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Obika Restaurant, 7 Northumberland Avenue, just off Trafalgar Square

Obika – Clifford Mould stumbled upon this innovative Zen inspired Italian.

Ambling down Northumberland Avenue on our way to the Jubilee footbridge to Waterloo, I spotted a new bar restaurant, which from its name, Obika, I assumed to be Japanese. My error was further reinforced by the sight of a very modern looking bar complete with barristas wearing bandannas. However, when I looked at the menu outside, I saw that it was an Italian restaurant whose decor and modus operandi was Japanese influenced. But I must point out, we found no trace of fusion in the cuisine which is mainly from southern Italy.

The name of Obika is apparently the Neapolitan dialect for "here it is!" And it specialises in mozzarella handmade in Italy, certified by the regional authorities and sent over by courier three times weekly. We shared a mozzarella tasting plate with three different mozzarelle, one of which was afumicata, or smoked. My favourite was Burrata, very fresh and creamy, coming all the way from Puglia in the deep south of the country. Another house speciality is the selection of hams, salami and other cold cuts which included the best mortadella I think I have ever tasted. We also shared the cold meat tasting platter, which included ham, prosciutto, salami and the aforementioned mortadella. These came with excellent bread with olive oil and balsamic to dip into.

We then tried a little pasta, a simple but delicious ravioli in sage butter, and also the baked aubergine cooked in tomato sauce and parmesan, which was really yummy. These authentic flavours of Italy were washed down suitably with glasses of Barbera d’Asti from Ca’ dei Matt, and a very nice Chianti from Conte Placido.

We finished our meal with a shared tasting platter of desserts, which included a slice of Torta Caprese, that wonderfully dark Neapolitan chocolate and almond cake. Even the tiramisu made its mark on two relatively jaded palates! A glass each of Limoncello was like an encore and it tasted as though a dozen lemons had been squashed into the liqueur glass.

Obika is open daily from 7 a.m. for breakfast, until last orders at 10:45 p.m. Don't miss their traditional aperitivo evenings when you can enjoy fine wines with complimentary nibbles, every Friday between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. sounds like a perfect way to end the working week.

Obika is at 7 Northumberland Avenue, just off Trafalgar Square.

Website: www.Obika.co.uk, telephone 020 3002 7400

This is the second Obika to open in London, the first being in Selfridges department store. You'll find branches in Rome, Milan and Turin, where I imagine the concept might appear quite exotic; next year they plan to open in both New York and Kuwait.

Clifford Mould Dec 2008

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