On a grey Sunday around noon, we arrived at OKN1 at 40 Hoxton street for our 1pm reservation. The building is institutional looking, demonstrating the efficiency of design within schools and civic buildings, and therefore appropriately fit for the Hackney Campus of New City Collage. As it started raining the yellow bricks became darker and grimmer in colour and having forgotten our umbrella, we found shelter near the entrance of the restaurant. Peeking inside we were filled with heart-warming nostalgia.
OKN1, which stands for Open Kitchen and the area code, N1, is a collaborative kitchen and training restaurant for trainee chefs to gain work experience alongside professional chefs Steve Tonkin, Radoslaw Nitkowski and Siphiwe Sipijo. This is a refreshing solution to the critical chef shortage that the hospitality industry in the UK is currently facing. To fill vacancies in the UK, an additional 22,000 chefs are needed by 2022. OKN1’s collaborative kitchen is an important and exciting concept in solving this shortage.
On entering, we were given a warm welcome by the restaurant Manager. He passionately knew the all-day dining menu inside and out, which features everything from a roasted chorizo frittata for brunch to a Suffolk bacon chop for dinner. On recommendation we had the moules marinère, which were beautifully cooked in a creamy thick broth with smoked bacon, slow cooked onions and cider. The chips were hand cut and piping hot with a crunchy exterior and fluffy interior. It is essential to dunk these chips in the moules sauce, as it was eye rollingly the best bit of our meal.
The bar and casual dining space offer a laid-back atmosphere. The wooden floor, pastel colour pallet and vintage joinery pieces provide substance and security in its brasserie Look & Feel. In the open kitchen, tall dome-shaped pendant lights evoke an industrial feel in the light mint-coloured dining room. Good quality banquettes, carefully sourced furniture and bespoke table tops add charm to the interior. Wandering outside to the terrace we looked out over the collage lawn, where grey squirrels were busy burrowing supplies for winter. We have no wish to join the squirrels in always fending for our supper and sincerely applaud OKN1’s vision for how to secure the restaurants of the future.