cold cuts of meat and two side dishes of aubergine and artichoke. The mozzarella was all outstanding, the consensus on the table was that the sloppy creamy burrata was the most impressive, although I really enjoyed the smoked ball with its rich fired taste. At £4.95 each it’s worth trying all three. The rest was all decent, but overshadowed by the cheese and whilst the aubergine casserole (£6.25) was mouthwatering, the artichokes (£6.35) were merely nice. Even though we didn’t adore the sliced meats (£5.25-£6.45 per meat) there wasn’t any left by the time our next pasta dish arrived. What the Scialatielli di Gragnano “Pasta Gentile” (£8.25) lacked in presentation it mostly made up for in taste, the strong chewy al-dente pasta was smothered in a rich cheesy egg based sauce and freshened up by hints of mint and slithers of courgette. At this point you might think we’d stop feeling hungry, but then the kitchen at Obika brought us this lovely looking pizza. The fresh vegetables were scattered over a tantalisingly light and crispy base, though the rustically thrown on ingredients meant that shared between four, none of us ever got a ‘perfect’ slice that married all the ingredients together, and a few of mine totally lacked any smoked mozzarella. The final savoury dish, and the only real misstep, was the grilled Devon Rose beef fillet steak with baby potatoes and cherry tomatoes (£19.80). The meat itself was great, but the balsamic vinegar emulsion (which we were told was a Barbecue sauce before a few raised eyebrows sent our waitress back to the kitchen for the real recipe), was tangy, cloying and oily in all the wrong ways. It didn’t help that our potatoes hadn’t been cooked all the way through either. Our dessert however quickly washed away our misgivings, the chocolate and almond cake (£5.05) was like a brownie in texture and marvellous in flavour. The side of Ricotta di Bufala Cream with honey, orange peel and pine nuts (£4.70) was also a lovely blend of sweet honey, acid orange and nuttiness.
All of this food came as part of the launch night of Obika, so little problems, like undercooked potatoes, have hopefully been tidied up now the place has been open for a while. Everything we tasted that night was great quality and mostly well prepared, but it was telling that, and the end of the evening, despite having practically six other courses, we were still talking about that mozzarella.
Crumpeats was a guest at the press launch of Obika.