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This contemporary pan-Asian newcomer has rejuvenated what was The Mansion House – an unremarkable watering hole in Kennington. The minimalist stone and wood interiors – plus a statement water
feature – make for a sophisticated look; meanwhile, the border-hopping menu mixes well-crafted classic and speciality dishes mostly from South-East Asia. Look for ‘gap glam’ snacks (aka ‘beer
food’) such as lightly fried spiced aubergine or fragrant king prawns sprinkled with zingy pomegranate seeds, as well as bigger plates of smoky Thai tamarind duck and creamy Malaysian-inspired lamb
rendang. Spearheaded by the award-winning Oakham Brewery in Peterborough, Oaka offers an intriguing selection of ales ranging from fruity JHB to citrusy Green Devil – all served in third-pints,
half-pints or full pints. Staff are knowledgeable, quick and attentive, while the newly minted terrace provides an inner-city opportunity to eat alfresco.
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19 September 2013
Modern bar/restaurant Oaka and its traditional boozer neighbour, The Red Lion (which really deserves its own listing, Squaremeal!), invite a compare and contrast GCSE essay. The Red Lion boasts a decorous Tudoresque timber frontage which gives nothing away. Oaka is more Geordie lass on a Saturday night hen do: huge bi-fold patio doors put it all on display. The Red Lion hides an interior which is bang up to date, if the date is somewhere in the Fifties- bunting and mismatched chairs give a higgledy piggledy feel with old dolls houses and battered board games littering every surface in an attempt to outdo the worst of Britain's Biggest Hoarders. Oaka has by contrast had a post-break up clear-out and thrown the personality baby out with grubby-past bathwater- stripped back to the bare bones with identikit, wooden tables, it epitomises “modern” with its bright airiness. Given old is the new new, it's difficult to say which is actually the more trendy venue. You might expect Oaka to be a Stella and Heineken tout, but surprisingly it's pushing ales from a small brewery in East Anglia. The Red Lion is the one with the big name lagers, but they've thrown a few Doom Bars and unusual ciders into the mix too. Foodwise, Oaka is doing the 90s trend: Thai. The Red Lion is doing an 80s/2013 trend: burgers in all their glory from traditional meat to aubergine and field mushroom. Both kitchens deliver edible, if not wildly exciting, dishes of reasonable quality. Pricewise they are pretty similar: no-one's expecting the locals to pay out the big bucks so expect value. The atmosphere at The Red Lion draws a slightly scruffy/cool crowd, but frankly it is fairly interchangeable with the marginally smarter/older Oaka set. Both are great places in what is a fairly food-desolate area of Kennington, but it's horses for courses: take a first date to Oaka; take a second date to The Red Lion. It's a testament to London's eclectic populace that 2 such different venues can stand so happily side by side.
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