Here it is!

by Sam Bilton on January 20, 2012 3 comments

A Review of Obika,CanaryWharf –  9 December 2011

It was a crisp, cold night and we arrived earlier than our 6.30pm reservation at Obika hoping to take refuge in a drink from the bitter night.  Considering the early hour and the number of empty tables there was a frantic atmosphere about the place as the odd workman made final tweaks and scurrying waiters concluded their preparations for the opening night.  The staff’s anxious desire to impress was palpable.


Obkia Canary Wharf

Obika’s Mozzarella bar in Canary Wharf

Obika offers a dining concept centred on mozzarella.  I had my doubts as to whether it would work particularly given the blandness of this cheese.  But the Italian in our party had spoken highly of Obika’s sister restaurant in Florence, so I was prepared to give it a go.  With its crimson lettering, blonde woods and contemporary design it looks more like a sleek sushi bar from downtown Tokyo rather than a cosy trattoria in Rome.  It feels like the sort of place you would come to swap salacious stories of office romances over a glass of wine and a plate of mozzarella (choose from the delicate Bufala Classica; smokey Bufala Afumicata and the creamy Burrata) at the central bar area.

Upon looking at the menu it becomes clear that it is precisely the mild nature of the cheese that allows it to compliment the flavours of the other Italian artisan products on the menu.  I began with a trio of mozzarella rolls filled with bresola, procuitto crudo and procuitto cotto alla brace.  The silky cheese was a perfect foil for the salty charcuterie.  Besides mozzarella there are many other culinary delights from Italy on the menu such as the spicy N’duja di Spilinga, a spreadable salami from Calabria, used on the Crostini Misti.

For the main course the vegetarian opted for a Ligurian speciality of trofie pasta with basil pesto, green beans and potatoes which was cooked perfectly al dente.  I had the Tortina di Riso, a dome of creamy gorgonzola and burrata risotto cloaked in a pleasingly bitter radicchio leaf. The Italian hankered after a meat fix that cold evening and opted for the lasagne laden with a rich Chianina Beef Ragù and Mozzarella di Bufala.  Obika literally means “here it is!” and we received exactly what it said on the menu without further embellishment.  Our plates were devoid of garnish bar a solitary cherry tomato with the tortina and a few droopy rocket leaves with the lasagne.  A late aunt of my husband’s would have rejoiced.  She hated any unnecessary frivolity on a plate.  But I feel a little more effort on presentation wouldn’t go amiss.  However, on eating our mains it was clear that all the chef’s efforts had gone in to the flavour of the food rather than its appearance on the plate.  The pizzas, which periodically sailed past our table, also looked enticingly light and crisp and I must confess to feeling a twinge of food envy when I saw them.

The desserts were rather like taking a plunge into a tombola at a school fete.  Occasionally, with these lucky dip scenarios you strike gold but the most of the time you are left with a disappointing booby prize.  The vegetarian and I were the glum losers that night. He picked the tiramisu which was so sloppy it was bordering on a cocktail.  By contrast, I chose the saliva sapping Torta di Capri (a chocolate and almond cake).  However, the Italian had evidently chosen the winning ticket with the Ricotta di Bufala Mousse.  The cheese had been lightly beaten and combined with honey, orange zest raisins and pine nuts.  Tiramisu and torta abandoned we all wallowed in the mallowy softness of the whipped cheese which dissipated on the tongue leaving a welcome hint of orange bitterness to counteract the rich notes from the ricotta, honey and raisins.  This was not only the winning dessert but also the triumph of the entire meal.

Fortunately, the wine was consistently good if at times somewhat elusive (we had to ask a harassed waiter the whereabouts of our drinks and our starters).  The compact wine list offers a good selection of reasonably priced wines by the glass.  We began with a glass of effervescent prosecco.  I followed with a warming glass of Montepulciano and the others chose a glass of crisp Verdicchio.

After a quick peak at the promisingly well stocked deli counter (sadly not open on this evening) we left contented with our bellies fuelled ready to face the wintry night.  True the service on this particular evening was a little haphazard and the presentation of the food requires more thought.  But once the staff have found their feet and these creases have been ironed out Obika looks set to offer lovers of Italian food a different and casual approach to convivial dining.

Sam BiltonHere it is!

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    […] more commonly associated with stereo typical Italian trattorias but which I found lacking in their Canary Wharf branch I visited last December. Grand Tasting […]

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