Vegetarian January: Eating Out at Obika

Around two-thirds of the way through the month now, and the question we’ve found ourselves most commonly asked (aside from “why?”) tends to be: is being a vegetarian difficult?

The answer? Had you asked us on the 2nd, when we’d spent less than £30 on our weekly shop (goodbye, expensive meat!) and had cooked a few delicious meals indoors and together and enjoyed them immensely, the answer would have been a resounding no. We then found that while vegetarianism is certainly easy if you’re cocooned in your own little vegetable-filled bubble, it’s not quite so easy in the big wide meat-eating world. 

It’s not actually been that I’ve missed meat (I’ve only really craved it once – inevitably, for sausages) but rather that I’ve been totally uninspired by non-meat offerings away from home. My work canteen seems only to think vegetarians eat jacket potatoes, salads or the occasional pasta bake, which started to wear a bit thin past the first week back at work, and, after I’d arranged dinner with Kiwi friend L (aforementioned on the blog due to her fabulous cooking here), I found myself scouring the web for menus in search of somewhere she could actually eat something more exciting than a nutroast.

Have a pizza that!

Then I happened upon Obika. The words “mozzarella bar” made my eyes light up, and a table was booked pretty much immediately. That evening, after whetting our appetites with a few cocktails at the rather dapper Bourne & Hollingsworth, we popped along to the Charlotte St branch.

Obika’s interior design is pretty cool: let’s get that out of the way first. Contemporary and warm with dark wooden tables, atmospheric lighting and maps and paintings adorn the walls. All very nice. Seated downstairs, we ordered a cheap bottle of white (hey, don’t blame us: we were already pretty tipsy by this point) and settled down to browse what was on offer.

Obika is said to have drawn inspiration from traditional sushi bars, which sounds like an odd concept but is reflected on the menu: you're encouraged to order small plates of mozzarella and meats and share them as a table, or you have the option to go big with a pizza or pasta. We decided to go big on the food, of course, so it was pizzas for both L and I. L had been to an Obika in Italy fairly recently, and had enjoyed it then, so we were hopeful for a good meal. We ordered fairly standard options which we shared between us: essentially, a Margherita with all kinds of extra cheeses (goodbye, waistline) and another cooked tomato-based pizza onto which we asked fresh mozzarella and basil to be added.

Rather a lot of rocket, but the mozzarella's good.

Ok, it wasn’t perfect: the service was so over-familiar that it came across a little false, and they were a bit perplexed when we tried to alter the pizza on the menu so that the mozzarella was added freshly after the pizza base was cooked and not before. The wine, too, was the kind you can only appreciate if you’re too drunk to care how it tastes: and we weren’t quite at that point. Aside from that, though, we were happy campers: decent portion sizes, a good amount of tomato and fresh mozzarella, and a quiet enough restaurant that we had room to ourselves without feeling overcrowded.

All in all, it was hardly the best mozzarella L and I have ever had, but it was pretty tasty and certainly presents a good bet against the likes of Prezzo, Zizzi’s and so on, and is based on a more interesting concept at least. I ended up going back a few weeks later with another friend C as we were in Charlotte St, in the mood for pizza and at a loss for places to eat, and sampled the Burrata, which was truly excellent: wonderful and gooey and fresh, and heartily recommended. Great for some things, good for others, Obika is definitely worth a try if you’re nearby, have a craving for mozzarella, and want something a little more exciting than a Strada.

Pre-dinner cocktail


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