Last week saw the much-anticipated opening of AOK – a beautiful new restaurant in Marleybone which only serves dishes free from refined sugar and conscious to limit its dairy and gluten use. Yes finally there is a restaurant that doesn’t just cope with dietary requirements, but freely offers them as the basis of their innovative, intimate and, most importantly, irresistible dining experience! London Living editor Katharine talks to its founder Kelly Landesberg.
52-55 Dorset St, London W1U 7NG
So exciting about you new venture AOK Kitchen & Bakery! Can you tell us a bit more about it?
Yes – very exciting! A.O.K Kitchen & Bakery is a feel good all day dining concept that accommodates to all dietary requirements. There is no refined sugar in the whole restaurant including the bakery and limited in dairy and gluten. Whether you are vegan, or a meat lover there is something for everyone with a menu carefully chosen according to the season making sure the best quality produce is being served always.
The Bakery accommodates to all dietary requirements too serving options that are gluten and dairy free but also your classics like croissants and baguettes and even the Jewish bread, “Chollah” which is also available without gluten. Bespoke birthday cakes are also a service we provide.
There seems to be a bit of a backlash against those asking for free-from options when out dining, so it’s great news that A.O.K is taking the upper hand and going out of its way to cater for those looking for dairy, sugar and gluten free options. What inspired you to create this much needed offering and destination?
The need to create this concept was due to my own personal experiences and dietary requirements. I felt like there was nothing in London that really offered something for everyone and a lot of the free from food on offer I felt didn’t make me feel good and contained a lot of sugar.
I also wanted to create an environment where there was no pressure put on the customer with what they were eating especially now with how everything we see is led by fitness and what we look like and what we “should” eat. I wanted people to have the freedom to eat what they wanted care free but knowing it has been cooked in the best way possible and without any refined sugar. So still feeling like you could indulge but without the pressure of feeling bad for what you have eaten.
What can diners expect when they visit A.O.K? What to you makes it special and stand out?
Diners can expect a warm welcome, and made to feel special from the moment they walk in to the moment they leave. Nothing is ever a problem at A.O.K and whatever the customer would like we will do our best to make that customer happy and accommodate to the best of our abilities. They can also expect a feel good atmosphere, music that is subtle but has been carefully selected to match each time of day to up lift and create an overall fun but laid back environment. We want customers to feel like A.O.K is their home away from home.
What makes A.O.K stand out is the whole experience. From service, to the food and to the interior and atmosphere. It truly is not only a home away from home feel good place but also has a magical and calming aura especially when you’re sitting under the trees and fairy lights at night.
What is your personal favourite dish on the menu?
My favourite dish on the menu is the grilled manouri cheese salad or the cauliflower. Both so simple but so tasty.
We have heard some great things on the grapevine about Sebastien your head baker. Could you tell us a bit more?
Sebastian is an absolute gem. He is one of the hardest workers I know and has been so patient and understanding with me with what I wanted to create for the bakery and his creativity is truly remarkable. His gluten and dairy free olive bread is already becoming famous! If you haven’t yet tried it you must! He is a star and I am so lucky to have him has my head baker.
What do you think is currently missing from London’s restaurant and eating out scene at the moment?
What I think is missing from the London food/eating out scene (pending on what you are going out and eating) is honestly consistent food that is fresh and light but also good service. It’s very rare you go to a restaurant where both are good I personally feel. Finding staff who genuinely want to see you have the best time and make your experience the best it can be and for me when I find people like this I remember it for a long time and how they made me feel when I am eating at that restaurant. With that atmosphere also has to be good but for me first if you have good food and good service everything else comes after that.
Where are your personal favourite places to eat out in London and why?
My favourite places to eat out in London (besides A.O.K) are The Arts Club and Roka and for more relaxed low key places I really like some authentic Italian restaurants near where I live in North London such as The Coffee Cup where I have been going since I was little.
Are there any other cafes, shops or restaurants in London that you could recommend to London Living readers, that you think also offer a good selection of healthy, sugar and gluten free options?
To be honest if I’m looking for gluten free/dairy/sugar free options I usually go to health food stores and stock up or so many high street supermarkets now offer so many great choices for all dietary requirements.
As a born and bred Londoner, what do you love most about London?
What I love most about London is the culture and also the “buzz” it has! There is always something to do whether it’s going to a restaurant, a museum or going to the theatre. I am lucky I grew up in North London so I get the best of both worlds. Taking my dog for a walk in Kenwood is one of my favourite things to do so having the greenery and quietness is such a nice balance as well as the fast pace lifestyle of working in Central London.