Published 4 October 2021
by Céire Carey
The Nook, in Highbury Corner, opened a year ago, joining the likes of Trullo, Prawn on the Lawn, and Black Axe Mangal (now FKABAM, of course). It is, like its peers, an independent, neighbourhood fixture.
Serving Mediterranean-Turkish food, the restaurant was opened by husband-and-wife duo Lale and Angus Oztek-Pook, who started out with a supper club. The pair are hospitality veterans – Lale works in the kitchen and Angus is front of house – and count amongst their experiences Kyseri, Oklava, Allbright and The Mash Inn.
Having just celebrated The Nook’s first birthday, CODE caught up with the couple.
Angus: We took on the space initially as we liked the size and saw the potential of running it with just the two of us when we needed to, and so I guess it was intentional in that sense. I think the space lends itself to being personal as we’re able to move around and talk to everyone easily.
Lale: I like to cook mainly with vegetables, simple no fuss food with fresh ingredients and bold flavours. My cooking draws a lot from Italian and Turkish cooking, which both emphasises the produce and the flavours. I am a Le Cordon Bleu London graduate who trained mainly in Italian kitchens but before I became a professional chef and moved to London, I lived all my life in Turkey, so naturally there are a lot of different influences in my cooking. The main drive, however, is to cook fresh dishes which will go well with wine.
Lale: Apparently it is a draw between the crispy courgette dolma bites (basically a vegan arancini with Turkish flavours) and our hummus with pickled naga chilli.
Lale: We work with a great cheese supplier, our friend and fellow small business Tasting with Nivard, who always brings us the best cheeses around. So, we will have a lot of rich tasty cheeses featuring in our dishes as well as a wintery new selection of dishes. All the autumn/winter vegetables will make an appearance as well as a few hearty braised meat options. And of course, we will also be cracking open lots of delicious bottles of red to go with it all as well as some serious oranges and rosés.
Angus: When choosing wines for the list, having a varied and balanced range of stuff is always a massive priority. We are super lucky to have found some amazing great tasting wines across the natural/classic spectrum from various suppliers that provide the backbone of our list and allows us to have some more daring and adventurous stuff on offer alongside them. We have a specials board that is always host to a range of super expressive and interesting wines from small producers that is a lot of fun to play around with, around 5 or 6 different wines depending on what I’m feeling that day.
Angus: Absolutely! The specials board which features those small producers leaning more to the wild side of wine making, gets a lot of attention and the majority of customers are excited to try something new and in some cases challenging compared to their usual wine choices. The best part about choosing a wine selection is surprising people with wines they have already decided they definitely won’t enjoy, when in fact they actually do!
Angus: I would say it has sunk in recently as we are now over the one year mark so it has become very much ingrained in our lifestyle and routine. It is kind of surreal sometimes when you sit down in your own place and look around from a different perspective and think that it’s your own space to do pretty much whatever you want!
Angus: Definitely being able to decide on things like music, which always sets the atmosphere in any way we decide for that day. Deciding on the artwork for the walls is also another great mood setter, we can decorate the place however we like which gives us incredible freedom to put some of our personality into part of the space itself.