Glass stops by new Hoxton restaurant OKN1

IF I told you that there was a restaurant two minutes’ walk from Hoxton station, where dining out for two wouldn’t cost you a week’s wages for a flashy, but ultimately disappointing meal, I’d expect no less than a weapons grade eye-roll.

OKN1-0942OKN1 at 40 Hoxton Street

Fair enough. 15 years of steady gentrification and a general lack of imagination in the Hoxton dining scene left locals feeling the bite, and increasingly looking elsewhere when eating out. In this regard, new Hoxton restaurant (in location only) OKN1, sticks out like a sore thumb, and has enough going for it to not only bring back the Hoxton defectors, but also attract admirers from much further afield.

OKN1-0043The OKN1 interior

Weirdly enough, the only real foible I left with was that OKN1 initially looked, in a totally superficial way, like countless other Hoxton restaurants. It’s bubble wrap fresh newness kind of sells it short: essentially, it looks really expensive/unapproachable. And it’s not. It’s remarkably sensibly priced.

OKN1-0457The kitchen team at OKN1

What sets OKN1 apart most of all, though, is the fact that it’s part of New City College (literally connected to the campus), and features a paid staff made up of local, New City College students- behind the bar, in the kitchen, and serving tables. It’s a brilliant initiative that really goes against the grain- local kids being given a platform to show what they can do, and an opportunity to progress professionally.

OKN1-0250Chicory, Pear and Blue Cheese with Mustard Dressing at OKN1

Once you’re seated and eating OKN1 actually has more of a throwback feel; the menu is small and each dish is cooked with palpable familiarity. Nothing grates quite like a 10-page menu. Here, it wouldn’t be out of the question to order pretty much everything on offer, and you wouldn’t be disappointed by any of it.

OKN1-0582Bashed Avocado and Poached Eggs on Sourdough Toast at OKN1

We went for Grilled Wykham Park asparagus with lovage aioli, and paprika and garlic cauliflower. Both had the perfect combination (for me anyway) of feeling like a healthy option while maintaining a touch of indulgence.

OKN1-0298The Shrimp Burger with Spiced Tartare at OKN1

Perhaps ordering popcorn chicken for a third starter (forgot the KFC connotations, it is delicious – prepared on a bed of charred sweet corn relish) gave me the confidence to then go for the Shrimp Burger main, and ignore the voice in my head whispering that a shrimp burger is, well, a bit strange. Yet I have no regrets. As much as shrimp burger shouldn’t work, it just does, so hats off.

OKN1-0384The desert selection at OKN1

Hake fillet with Cornish dirties, chorizo and roasted peppers was a comparatively conservative choice for our second main, so it was less of a surprise that it tasted so good.

OKN1-0849The garden area at OKN1

We sat outside and would encourage any future visitors to do the same. The garden is huge, overlooking a patch of green that totally betrays the fact that you’re actually sitting one block over from the ever-fraught Kingsland Road. Pair that with a two for one post-work happy hour and you’re suddenly looking at one of Hackney’s best bets for an early evening tipple.

by Charlie Navin-Holder

OKN1, 40 Hoxton Street, Hackney, London N1 6LR

Tel: 020 7613 9590

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