Okka gets it just right
PUBLISHED: 12:00 31 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:18 31 August 2018
©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved
As many of us return from summer holidays, yet aren't quite ready to leave behind the warm climates and delicious food, can I suggest a trip to Okka in Harpenden? It's warm welcome and Turkish/Mediterranean cooking will take you straight back to happy memories.
Okka means “just right” in Turkish, and the menu includes many Turkish-inspired dishes, including grilled meats, generous salads and dips. They specialise in traditional charcoal barbecue dishes, so if you are craving that griddled flavour that works so well when beside the sea on holiday, this is your place.
Okka is tucked away towards the north end of the High Street in Harpenden, but you can spot the couple of pavement tables and bright red awning tucked behind parked cars. Inside it is bright and spacious, and they have an extensive menu that includes breakfasts; you are very welcome to just go in for a coffee as they are very keen to say this is a relaxed, neighbourhood place – it’s just a case of getting a table! There are few baked slices on the counter to go with your coffee, and there are papers. The breakfast and brunch menu includes waffles, pancakes and porridge, but the Turkish options are the most interesting, with menemen and pasha menemen which are sauteed fresh tomatoes with parsley, mint and spring onions, with eggs (and sausage if you like).
I popped in for lunch recently and found it difficult to choose; the meze sharing board sounded delicious, with stuffed vine leaves, salads, roasted aubergine and peppers, as did the classic fish cake. You can choose fairly locally sourced Woburn sausages, soup, salads, and some hearty sandwiches, including BLTA, roasted vegetables, chicken and melted mozzarella. My courgette patties made with carrots, spring onion and fresh herbs with dill and soured cream dip were delicious and perfect for a hot day. Crispy without being oily, they were a generous plateful too.
The teen loved her halloumi and avocado salad which came with plenty of bread; I’m not a huge fan of balsamic drizzles on salads – a lemony dressing would have been better and more in keeping with the menu.
Service was excellent; welcoming and efficient and I am sure they cope very well with a busy weekend night (though do book, it is very popular).
Okka has been run by Deniz Ash for the past three years and I asked him about the menu and the most popular dishes. He told me that sac tava is a signature dish, made with marinated lamb, tomatoes, peppers and herbs. Kofta is very popular in the evenings, and makes sense; these are dishes that few of us would make ourselves at home.
During the day, the club sandwiches, burgers and fish cakes also do very well; I know our group editor Matt loves the chips they serve and is a regular with his family.
Children of all ages are made welcome and there was a real range of guests when I went last, with people reading papers, and families enjoying a summer holiday lunch.
Dinner is when the grilled meats and fish take focus; the sea bass is delicious and my partner’s prawns were excellent too. Lamb chops are grilled over charcoal as is the chicken shish, which is very popular. Main courses come with salad, rice and bread making Okka good value locally. There is plenty for vegetarians, including vegetarian moussaka and falafel; Turkish cooking really makes the most of vegetables, bringing out flavour with grilling and plenty of herbs.
Okka is open from 8am–3pm Monday to Wednesday, 8am–10.30pm Thursday to Saturday and 9am–4pm for their popular brunch on Sundays. To book ring 01582 763975; get in early before everyone is back from holiday!