Oklava – Turkish in Shoreditch EC2A

Great British menu dinner at Oklava 
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Psst! Come here + wibble the jelly, you know you want to…

K and I got sucked in to watching BBC’s Great British Menu (GBM) for the first time this year; already in its 12th series. We were supporting Selin Kiazim (“lovely hair”) Chef of Oklava, partly because we’re Londoners and partly because her chargrilled “modern Turkish” food looks so mouth-wateringly good. Oklava was first recommended to me well over a year ago and has been on the LardButty hitlist ever since. So when I saw this tweet announcing a special GBM Wimbledon dinner serving all four courses @ £60.00, it was time to act. Quickly. Booking made.

As seen on TV…
See the four courses with recipes on the BBC’s GBM website:
1. StarterQueue-cumber – Compressed cucumber + watermelon, spicy dukkah, pickled cucumber + shallots, borek
2. FishNadal Vs Federer – Barbecued octopus
3. MainGrand Slam Lamb – loads of smoky grilled BBQ lamb and spicy sausage
4. DessertHonouring Venus rosewater champions – all Turkish Delightish – a “Turkish panna cotta” (Muhallebi) with peach jelly, raspberries and rosewater sauce


As seen in Oklava…
But not for long. Nom nom.

Being located on a street corner with two walls of windows, it feels light and airy inside Oklava even though it’s a fairly small restaurant (about 50 covers). The kitchen is open-plan, with high stool seating at the counter so you can watch food being prepared and cooked in the stone oven or on the charcoal grill (mangal).

On arrival, we were seated at a regular table by an open window – ideal for a warm summer evening. And service was really good – nicely casual, professional, and chatty too.

First decision: we opted for the wine pairings with this special dinner, which meant we got to try three types of Turkish wine.

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Wimbledon dinner menu

Check out these photos, they pretty much do the talking themselves:Great British Menu dinner Oklava Shoreditch_insta
Queue-cumber – flat bread, compressed cucumber, verjus dressing, cacik, crispy pancetta, served with Turkish fizz

K hates cucumber. He won’t eat it, he won’t go near it. He absolutely loved this dish – I think that says it all really.

The flavours of all the ingredients combined together was sensational. I dislike fresh coriander but ate and enjoyed it here, and the salty crispy pancetta finished it off royally. Yum.

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Nadal Vs Federer fish course – Grilled octopus with spiced potato rostis paired with a glass of Pasaeli Yapincak wine

Another treat to the tastebuds – the octopus didn’t quite live up to my expectations (I’d drooled watching the octopus being grilled on TV) but the rostis were crispy and just gorgeous. The Pasaeli Yapincak wine pairing was interesting too – a chilled white wine with a slightly musty taste when drunk on its own, but it sprang to life with this dish and went perfectly.

On to the highlight of this Wimbledon themed dinner: the Grand Slam Lamb main course, which really stood out. How it didn’t win the main course round on GBM is beyond my understanding.

Four types of lamb, all so different and all so, so special. The çemen glazed slow cooked lamb shoulder had dense, rich, smoky flavours (so strong I wouldn’t be able to eat a lot of it so… perfect in a meat selection) and the dutchee sausage with all its spices was something else. Unfortunately the onion purée didn’t like me (but we don’t need to talk about that here…).

Definitely worthy of a few photos:

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Grand Slam Lamb – three types of lamb (pictured) – lamb dutchee sausage, grilled lamb neck, grilled lamb chops + caramelised onion purée

Great British Menu dinner Oklava Shoreditch_insta
Who knew lamb could taste this good? Four types of lamb: çemen glazed slow cooked lamb shoulder, lamb dutchee sausage, grilled lamb neck, grilled lamb chops + caramelised onion purée, served with Romaine lettuce salad, and freekeh salad with pomegranates

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Cemen glazed slow cooked lamb shoulder – çemen glaze ingredients include cumin, paprika, sweet pepper paste

This Romaine lettuce salad with feta dressing, lamb ‘bacon’ and candied walnuts was divine, especially the feta dressing (a new and improved interpretation of a Caesar salad?)

