Ocken is a 70-cover casual restaurant run by Johnny Liu of Bangkok dining chain Roast but has a more mature feel than Liu’s other venture. Born in Taiwan and raised in the Thai capital, Liu created Ocken’s menu to reflect flavours from his childhood and subsequent trips to the US. His piri-piri chicken is an elevated take on the popular street snack and is best enjoyed with the deft salad comprising burrata, kiwi, watercress, pear, rosemary-crusted almonds and kiwi vinaigrette. Classic Asian desserts include mochi cake and a longan, red bean and coconut tao teung – both of which have been given a new twist.
Little Toy Box
Taking the temperature of the coffee scene in Tokyo? Little Toy Box in the quiet residential neighbourhood of Komaba – a coffee bean’s flick from bubbling Shibuya – is a new opening that’s well worth a visit. Owner Miki Yamazaki was in the antiques business before she switched professions to become a barista, opening her own establishment in 2019; the space displays all the hallmarks of her spot-on taste in furniture.
The bread here is sourced from the Nior bakery in Ishikawa prefecture and the coffee beans are brought in from the Coffee County roastery in Kurume, Kyushu. Little Toy Box’s interior – think vintage lamps and bare white walls – is homely and rather handsome but make sure that you head down to the venue sooner rather than later, as word is spreading fast and the queues are already growing.
Vienna is known for its indulgent desserts but bread is undergoing a rise in fortunes too. Öfferl, for example, is a bakery that was opened in Vienna in 2019 by cousins Georg Öfferl, Lukas Uhl and Sandra Schaffer. The former started his career in the family baking business in Lower Austria that supplied restaurants throughout the capital. He soon made the move to Vienna’s Wollzeile, where rare grains and a steam oven proved to be the key ingredients of his success. Joseph Brot, meanwhile, has one of its five bakeries near the Wien River. Its sumptuous sourdough and savoury dishes bear the hallmarks of Josef Weghaupt’s enviable loaves. Felzl might be the oldest establishment in our round-up but it’s by no means stale. Founded in 2000, the artisanal bakery has gone against the grain for decades and is still expanding: Horst Felzl has now opened four shops and cafés. If you can’t make it during the day, the firm’s Brotautomat vending machine is stocked throughout the night, a rare occurrence in a city where shops shut early and close completely on Sundays.
oefferl.bio; joseph.co.at; felzl.at
When Kamilla Seidler returned to Copenhagen after six years as head chef at Michelin-starred Gustu in La Paz, Bolivia, the last thing she wanted to do was start another restaurant. But here we are at Lola, Copenhagen’s most exciting new opening. “This began purely as a social project,” says Seidler. The building is owned by a family-run charitable foundation, which has financed the venue’s complete refurbishment. That includes the interior with its eclectic mix of colonial touches, and bold patterns and tones reminiscent of a Vilhelm Hammershøi painting, all overseen by Danish studio All That Matters. As the foundation’s involvement suggests, Lola is still very much a socially minded project. Its aim is to give people, particularly women who are often first or second-generation immigrants, a helping hand into work. That said, neither the service nor the food is preachy, austere or earnest.
Seidler’s menu is worldly as long as the ingredients are relatively climate friendly. “We won’t be serving avocados but I love that we can mix things around,” she says. “We have chefs from India, chefs who’ve worked in Thailand and I’ve been in Bolivia and Spain [at Mugaritz in the Basque region]. But it doesn’t have to be a classic Indian or Thai dish – maybe we will have kaffir lime and elderberries. It’s OK as long as we haven’t flown crazy ingredients in.” Lola is housed in a sprawling 17th-century windmill atop the old city ramparts, a short walk from hippy commune Christiania, but its attitude is refreshingly down-to-earth. “I love New Nordic,” says Seidler, thoughtfully. “But sometimes you just need curry, you know?”
After years spent plating fiddly dishes with tweezers at Michelin-starred restaurants all over Europe – as well as a stint running a Mexico City food truck – Vadim Otto Ursus returned to his native Berlin to try something different. His 16-seat Otto, in the Prenzlauerberg neighbourhood, relies on ingredients from Berlin and the surrounding countryside. The 28-year-old chef says that this tight geographic focus “is limiting in certain ways but also triggers creativity”. Ursus leans on fermentation to produce a changing à la carte menu that’s savoury, comforting and surprising. The starter of fresh sourdough, butter and pickled vegetables sets the tone: salty cucumber, mustardy Jerusalem artichoke and green tomato preserves bring a tart, bright promise of summer to dark winter nights.
After outgrowing their office jobs in Toronto, Sid Singh and Ayisha Izmeth began dreaming of something new. Following countless brainstorming sessions in the city’s many independent cafés, they realised they wanted to open a space of their own to do just that: share and inspire creative thinking. Toronto’s skyrocketing rents led them some 60km away to Hamilton, a steel-producing port city with a vibrant arts community. The pair opened Synonym, a café and bookshop in which coffee from Ontario roastery Detour Coffee is served alongside global design and culture publications. Montréal architects Atelier Barda created the curved walls and archway, while the interior contains elements designed by international artists. “It’s a space where artists from Hamilton can get inspiration from all over the world,” says Singh. synonymshop.com
New community bistro Lore is located in Tallinn’s Noblessner quarter, a former submarine dock that’s now a hub of microbreweries, cafés and restaurants. Chef Janno Lepik and sommelier Kristjan Peäske won fans with their first restaurant Leib and have made an eclectic menu with a few familiar touchstones at Lore. The wood-fired pizzas are a draw but do try the octopus with chickpeas, roasted bell pepper and Taleggio cream, or the duck with tuna-and-caper mayonnaise and pickled mustard stems. Exposed aged walls, a tiled floor and an old fireplace give the place something of a weathered but welcoming feel.