Mozzarella in the City
11th March 2012
Not quite in the City, but in the business hub that is Canary Wharf, where the suited City Slickers either dart to grab a quick bite to eat or languish in restaurants, ‘wining and dining’ Clients…
Invited by Ms. Lapanovich (Obikà’s GM), to dine there for lunch, I was quite curious about what exactly a Mozzarella ‘bar’ was all about. So, it seemed was everyone else, my invited guest, five of my Canary Wharf working friends (who had never heard of it, I have a feeling they stick to the safety of Plateau, Boisdale & Roka). Even the TFL employee (who I sought directions from, at the station) said on my asking of the ‘Italian’ restaurant: “What that Mozzarella place? I’m partial to a bit of Mozzarella, but a whole menu of the stuff, not sure about that…”
Obikà derived from the Neapolitan dialect, means “Here it is” … slap bang in the middle of a Canary Wharf concourse it was indeed, with the luxury of a deli, island bar and surrounding tables, quite an investment for the Italian company, with multiple sites already, across the globe.
We opted for a bottle of Tierre di Sant Alberto Prosecco (Valdese) which was light and refreshing and a jug of tap water to reign in our Sunday lunch excess.
It was either the Prosecco or the Lurisia artisanal beer for me, as the wine selection didn’t tempt. unlike those on Opera Tavern’s list.
Bufala classica with Caponata alla Siciliana
This was delicious, a balance of the Caponata’s [sweet (with sultanas) and sour notes (vinegar and capers)] contrasted against the creaminess of the classic mozzarella. I was ‘instructed’ by the Waitress not to dress my mozzarella with black pepper, olive oil or balsamic, as this would detract from the cheese. This was fine as I had the flavoursome accompaniment of the caponata, however had it been solo with just the undressed spinach leaves, it would have been a little bland. In addition, we had shards of Pane Carasau (a Sardinian bread, which I can only describe as being like a poppadom), handy for scooping with.
Insalate: Prosciutto Coto e Spinaci
This came in a glass bowl, undressed, with a mountain of salad leaves. This time I had no instruction, was I ‘allowed’ to dress the salad?, was she going to do it?, was I suppossed to do it in the bowl? …. Too many questions, I just wanted a simple lunch. Perhaps, it would be good for the staff to ask if we’d like the salad to be dressed or put a small jug of dressing on the side, so we can add, as we please. After this debacle and creating a dressing mysef, I did like the textures of crunchy walnut, soft Prosciutto (dry cured from Parma) and leaves against the oozingly soft cheese. I’m so glad this was mixed leaves unlike the dishes’ description, as I found the spinach leaves (aforementioned, a little acrid when undressed).
Dalla Cucina – Tortino di Riso
I’d never had this dish before, so I was intrigued to try it. Inside the encasing of aubergine laid arborio rice with smoked mozzarella, accompanied with pesto. The pesto was fresh and was a good contrast to the cheesy rice. I was told the texture was not supposed to be wet like a risotto but more of a dry, baked effect. It was nice to try, but I think I’ll stick to my favourite classic of Parmigiana di Melazane.
Pizze – Salmone e Ricotta
This was on a flat base, my favourite, but there was a lot of crust wastage (see gallery), because there was no oozing sauce. I’m a hater of waste, so this made me a little sad. We were told afterwards that we could have requested for pesto, but alas it was too late. The ricotta was delicious creamy and rich serenading the delightful Forman & Field smoked salmon. My dining guest, had only that week been to Forman’s Fish Island to visit them and get a first hand view of the slicing of their salmon. I prefer pizza’s that pack a punch and would have opted for the nduja one instead, my guest wasn’t so keen (my loss, I guess one has to make compromises when sharing). I’m told by an Italian work colleague, that the Neapolitan’s prefer simple pizza’s, allowing the core ingredients to sing… this pizza follows that ethos.
Dolci: Degustazione di Dolci
This comprised of Buffalo Ricotta cream, gently folded with toasted pine nuts, candied orange peel and honey. It was thick and rich, a few spoonfuls were just enough.
This Tiramisù , I’m told was layered with mascarpone and egg white, but for me it was much lighter, like a zabaglione topping, sitting afloat of espresso drenched Savoiardi. There was no Marsala in sight, but that’s a good thing, as in a small glass like this, it might have been overpowering.
Torta di Capri
A crumbly torte, jammed pack full of rich, dark chocolate and almonds. This for me, could have done with being served with a scoop of gelato or mascarpone (thankfully I ordered a scoop)…
A single scoop of Pistachio gelato (as I simply can’t resist this, it’s truly my benchmark flavour for rating a good gelato) complimented the Torta, by adding a creamy contrast.
Their gelato’s are sourced from Oddono’s (which is my absolute favourite London supplier for Pistachio gelato). Their version is light in colour, due to using natural nuts from Sicily and not adding any artificial colourings. It has a good texture, with pistachio nuts churned through it. I’d probably say that it’s the best way to finish off a meal there, as I had ‘work’ to do that night, I skipped dessert wines.
Having taken the time to speak to Obikà’s GM, I get the concept more and what they’re trying to achieve and encourage Brits to try more. Yes they have ‘classics’ that I have grown up with from Italian restaurants over here, but also introducing new dishes and their wanting us to be more ‘hands-on’ in dressing our own salads.
In terms of their specialisation – Mozzarella, I thought the quality was great, having tried their Classic and Smoked and displayed in tanks, for all to view. Another trip is in order to try their Burrata (from Andria), which is one of my guilty pleasures. One last note, on Obikà’s serviceware, it’s sourced from the rather classy Broste from Copenhagen. Beautiful crockery sets, that display the dishes with grace.
Thank you Ms. Lapanovich for the meal for two, I’ll be back with my own credit card, for burrata and perhaps a scoop of gelato and to @mcginners (my dining co-hort).
Obikà Mozzarella Bar: Unit 1 West Wintergarden, 35 Bank Street, E14 5NW
Tel no: 0207 719 1532