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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.


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:

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