If you've never been to Italy before and you're stopping by Milan, there's a place you really should know about.
If you're into mozzarella in a big way and can't think of a better way to spend a lazy summer afternoon than sipping a chilled glass of white whilst nibbling on breadsticks and cutting fleshy hunks off a great, creamy ball of cheese, accompanied by olives, salamis, sundered tomatoes, whatever takes your fancy.. then Obika is your place.
I believe the original Obika mozzarella bar opened in Rome but my attention was first drawn to the delicious haven in Milan.
I had walked past the sign outside La Rinascente in Piazza Duomo and wondered hungrily what a mozzarella bar would be like. Yet I would always forget; the city centre isn't usually my dinner destination and Magro always had a new place to visit up his sleeve.
But one day, as we ambled lazily down Corso Garibaldi, we decided to stop by at the Brera branch.
First things first, mozzarella is not the only thing on the menu (although it wouldn't be too terrible if it were). You can also find a range of pasta and pizza dishes although these are a little overpriced in comparison to the fare found throughout the rest of the city (individual restaurant menus can be found complete with prices on the Obika website).
We began with a selection of their fried antipasti (finger-lickin' good) which came with a delicious spicy sauce. My favourite were the fried cauliflower florets and sage leaves.
Trying to keep things healthy, we also went for a plate of seasonal grilled vegetables and a butternut squash, pumpkin seed and cacio salad on the side of our cheese.
Everything was delicious although we had definitely ordered more than we could chew! Even so, my curiosity wasn't satisfied and whilst the dessert menu looked exquisite, I was still in the midst of my sugar wean so I refrained (that took serious willpower people!)
I dreamt of a day I could sit there in the fading evening light with my girls and a glass of fresh white wine, picking over a huge range of delicacies.
Wishes do come true.
Ok fine there was a boy at the table too. But he was Sophie's boyfriend and he was absolutely lovely so we'll let him into our girly secret.
I was too busy scrutinising the menu anyway.
Having just got back from Puglia, there was only one thing on my mind: stracciatella di burrata.
You have probably heard of burrata, that wonderful creamy mozzarella with an incredibly messy heart. Well stracciatella is literally just those scrappy, sloppy strands of cheese that didn't quite make it into the finished product. It's everything that's brilliant about burrata without the prim exterior.
I wasn't sure whether it was worth going for it seeing as I'd just been eating the real deal for a week so whilst we oohed and aahed over the menus, we got stuck into the thing I'd been missing the most the last time; il vino.
You have probably seen Jess and Sophie pop up in various posts before. These two lovely ladies were also doing their Erasmus in Milan at the same time as me. Jess was studying music at the university and Sophie was working in a law firm (scary!)
We clinked glasses to celebrate just being in Italy and having survived the year with the beautiful, eternal Duomo as our backdrop.
The decor at Obika is fresh and simple with monochrome tones and splashes of red. We wanted to keep our little pot of rosemary on our table but as they're used to show waiters which tables are still waiting to have their order taken, we had to content ourselves with the next table's instead.
The sun began to set, positively sloshing the normally pink Duomo in gold.
We also drank in the gold...
...and drizzled it on our food.
Yes, that's right. I went for it in the end.
I'm a best of both worlds kinda girl.
I like to have my cake and eat it.
I wanted burrata.. but I wanted the smoked mozzarella I had had last time too.
So I had both.
Burrata for starter (ok, really it was stracciatella but burrata is easier on the keyboard) and smoked for my mains.
Here's how to eat it like a lady.
It really was that good. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
As stracciatella and burrata have to be eaten pretty much as soon as they're made for the best gastro-experience, it's a pretty risky business to eat them outside of the region in which they're made. It's why they're so difficult to track down even though the entire world is secretly obsessed with them.
How could you not be?
Let's get another look at that.
Slopped into my chilled tomato soup with a generous drizzle of olive oil, it's something I won't forget for a while.
So for my next cheese-laden course, I plumped for the smoked mozzarella with Sicilian caponata on the side.
I have never quite tasted a smoked cheese like this. I can't really describe it except to say that it is the smokiest cheese I have ever tasted. It tastes like a bonfire but in a really, really good way.
I couldn't think of a better accompaniment than the Autumn flavours of caponata.
Before any time at all had passed (or so it felt), the sunlight had faded completely and we were treated to a magnificent view of the duomo lit up by night.
You would have thought that this would be enough to content me for one night. No.
I had pudding.
...ok three times.
And it really, genuinely was all mine. And I ate every last morsel! And I don't regret a thing! Hooray!
The pudding wine may have helped with that though.
There were just too many delicious things and like I said, I like to have my cake and eat it. Suffice to say I was incredibly full by the time we waddled back through the food hall and took the lift down to the real world.
I couldn't fault Obika on anything. Being up on the terrace overlooking the duomo, you pay a little extra on each item you order but really you're paying for the view...
...and a truly magical evening.