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Romaine salad with feta dressing, lamb ‘bacon’ + candied walnuts – Freekeh salad with pomegranates and glass of Arcadia Cabernet Franc red wine in background (worth keeping a note of + saved to my pinterest drinks board for future reference)

Next up: peach and rose bellini, with dessert – vanilla muhallebi (Turkish panna cotta) with peach jelly, raspberry and rosewater sauce, and a caramelised almond wafer.

Great British Menu dinner - Oklava Shoreditch
Hairy armed bellinis

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Honouring Venus Rosewater Champions

The verdict: Great service from both of our servers. Staff looked as though they were all enjoying themselves working here, and working together as a team, which was nice (that’s not something that comes across very often in restaurants and was noticeable because of it). The interior’s really pleasing (patterned shadows from lamp shades cast on walls, light and airy with open windows) and the food we had for this GBM dinner was an absolute treat.

Having enjoyed the lamb selection so much, I’m keen to return to try the Sunday Feast.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
– Type: Turkish
– Address: 74 Luke St, London
– Postcode: EC2A 4PY
– Nearest stations: Old Street, Liverpool Street, or Shoreditch (overground)
– Website + menus: Oklava website
– Photos on flickr: Oklava food photos
– Location: Oklava map

Oklava Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Pizza Pilgrims Neopolitan pizza – BYOB at Shoreditch E1

Casual dining with ‘bring your own booze’

When Mary Berry says it’s the “best pizza” she’s ever had, that’s quite an accolade (Mary Berry Everyday March 2017). But then, she also admitted she’d never ordered a pizza delivery (and got some stick in social media – just how much of a pizza expert is she?). On the other hand, if you can get the Pizza Pilgrims duo to come and cook fresh Neopolitan pizza in their 3-wheeled pizza-oven-van in your own garden, that’s a pretty special kind of pizza delivery.

Is it really the best pizza ever? Time to stop wondering. And go and check out Pizza Pilgrims for myself. I’m heading to the Shoreditch branch where it’s bring your own booze (BYOB) – a bottle of chilled prosecco, Italian sparkling wine, seems appropriate for an Italian feast.

 

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Sharing: Salsiccia + friarielli (left) and Aubergine parmigiana (right) with mozzarella in the middle

 

It’s £2.50 a head for corkage, which helps keep costs down if you’re after a cheap and cheerful pizza meal.

Here, the pizza is Naples-style – proved slow for 48 hours and cooked fast at 500°c.

For two, we order:
Aubergine parmigiana – margherita with roast aubergines, baby plum tomatoes, topped with parmesan + breadcrumbs @ £9.00
Salsiccia + friarielli – White pizza with fresh fennel sausage, chilli, wild broccoli, parmesan, basil + white truffle oil @ £10.00
Buffalo mozzarella with smoked tomatoes fresh from Italy every week @ £5.50 (so good!)

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Smoked tomatoes

 

Service is welcoming and friendly, the restaurant has a very casual feel, and all of the food arrives within minutes. The pizzas are absolutely gorgeous – the bread base looks quite dense, but it isn’t. The crust is airy and the actual base is relatively thin and light. The combinations of toppings are also interesting (it took some serious deliberating to narrow our choices down to two, eventually choosing one ‘white’ and one margherita) and fresh and tasty. Our side order of mozzarella and smoked tomatoes with rocket goes down well – the mozzarella is really soft and stringy when we cut into it, and the smokiness of the tomatoes is something else.

 

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Casual dining at Pizza Pilgrims Shoreditch 

 

The verdict: Seriously good pizzas served in a casual environment, and BYOB at the Shoreditch branch keeps costs down.

