Sometimes there’s no better way to put your geography to the test than by filling your boots. Fortunately, London is happy to oblige. Whether you’re in the mood for okonomiyaki, or are partial to poke, the culinary delights of everywhere from Japan to Hawaii are all only a tube journey away.
Also bubbling away in the capital’s melting pot, albeit rather quietly, is Central Asian cuisine. New Knightsbridge restaurant Osh plans to change that by putting dishes originating from the intersection between the Middle East and Eastern Europe firmly on our radar. To the uninitiated, this means plenty of plov (a succulent lamb and rice casserole), charred shashlik(meat skewers) and caviar.
Set in a smart, three-storey townhouse on Beauchamp Place, Osh is one slick operation. Taking inspiration from the bazaar cities along the ancient Silk Road, the décor has an ostentatious edge: azure tiles, sumptuous fabrics and statement lamps. The cocktail bar and restaurant is set over two floors, with a members’ only lounge due to open on the top floor imminently.
Outside, the Beast from the East’s icy grip is grinding everything to a halt, but the combination of hearty Uzbek cuisine and cocktails (try the Wrong Karkade, a negroni infused with tea and hibiscus flowers) proves to be the perfect insulator.
The sharing menu features cold dishes such as salmon tartare with persimmon and beluga caviar, as well as an extensive salad and soup selection (for those wanting a lighter bite, try the beetroot with freekeh and pistachio). But we need stodge to get us through the snow and the rail network meltdown.
Moreish, crunchy crab wontons, dipped in spicy mayonnaise kick off a succession of comfort food dishes: pillowy soft crab croquettes are swiftly followed by crispy aubergine with hacelim sauce. Next, an unassuming achichuk salad of tomato and red onion proves to be an unexpected star of the show. The saltiness undercuts the richness of the unctuous Uzbek osh – slow-cooked lamb served with carrots, peppers, chickpeas, lamb lard, pilau rice and spices that comes in a big bowl for two to share (in reality, it could feed about four).
Somehow we still make room for a beef fillet shashlik, marinated for 12 hours in chilli and honey – it melts in the mouth – and carmelised halibut with celeriac and apple puree, a sweeter note to the meaty interlude. We finish with a slab of chocolate and cream cake, topped with fresh figs. These, our waitress informs us, are imported from Uzbekistan twice weekly, along with all manner of organic fruits and vegetables that are lavishly displayed on a table next to the open kitchen.
As we leave, I spot bunches of bulbous black grapes the size of lychees arranged in a dish. Admittedly, it’s a long way to go to stock up the fruit bowl, but this is just one of the ways Osh is putting Central Asian cuisine and produce on the map. Geography lesson completed.
14-15 Beauchamp Place, SW3, oshrestaurant.com