Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The Emperor's New Clothing

A review of Obikà, Draycott Avenue, SW3

 

In my time reviewing restaurants, I’ve never been to one quite like Obikà.

 

Screen Shot 2012 08 03 at 10.19.25
Obikà’s interior. Anthony Brown sits at the bar (this photo was not taken on the day I visited).

Occupying the site of what was formerly Ilia and before it Papillon is now a “mozzarella bar” that would look more at home in Birmingham or Liverpool. Papillon was one of my favourite London restaurants not only because of the wonderful staff, most namely Filli Falt, and the charming owner, Soren Jessen, but also because it served amazing wines, delicious food and was beautifully decorated.

 

Ilia, equally, excelled and my generous discount was probably part of the reason it sadly closed down. What has replaced it is perhaps one of the very worst restaurants I have ever visited.

 

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I accompanied four friends (whom shall remain nameless in case they wish to go back) to Obikà. Being a mozzarella bar, the first thing we asked for was their best burrata. What were we met with? “We don’t have any until next Thursday.” Here, I exclaimed, we found ourselves sat in the “Emperor’s New Clothes” of restaurants. I suggested to the waiter that he pop to the Sainsbury’s on Sloane Avenue and pick some up. He looked bemused and walked off.

 

In the proceeding moments, our mixed party was referred to as “gentlemens” and all requests were met with the most annoying answer: “Let me double check.” I could not believe what I was hearing but we soldiered on and ordered a most satisfactory Gavi di Gavi (£24.50 a bottle).

 

The Italian tapas style dishes we ordered were actually, to the credit of the staff, beautifully presented but the meats we were served were greasy and the cheeses fridge cold. I found that criminal but one of my companions came out with the best remark: “The bread is common.”

 

Obikà’s style of décor would be appropriate in an airport or next to a branch of HSBC. They have a “branch” at Heathrow and another in Canary Wharf. It is not suitable for a smart street in SW3. The black painted flooring is already scratched and the chairs are uncomfortable. In the bathrooms, Obikà has James Dyson hand dryers: one of their few impressive touches.

 

One of my many tests for restaurants involves checking to see if they have Wi-Fi. On their website, Obikà proclaim that they have such. I found that their South Kensington branch did not. I logged into that of their neighbor, the KX Gym instead. Why make such a statement and not supply the service?

 

Obikà will probably succeed because there are so many rich and idle folk in Kensington and Chelsea. If only a child could shout out: “But [it] isn’t wearing anything at all!” Never again.

 

Obikà, 96 Draycott Avenue, London, SW3 3AD. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7581 5208. Website: http://www.obika.co.uk

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  1. The snobbiest, most pompous review ever conceived. If you’re trying to sound educated, it’s best to refrain from such horrors as ‘The Italian tapas stye’.
    Sounds like you and your friends were most likely obnoxious to the staff.
    ‘Here, I exclaimed, we found ourselves sat in the “Emperor’s New Clothes” of restaurants’
    ‘I found that criminal but one of my companions came out with the best remark: “The bread is common.”’
    The worst type of people
    The least credible review I’ve ever had the misfortune to come across, keep up the good work

  2. As a local I must admit that I am inclined to agree with The Steeple. The food was totally average, my steak less than even, however the pasta was not bad, perhaps even good. The worst crime however is the interior of the place and the destruction the beautiful continental style restaurant & bar, both previous places had. now it reminds me of a mediocre Soho joint, that caters to tourist. Why does every place that is opened today have to look like a Airport lounge?

  3. Davith,
    Surely if the experience was good, the review would have reflected such? What, do you own this restaurant?!?!
    The worst type of restaurant is one that – upon falling short of expectations – defend their poor delivery in this manner (i.e. insulting the customers). You sound like someone associated with this restaurant. If so, you would have done well to invite Mr. Steeples to return to prove to him that it was simply an ‘off’ day. If you are not associated with the restaurant, why on Earth do you feel like insulting someone you do not know? Better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

  4. I should add – I have held nearly every job in the restaurant industry throughout my long career, and ‘off’ days do occur. And we fix them by learning from them and ensuring they do not repeat – not by berating our clientèle.

  5. Matthew, thank you for such an enlightening piece. I myself was considering going to this restaurant with some friends – Burrata is one of my favourites. For them not to have this is quite a disgrace. It also sounds like the staff were not up to standards – what has happened to decent customer service and what is all this double checking? Keep up all your wonderful articles!

  6. I went here to Obika….strange name…..and couldn’t work out what it was all about. I think Da Steeps has been quite polite really

  7. Da Steeps is spot on with his comments.
    I too went for a bite to eat there with my husband, as the newly opened restaurant is local to us. I immediately ordered the Burrata because it’s a favourite of mine and figured it would be pretty good in a restaurant that specialises in Mozarella. The waiter took our whole order, swiftly left and returned with our drinks, to be told that the Burrata wasn’t available but a new delivery was due on the premises in 2 days and had last been delivered 3 days previously.
    I reluctantly ordered the regular mozzarella for starters and the special of the day for my main, which was advertised in large letters on the board and on the menu…to be told after I had eaten my starter… which, incidentally, was a very average and slightly rubbery mozzarella….that the special wasn’t available either.
    The staff were inexperienced and the food was very average and mass produced..Needless to say…I won’t be returning!

  8. Dear Mr. McLoughin,
    I want to clear up this confusion, but before that I like to thank you for confusing me with the before-mentioned, old school ,gentleman spy. I take that as a compliment.
    I am afraid however that my real identity is much less exotic. I am a commodity trader from a Nordic country, hence the “from the cold” part of the alias. The reason I refer to myself as a “Spy” is because my friends call my that & I believe that is because I bear more than a passing resemblance to Daniel Craig (blue eyes, blondish hair)=Nordic origin & I often disappear on holiday on a moment notice. For this reason & because I am a fan of John le Carré, I decided to use as a Nom De Plume “The Spy Who Came in from The Cold”. Which I thought was very clever actually, if do say so myself.
    Best wishes,
    The Spy

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