 

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Aubergine parmigiana – roast aubergines, baby plum tomatoes, topped with parmesan + breadcrumbs

 

Read more about the Pizza Pilgrims duo and their  3-wheeled pizza-oven-van.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Pizza, Italian
– Address: 136 Shoreditch High St, London
– Postcode: E1 6JE
– Nearest station: Old Street tube, Shoreditch High Street train stn
– Website + menus: Pizza Pilgrims Shoreditch website
– Photos on flickr: Pizza Pilgrims Shoreditch photos
– Location: Pizza Pilgrims Shoreditch map

Pizza Pilgrims Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rolling Stock Burgers – Haggerston

Huge beer garden – perfect for hot summer days

After a very weird interactive secret theatre experience at the King’s Head in E2 (some really-good-burlesque that turned into a not-at-all-good-zombie-apocalypse in a mucky-Hamleys-style pub full of dead animals; parodying From Dusk Til Dawn) L and I were ready to enjoy a drink, some food and the sunshine, late Saturday afternoon.

We hadn’t gone far along Kingsland Road before we came across Rolling Stock, set in arches next to railway lines. The inside space seems pretty cavernous with all the lovely old arches. Or maybe it seemed that way as it was empty due to the glorious weather. The few customers who were there, were outside enjoying the beer garden. And on the plus side, the Rio Olympics were on, on big screens, both inside and out.

 

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Huge beer garden

 

Bar staff were welcoming and jolly, but didn’t have a clue about the craft beers available, when asked. And at £4.80 a small can of beer, it wasn’t exactly good value. I guess that’s trendy Shoreditch for you but may explain why no one was here on a Saturday afternoon when other places nearby were heaving. No matter, I was glad of the peace and space.

 

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Burger with bacon – served in a seeded bun

 

L ordered a burger with bacon, while I had a rolling smoke burger @ £9.95 with lettuce and caramelised onions. They both included excellent skin-on chips.

 

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Let’s have a look inside…

 

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And see how pink the beef is in the middle – perfect, and the cheese is in the middle of the patty

 

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Empty inside on a hot Saturday afternoon – showing sports

 

 

The verdict: Great beer garden for hanging out on warm days. They describe themselves as an “arts destination” for local “creatives” (as is the whole Shoreditch area, surely?). It could be worth checking their website to see what’s on if you’re in the area. Great burgers and good bottled/canned beers.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
– Type: Burgers, bar
– Address: 48 Kingsland Rd, Shoreditch, London
– Postcode: E2 8DN
– Nearest station: Hoxton, Shoreditch High Street
– Website + menus: Rolling Stock website
– Photos on flickr: Rolling Stock images
– Location: Rolling Stock Haggerston map

 

Hungry Donkey Greek Kitchen – Petticoat Lane

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Cosy Greek cafe serving all-day breakfasts and Greek favourites from moussaka and souvlaki pitas to filo pastry pies and strapatsada (cheesy scrambled eggs and tomatoes).

I was walking along Wentworth Street in London’s Spitalfields district on a freezing cold winter’s day, when I first noticed the newly opened Hungry Donkey and was immediately tempted by the vegetarian all-day breakfast, and drawn to the small, cosy space as I peered in through the window.

A couple of days later R and I visited for lunch. Service was welcoming and helpful from the moment we stepped into the warmth. On asking the waitress about the all-day veggie breakfast, she went the extra mile not only talking me through that, but other vegetarian options too (I didn’t have the heart at that point to mention that I was also tempted by some of the meaty dishes, like lamb moussaka and skewered meat ‘souvlaki’ pitas. Next time).

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Interior – simple style – light and bright with two corner walls of glass + low-hanging lights

On this first visit, I had a vegetarian all day breakfast in a sourdough sandwich @ £4.75 and grilled halloumi @ £1.00, while R had a souvlaki sausage pita @ £6.50 with grilled halloumi @ £1.00. All ingredients are carefully sourced and meat is from animals raised in a sustainable, ethical manner, with Aubrey Allen butchers named as a supplier (“Sausage is wild boar, pork and leek. The wild boar are free-range and are reared in an ideal and unique surrounding on Mount Olympus, Greece, by the Fotiadis family”. Appealing, no?).

