YESTERDAY I swallowed superlative Martinis in unusual surroundings. The Dirty version, tear-saltily kissed by olive brine, was irresistibly sippable: poised and voluptuous. It flew in moments. My initial thirst quenched: a leisurely sequel. My Appletini had a moreish, beautifully blended malic tartness. The setting, Obika Mozzarella Bar, flanked by fashion franchises in 'Women's Superbrands', Selfridges.
I met Stefano, Director of this contemporary homage to Italy’s greatest fromage in Puglia three months ago. We tasted various versions of spankingly fresh hand neaded curd, from fior di latte (unpasteurised cow's milk) to the more flavoursome water buffalo.
In recent times its repute has been drawn into dispute because of an abundance of low rent imitatiors (many made in this country) and mafia intervention. The latter provided an complex and emotive time for producers. According to The Independent, 'high levels of dioxins' were found to contaminate buffalo milk in over 80 dairies in Campania. The Camorra Mafia, in charge of waste 'management', were openly blamed. Faced with overcrowded rubbish dumps, it seems they indulged in noxious dispersal over agricultural pastures.
Fortunately, it seems scandal has subsided, indeed Obika's future looks bright white. As Stefano prepares to launch a second London restaurant (they are already represented in Milan, Rome and New York - Turin and Kuwait coming soon) I thought it time to check out their existing venture.
After crunchy, lightly charred bruschettini, I tasted the main attraction: paper white, buffalo Mozzarella, which is flown from Naples within hours of production. If I had more time and a willing collaborator, I would have chosen the Mozzarella tasting plate, spied at another table. This medley of fragile, creamy Paestum, stronger Piana del Volturno, and smoked looked tantalising.
My brief foray into the Piana del Volturno was entirely satisfactory however, the outside of the pearl firm and resistant, the inside melting like a fresh meringue. In the mouth, the supple, creamy, mildly saline and distantly lactic, slightly grassy tastes fused coherently. Subtly smoked salmon, the colour of a Bandol rosé, chosen from a long list of accompaniment suitors, provided a complementary textural partnership. Spicy Calabrese Nduja di Spezzano Piccolo salami, so moist it almost spread across my toast, added intrigue, but overpowered the salmon (my fault for marrying the trio).
Incidentally, I remember a Foggiano with a wicked glint in his eye telling me that the best mozzarella globes have the consistency of a pert breast(!)
Obika - 2nd floor, Selfridges, London. W1A 1AB T. 020 7318 3620