My Life In Food: Selin Kiazim, Oklava |
A rising star in the London food scene, Great British Menu chef Selin Kiazim studied at Westminster Kingsway culinary school, before working under the guidance of Peter Gordon at his London restaurants The Providores and Kopapa. Following the success of Oklava and Kyseri, Selin is celebrating her Turkish-Cypriot roots with the launch of her new Fitzrovia restaurant, Oklava Bakery + Wine. Here, she shares her favourite restaurants and ultimate home cooking tips…
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Angus Steakhouse in Southgate is the restaurant that will always stay with me. Our family friends owned it and we used to go for every special occasion. We all used to pick a steak – I normally had fillet as that’s what everyone else was ordering. These days, I prefer to order a ribeye. There would also be a generous portion of salads and potatoes on the side. Steak was a treat so it was always the perfect location for special occasions.

I don’t have a favourite restaurant. There’s just too much choice, so I try to eat somewhere new. I’ve always loved Barrafina, though. I love the clams with garlic and parsley alongside bread to mop up all the juices. When Nieves Barragan (now of Sabor) was there, Barrafina was in a class of its own producing delicious, perfectly seasoned, moreish food every time.

My favourite chef is ‘fusion pioneer’ Peter Gordon. He creates food no one else thinks of – food no one else would even dream of. Sometimes, reading his dishes on paper, you think it will never work, but then you taste it and are blown away. He has incredible food knowledge, is the nicest human you could hope to meet and – as well as being a brilliant chef – he teaches his staff how to be organised, quick, efficient and kind to one another. I once asked him for a pay rise as a young chef and he said: “Good on you for being so brave to ask for one.” I don’t think many other bosses would say that.

My most memorable meal was at Coombeshead Farm down in Cornwall. Before going for the first time, I thought of Coombeshead as a rather hyped-up place. I went expecting to have a lovely stay with some lovely food and left with one of the most memorable meals of my life. I had heard that Tom Adams was a great chef but hadn’t tried his cooking before. He is an incredible chef; his food seems effortless but is packed full of flavour. It’s really delicious cooking that takes incredible care of home grown or local ingredients. The place is almost magical and it’s quite hard to describe why – it’s one of those places you just need to experience to understand.

My go-to dish on a Sunday night is a roast, I just love it. It’s the ultimate comfort food. I often opt for beef or lamb, and always serve it with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and creamed cabbage. If I’m entertaining at home, I love to serve a roast with big mounds of food in the middle of the table.

My top recommendation for a date is Perilla in Newington Green. It’s a beautiful, relaxed and warm-feeling restaurant. The food is original, yet approachable and completely delicious. A plate of organic greens, wild garlic sauce and goats curd, which also came with roasted rump cap, was my dish of the meal. It looked stunning and was all just expertly cooked.

After a late, long shift, I love to eat crackers, butter and cheese. I like a really good cheddar.

My favourite recent opening has to be Cornerstone. It offers simple, elegant cooking. Tom Brown is a brilliant chef whose passion for seafood really comes through in his cooking. He shows incredible restraint which is a very difficult thing to do. My favourite dish had to be the mackerel pate with treacle bread.

I like to buy ingredients locally in Tufnell Park where I live. Mainly at NW5 Meat, Jonathan Norris Fishmongers and FAM Greengrocers.

My favourite dining companion is my partner Stephanie. She can eat copious amounts, just like me.

The secret to hosting a good dinner party? Do lots of prep in advance and minimal cooking once your guests are there. 

The best party I’ve ever thrown was a NYE party at Oklava in 2017. I cooked a whole feast of Mexican food: think duck with achiote, grilled steak with ancho chilli and cumin that we stuffed into tacos and pozole, and – of course – all sorts of salsas including tomatillo and guacamole. There was absolutely no tequila: I had too many bad experiences when I was young!

My most-ordered takeaway is probably fried chicken from Chick ‘n’ Sours. The hot wings are my favourite.

The one dish I always order if I see it on the menu is lamb cooked over charcoal or wood.

My drink of choice? A G&T. Sipsmith is one of my favourite gins. I like it served short with a wedge of lime. 

My quick midweek meal of choice is crispy chicken thighs coated in a little mango chutney and a salad made with all sorts of leaves and vegetables.

The most decadent meal I've ever had was on a research trip in Istanbul last year. I ate at so many different places in one day – both sweet and savoury dishes – that I thought that might be it for me! The place you must go – in fact, visit it twice – is Zubeyir Ocakbasi. Its kebabs are out of this world. Nowhere comes remotely close in this country.

My death-row dinner is homemade kebab with salad and Turkish bread to mop up the juices.

And my food hell? Anything with saffron.

Oklava Bakery + Wine, 64 Grafton Way, Fitzrovia, W1T 5DN; Oklava Bakery + Wine is offering SheerLuxe VIPs 2-for-1 on brunch on 25th January. Not yet a member? Sign up at


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