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All day breakfast – sourdough sandwich

That we visited again a few days later clearly says how much we enjoyed it. On our second visit, the cafe was full (already a popular lunchtime spot with the locals). I had strapatsada – scrambled eggs with fresh tomato and Cretan mizithra cheese on bread @ £6.00 (ok, let’s just get this out there: it might look a bit like sick but it tastes great) with a side of grilled halloumi @ £4.00, and R had a souvlaki pork pita wrap served with tomato, tzatziki, onion and paprika @ £6.00 with extra grilled halloumi @ £1.00.

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Egg strapatsada – scrambled egg with tomato and Cretan cheese on bread

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Souvlaki pork pita with halloumi – with tomato, tzatziki, onions + paprika

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The Greek Kitchen area at Hungry Donkey

We’ve tried red (Manolesakis estate exis 2014 @ £4.25), white (Theodorakos estate kydonitsa, laconia 2011 @ £5.25) and rose (Gaia 14-18H agiorgitiko 2014 @ £5.00) wines by the glass so far – all of which really are Greek to me. But more importantly, all perfectly drinkable.

The verdict: Great food and wines (more posh-nosh-cafe than greasy-spoon) served in a cosy, light and airy space, with welcoming, helpful service. Keep an eye on the Hungry Donkey website for evening events like Greek craft beer and food pairings or spit roast feasts.

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Food menu

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Drinks menu

More of the menu – last updated 17 Jan 2017:

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Manouri and ladotyri cheeseballs with thyme, honey and boukovo chilli @ £6.00

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Plate me up: spit roast lamb with hand-cut, skin-on chips, cherry tomatoes + tzatziki @ £13.50

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Eggs pastourma @ £8.00

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Moussaka @ £12.00

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Breakfast eggs with tomatoes and peppers @ £6.50

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Greek
~ Address: 56 Wentworth Street, London (Off Petticoat Lane Market)
~ Postcode: E1 7AL
~ Nearest station: Aldgate East, Aldgate, Liverpool Street
~ Website + menus: Hungry Donkey website
~ Photos on flickr: Hungry Donkey Greek Kitchen images
~ Location: Hungry Donkey Greek Kitchen map

Hungry Donkey Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Red Dog Saloon – Hoxton

K’s only request for his birthday meal out was that he wanted to be taken to a barbecue/smokehouse kind of place. And somewhere new to us (so, not old fave Bodeans).

Given it was a Friday night and we didn’t want to queue (some of those places don’t take reservations), I selected Red Dog Saloon on Hoxton Square after doing a bit of research.


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Carnivore platter – before…


By the time I arrived for our 7pm booking (the restaurant was full) K had already read the menu and fancied the carnivore platter to share @ £22.50 each. So that’s what we ordered, along with Camden IPA @ £5.00 a pint and a bottle of Good Hope Chenin Blanc @ £19.50.

The platter comprised these slow-cooked, sticky blackened meats:
~ brisket
~ pulled pork
~ sausages
~ chicken
~ sticky ribs
Plus four sides to share: we chose BBQ beans, ice-berg wedges with blue cheese sauce, mac cheese + collard greens.

All of these meats were gorgeous but the pulled pork and brisket both stood out as specialities (probably down to the fact that pulled pork is smoked for 16 hours and brisket for 12, both just fall apart and melt in your mouth).


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Carnivore platter – after


This was a serious plateful for two and – as we were ready to pop – we left some brisket and chicken (declining a helpfully offered doggy bag). Service was great – speedy, friendly, and our servers were on the ball. We’d definitely go back, and would have the same platter again.

There’s also a branch of Red Dog in Clapham, South West London.

 

Update Oct 2016:

 

Red Dog South at Clapham North, visited 2 Oct 2016:

 

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Kansas BBQ at Clapham North

 

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Red Dog menu – as of October 2016

 

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Wing sampler – 12 wings @ £14.50 with three sauces, we chose original buffalo (spicy hot), maple + bacon (interesting, a bit sweet, wouldn’t have again), teriyaki with spring onion + coriander (gorgeous)

 
 
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Carnivore platter @ £22.95 a head: a selection of slow cooked meats including smoked brisket, pulled pork, jerk chicken, sticky ribs, beef short rib, sausage along with three sides (we chose wedge salad, mac n cheese, sweet potato fries)

  

