After gaining a wealth of experience as head chef at Kopapa, and popping up in various locations across the capital for the last couple of years, all the while attracting high praise from critics. Selin Kiazim has opened her own restaurant Oklava - rolling pin in Turkish – just off Great Eastern St in Shoreditch.
Oklava is a restaurant with fire at its heart. A charcoal grill sits at the centre of the kitchen, leaving each piece meat, fish or halloumi that come in to contact with the coals tinged with sweet smokiness. A deep blue wood-fired oven is nestled in the corner of the open kitchen, from which you can see a dedicated chef turning out a selection of bread, pide and lahmaçun to order.
Our order of short rib pide with çemen yoghurt and green chilli mixed deep beefy flavours with fresh, bright heat. Succulent lamb cutlets left us gnawing at the bones, and chilli, garlic and fennel prawns cooked over the coals saw us greedily picking apart the shells to get to the tender flesh, the charred marinade delivering a deep, salty hit. Selin describes her food as ‘modern Turkish’, and Okalva joins the likes of Black Axe Mangal and Berber&Q in showing us a new side to Turkish cuisine. Each dish takes inspiration from decades of charcoal grilling across the capital and moves it in a unique direction and delivers clever and flavourful twists on Turkish classics.