Try to get something to eat around Ludgate Hill and St. Paul’s on the weekend. You can’t. It’s as if the place has been quarantined.
But on Friday, while the more characterful parts of town are steaming with a drunken hoi polloi, the bars and restaurants in these western reaches of the City are still open, albeit post-apocalyptically deserted.
In fact, one Friday evening recently, I quite happily found myself the only customer in Obica in St. Paul’s on a Friday evening.
A burnt-orange sun gently kissed the terrace outside when I sauntered in from the uninhabited wasteland around City Thameslink. The restaurant is a large, modern, open-plan space, with stacks of red wine dotted around. A large, copper pizza oven is fired up in the corner, while a sleek oval bar dominates the centre of the restaurant.
I’m early. I order a negroni. Within minutes, it arrives. Heady, and aromatic, in a heavy-set tumbler, two gargantuan ice blocks chill the spirits perfectly. The atmosphere is modern, sophisticated, and very Italian.
When my date arrives we order a bottle of Veronese Soave, and a selection of mozzarella and salumi. Smoked buffalo, burrata with truffle, and classic buffalo. This is not normal mozzarella. The burrata is melt in the mouth, and the truffle adds a touch of luxury. The smoked buffalo is incredible and unlike any mozzarella I’ve had before. It’s accompanied by a light, sweet San Daniele Ham from Emilia Romagna, and not-too-salty sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes.
I’d say this is probably the best way to enjoy Obica. A good drink, some excellent mozzarella, attentive service, and no one around listening into your conversation. Notably this particular branch in St. Paul’s also offers Aperitivo hours from 3.30 to 7pm. If you’re working in the city, no doubt this offers a rather pleasant little getaway to while away Friday afternoon with well-made cocktails and fine cheese.
For our mains we order the sea bass and the chicken breast. My personal trainer has put me on a strict no-carb diet, which usually makes going to Italian restaurants rather difficult. Not here. The sea bass comes with white beans, a few vegetables and some tomatoes. It’s rather simple; and unlike the mozzarella and salami doesn’t have any oomph to it. The fish is, however, delicate, meaty and well-cooked. The chicken is stuffed with parmesan, and black truffle and chives; again it’s good but it doesn’t quite match up to the mozzarella. The desserts, however, are a return to previous form. We have a selection: tiramisu, apple tart, panna cotta, and chocolate mousse. They’re classics and done well.
This Obica may not be the place for a darkly atmospheric tete-a-tete, or an ebullient crowded celebration, but sometimes I’d much rather dine with virtually no one around. The service is exceptionally fast, the drinks are well made, and there’s no waiting around for the food. Of course I imagine there are plenty of City punters here for lunch and drinks during the week, but on a Friday night it’s a pleasure, and a relief, to get away from everyone else.
Obica, 5-7, 4 Limeburner Lane, London EC4M 7AX. Website.