Taking over the old Floyd’s space on Shacklewell Lane, Oren is the first permanent restaurant by chef Oded Oren. It follows a string of successful pop-ups and residencies showcasing his Israeli and Middle Eastern influenced cooking.
Visually, not a lot has changed since Floyd’s – it’s still a cute little 35-cover neighbourhood spot, simply decked out with cushions on benches and bar stools towards the back. However, with Oded manning the kitchen, it’s all change.
Food is designed to be shared and came out in quick succession. We tore into stone-baked flatbread served with chopped tomatoes and olive oil, dipped pieces of yellow and red beetroot into labneh and scooped up burnt aubergine – all squidgy and soft inside, with a smoky crispy skin straight of the charcoal grill – served alongside a puddle of silky smooth tahini. More substantial mains included wild hake kebabs, served with whole fresh herbs on the side – mint, coriander – all piled on top of sheep’s yoghurt.
Refreshingly un-Instagramable, lemon sole is served on the bone and completely covered in traditional Libyan Chraime. For the uninitiated, that’s a slightly spicy, slightly sour rich thick tomato sauce. Looking at it, you’d think this delicate fish would have been completely overpowered but the sweet flesh held its own. Try it with a wedge of grilled hipsi cabbage topped with a splodge of romesco and grilled potatoes spiked with coriander and lemon. We could kick ourselves for not ordering the ox cheek and hummus – but that gives us a good excuse to return.
Dessert was wonderfully simple – a thick slice of lemon polenta cake served with impossibly light whipped sour cream for me and a thick, dense chocolate mousse topped with flaked almonds for him. If you order the latter, a glass of the Gonzales Byass Nectar is an absolute must.
Cork dork Zeren Wilson is responsible for the wine list, which showcases a selection of low intervention wines from small growers. We were quite taken by a delightful little cloudy chardonnay from France with the name ‘Swimming Poule’.
Talking about the opening, Oded says: “To be finally opening my first solo restaurant is a dream come true, and to be doing it in London is even better. The project is entirely self-funded, and I’ve been working hard to get the site ready with my team – I am so excited to be soon sharing my food with everyone”.