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5 – based on the Shoreditch and Clapham branches
– Type: American, barbecue, smokehouse
– Address: 37 Hoxton Square, London
– Postcode: N1 6NN
– Nearest station: Old Street tube, Shoreditch (Overground)
– Website + menus: Red Dog Saloon website
– Photos on flickr: pics at Red Dog Saloon
– Location: Red Dog Saloon map

  

Red Dog Saloon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

  

Habibi Sushi Spitalfields – CLOSED

Conveyor belt sushi in East London

Habibi (an Arabic term of endearment, like darling, baby or love) Sushi is a small Japanese-style restaurant on an alley (or ginnel) near Spitalfields market, where you can pick small plates off a conveyor belt and order hot dishes too.

L and I met for lunch here today, our last meet up before Christmas (taking care to avoid yet another turkey dinner) and it was fairly quiet.


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Tempura on conveyor belt, spicy aubergine @ £1.95, mixed sashimi @ £5.05


Current plate prices:
~ silver @ £1.95 – the likes of veggie temaki rolls, spicy aubergine salad
~ pink @ £2.60 – prawn nigiri, California rolls, etc
~ orange @ £3.50 – tuna nigiri, chicken katsu
~ yellow @ £3.95 – spicy tuna maki, mackerel or seabass sashimi
~ blue @ £4.75 – mixed nigiri, tuna sashimi, crab tempura temaki rolls
~ purple @ £5.05 – assorted salmon + tuna nigiri, Habibi sashimi mix


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Conveyor belt sushi – octopus nigiri, California rolls, etc


It may not be authentic Japanese but the food was mostly good (aside from the tuna sashimi which was a bit tough and stringy, and partly inedible) and delivery was very speedy – our hot dish orders (vegetable gyoza @ £1.95, chicken gyoza @ £3.50 + chicken katsu @ £3.95) arrived almost immediately.

The verdict: one of very few independent sushi places in the area (getting my vote – in part – for this reason) where you can dine in or take away. Good choices, good service. I’m most likely to return for take away.


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Japanese, sushi
~ Address: 7A Artillery Lane, London
~ Postcode: E1 7LJ
~ Tel: 020 7247 5290
~ Nearest station: Liverpool Street, Aldgate
~ Website + menus: Habibi Sushi website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Habibi Sushi food
~ Location: Habibi Sushi map


Habibi Sushi on Urbanspoon

World food market – Devonshire Square

World Food Market at Devonshire Square first week of every month

The Epicurean Events team brings World Food Markets to Devonshire Square, the first week of the month from Tuesday to Friday, 10am – 3pm.


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World Food Market – Food in the Middle, Hand Made Sushi, Moroccan Street Foods, Colombian Foods

More photos of World Food Market at Devonshire Square here>>>



Food stalls change but currently include the likes of:
~ Bare Bones – home smoked pulled pork, homemade slaw, pickles n killer sauce (also at Horniman Market)
~ Cheeky Burger – hand made burgers made from top quality beef patties
~ Colombian Street Food – empanadas + fresh coleslaw
~ Food in the Middle serving up Pakistani kebabs in flat bread freshly baked in the tandoor (choose from BBQ chicken, beef or paneer)
~ Moroccan Foods – stir fried lamb, chickpeas with spinach, chicken meatball tagine, beef kofta, lamb meatballs + more


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Food in the middle – wrapped in bread freshly baked in the tandoor @ £6.00 (gorgeous!)


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Hand made sushi – freshly prepared


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Moroccan Foods: stir-fried lamb



The verdict: Great variety of food types from many countries but there’s a lot of stalls packed into a fairly small space and it does get RAMMED with people. Be prepared for gridlock and queues.


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Street food market
~ Address: Devonshire Square, London
~ Postcode: EC2M 4WQ
~ Nearest tube stations: Liverpool Street, Aldgate
~ Websites: Devonshire Square world food market + Epicurean Events
~ Photos on flickr: images of World Food Market at Devonshire Square


RELATED LINKS
Nearby street food markets:
~ Goulston Street food court
~ KERB at Spitalfields