Address: Unit 1, West Wintergarden, 35 Bank Street, E14 5NW
Area: Canary Wharf
Nearest Station: Heron Quays/Canary Wharf
Tel.: 020 7719 1532
Good For: Takeaway, Fresh ingredients, Leisurely lunching
“Obikà!” the cry did not go when we stepped into the restaurant. As a Neapolitan exclamation meaning “Here it is!” I was sort of hoping that mine and my friend’s arrival would warrant such an announcement.
I’d been to Obikà previously for takeaway lunches as their mozzarella bar offers up some good and hefty portions of focaccia, insalata caprese (tomato and mozzarella salad) and cannoli (Sicilian pastry tubes with sweet fillings) for quite decent prices, considering that we’re in the Canary Wharf Banker Land. Certainly, there were many days during our wonderfully scorching hot summer where all I felt like doing at lunch was sitting in a park somewhere, having some fresh tomatoes and mozzarella on springy and moist focaccia. Definitely beats getting your regular bog-standard sandwich from Pret or, God forbid, some pointless sushi from Wasabi. Probably healthier too.
But what was it like to go for a proper sit-down meal there? I was meeting my friend for our first catch-up lunch since my moving to Canary Wharf, and suggested with some caution that we may be able to get a table there. Turns out I make false promises – we didn’t get a table, but we did get placed atop some tall stools by the bar.
Obikà sits within an open space inside the West Wintergarden (any ideas on the name? Still trying to work out why the complex is called the Wintergarden), so it has a very corporate glass-and-steel feel to it; you could sit here with colleagues, possibly even clients and listen to a thousand-and-one conversations reverberating around you. It’s light and airy in summer, making it a bit of an uplifting and pleasant place to be dining.
We enjoyed the atmosphere as we swiftly made our choices; as feared, the lunchtime press did mean that our dishes and even our drinks were not as swift to arrive.
When it finally came, our starter of mozzarella di bufala affumicata went down a real treat: we treated ourselves to a lovely woody smokiness infused into such creamy mozzarella; it certainly got our appetites going. Accompanied by a simple basil garnish, it was a punchy start to the meal.
Our main courses soon followed (again, no shouts of “Obikà!” to announce any sort of arrival…), but we did have to wolf them down, being conscious of the impending end of our lunch hour. My friend’s parmigiana di melanzane (aubergine parmesan) looked quite enticing, even if the presentation did seem to emphasise the smallness, in my mind, of the portion. She tucked in heartily and with much enjoyment, so I didn’t quite have the will to steal a bit from her.
As for my schiaffoni di Gragnano pasta with mozzarella di bufala and ‘La Motticella’ sauce, the flavours were good and warming, and the addition of torn mozzarella pieces really lifted the pasta with their bursts of creamy refreshment even if their numbers were not legion. It was a nice and simple dish – zing and juiciness from the tomatoes in the sauce, savouriness from the parmesan and creaminess from the mozzarella. However, what of the pasta there was on my plate was far too al dente and really needed a few more minutes’ cooking. Most likely they were trying to rush orders out to deal with the busy lunchtime trade – at least, that’s me giving them the benefit of the doubt. Which, considering that they seemed far too busy and rushed to even take our bill, seems to be quite likely.
Isn’t it funny how even if the service has been great throughout, if they tarry in doing the one thing you really need them to (you sort of, like, need to leave when you ask for the bill), it can potentially colour your opinion of the visit? Just a thought that’s struck me far too often in far too many places…
And so, at the end of that experience, what do I think of Obikà as a lunchtime option? I’m actively thinking of their focaccia now and planning my next lunch excursion there. A simple caprese on some soft and well-made bread for a decent price; how can you go wrong? As for a sit-down lunch? Only if you’re willing to spend a bit more, and you’ve got the time and patience – and maybe a very irregular lunch hour.
VERDICT – A good place for takeaway, an okay experience for a sit-down meal. If you work in Canary Wharf and want to mix things up a bit at lunch, I’d really recommend heading on over to Obikà to grab one of their focaccia sandwiches. Maybe don’t take it out to the park, as it’s not so warm any more. But if you are after a bit more of a formal dining experience, I’d imagine that Obikà would still deliver and meet your needs – you may just have to time it right and be prepared for a small meal.
Currently listening to: The Presidents of the United States of America – Peaches