Dinner At Oklava With The Friends And Friends Of The Friends, 21 November 2017

Tom Friend arranged a surprise birthday dinner at Oklava for his mum, Toni.

Janie and I had eaten at Oklava in July, with Toni and Lisa, at the latter’s well-chosen behest, click here. We hadn’t realised that Toni and then Tom in turn had taken a shine to the place and eaten there more than once since.

How Tom kept the event secret goodness only knows, but Toni was genuinely surprised to see us sitting there in the restaurant waiting for them when she and Tom arrived; she genuinely thought she was going out for an evening just with Tom.

Unexpectedly, a cast of thousands…well, eight actually. From left to right behind me and Janie: Lisa, Toni, Sophie, Claire, Mike and Tom

On our previous visit we’d enjoyed some sort of special set meal based on some award-winning dishes. On this occasion we tried a more regular style of Oklava set menu (if you can describe any of this food as regular):

A couple of unusual looking wines caught my eye; so unusual that the waitress suggested that I taste them before choosing them. The white was a dry muscat; perhaps she thought I was expecting something sweeter but it was in fact more or less what I expected and a very interesting wine.

The waitress warned me that the red, a blend of noble grapes, was quite a lot sweeter than one might expect. On that description, I anticipated the taste of communion/kiddish wine – heaven forbid – but of course it was a very interesting blend, a little sweeter (perhaps through the riper Turkish growing conditions) but well-suited to the Turkish style food.

The food was excellent again at Oklava. The chilli roast cauliflower was a highlight for me (Janie didn’t like that one much), but the pomegranate glazed lamb breast and yoghurt was a hit for both of us.

Boys talk? Claire can hardly contain her excitement while Mike and I hold forth, hence the half-closed eyes
Girls talk? Actually I think this was Toni’s “happy birthday to you” moment
Thanks to Janie for the pictures…apart from the top, waiter-assisted one, with all of us.

It was a superbly convivial evening. Lisa, Janie and I hadn’t met Mike, Claire or Sophie before, yet it felt like a gathering of eight long-standing friends from the word go.

Well done and thanks, Tom, for gathering all of us together; it was a very enjoyable evening.

Dinner At The Phantom Pig With Lisa Opie and Toni Friend, 22 September 2017

Chef Vix and his trusty sous chef Luke explain stuff with attentive care

This was Lisa Opie’s idea…and a jolly good idea it was too.

Several of her friends and clients had recommended this pop up restaurant in West Ealing, currently popping up just once a month at The Orchard Cafe, serving the sort of haute cuisine tasting menu food you’d normally expect to find in a far more sprauncy location than the regenerated former Green Man Estate.

We were up for it as, fortuitously, one of Helen Baker’s wonderful wine tastings, which had been scheduled for this night, had to be moved to a later date. Toni Friend was up for it too, so I was to be an honorary girl again for the second time in the last couple of months.

What a find this pop up restaurant is.

First up was a tipple with mystery snacks – the snacks comprising straw-smoked potatoes, a chicken parfait tart and a cauliflower soup – all good but the latter was outstanding.

The tipple, it seems, came whether you went for wine matching or not. We did opt for wine matching with the food. The tipple was a cocktail shot of flavoured liquor (brandy we think) that tasted mostly of lemongrass – probably to lull us into a false sense of healthiness – not least because it was served in a sort of test tube thing. Janie said it looked like a urine sample.

I’m not selling the whole experience very well, am I? Because actually every aspect of the meal including the way it looked and was served was very elegant and thoughtful.

Perhaps best I let pictures tell most of the story – with thanks to Janie, Lisa and Toni, all of whom provided some pictures. All three of them went a bit berserk with their smart phones once the courses and wines started to flow:

The “Beauty Of The Bulb” starter had a phallic look, apparently
Vix described the starter while sprinkling the apple jus
Attentive listeners, eh?
Janie and Lisa both got a bit snap happy across the table
“Never mind the photos…grubs up!”, I say.
Exquisite chicken, cod, ink and mushroom sauce.
The wine keeps flowing; one glass per dish
Here comes the superb duck…
…and here comes Mandy with the wine for the duck!
Mandy can also explain the meal to us.
Ged mucks in by tucking in to the duck.
Toni has a laugh with one of the charming waiting-folk…
…then listens with rapt attention to Vix’s description of the pud.
Toni asked the team kindly to sign a menu for Ogblog
Here also a list of the wine matches

The food was superb, the service delightful and the wine matches well chosen and very generously sized doses…

…perhaps a little too much so for part-timers like me. After Janie and I had been home for about five minutes, Janie rather cruelly snapped me taking a short nap on the bed before completing all of my pre-slumber procedures…

…but after a ten minute snooze I got up and sorted myself out properly. Someone else, who shall remain nameless, didn’t brush her teeth and come to bed properly until about 4:00 am…

…and still I couldn’t beat her on the tennis court the next morning.

We had a great evening and really look forward to trying The Phantom Pig again. We’d highly recommend it; the young and innovative Phantom Pig team are top notch and deserve to do really well.

An Evening At Oklava Restaurant With Lisa Opie and Toni Friend, 24 July 2017

This was Lisa’s idea – she spotted that Restaurant Oklava was doing a couple of special tasting menu evenings and thought that sounded like such a good idea that she would book first, find companions later.

When Lisa suggested the idea a couple of week’s earlier, Janie said yes straight away without checking her diary – whereas I was sure that there was something about that date. When we did check, oh joy, that “something” was the fact that we had booked the day off, either to recover from or as the reserve day for The Women’s Cricket World Cup Final. 

Janie and I were still full of the cup on the Monday evening, until we got into the meal, at which point we were soon getting full with the meal. Modern Turkish food – but this is Turkish as we’d never tasted it before; really subtle flavours and fascinating combinations.

Wonderful menu – in case you couldn’t tell

Each dish was delicious, with the octopus and the lamb in particular being the standout dishes for both me and Janie; perhaps indeed all of us. We enjoyed the wine matching idea, which gave us a chance to try several Turkish wines at a modest additional price.

Chef Selin Kiazim must have been exhausted at the end of the evening – we had a late booking, but she didn’t show it…

…she even signed the back of Janie’s menu as a keepsake to insert in the excellent Oklava book, which Toni had kindly given to Janie a few week’s earlier…

…and even kindly posed with us for a picture or two before we left:

The Girls Monday Night Out Comes To An End

I’d been an honorary girl for the evening. This restaurant gathering, the day after The Women’s World Cup Final (have I mentioned that Janie and I went to that?), brought a very successful girlie long weekend to a most enjoyable conclusion.

Lisa and Edwina For Dinner At the House, 31 January 2015

We have known Lisa Opie for many years now. We were introduced to her when she was at college studying towards her osteopathy qualification. Lisa is a top notch healer; a superb masseuse as well as (now) an osteopath. Janie and I still see her regularly. Occasionally Janie and Lisa do CPD courses together.

Anyway, Lisa was keen for us to meet (Janie and I were also keen to meet) Lisa’s (then) latest, Edwina, so we invited the two of them over for dinner.

It was a very pleasant evening. Edwina picked my brains a bit on business and economic matters, presumably having had The Price of Fish (available at all good bookshops and e-book stores) put her way by Lisa.

Janie and I both remember this evening well, but cannot recall what Janie cooked for the main course. Something meaty, we are pretty sure. Janie does recall making a rice pudding for desert. Janie’s rice pudding is always good news.