The Oker restaurant is one of the most popular within the Denneweg & Frederikstraat ‘restaurant strip’ in The Hague. It is also one of a scarce few restaurants in The Hague to clearly offer an extensive range of gluten free and dairy free dishes. This alone was enough to convince me to dine there. Happily I report that Oker also offers fantastic food served by friendly, knowledgeable staff in a pleasant, comfortable environment.
The Hague, not very gluten free!
Relative to London and several other cities I regard The Hague as a desert for the gluten free diner. There are many great restaurants but only a tiny minority make any effort to indicate their will and skill to cater gluten or allergen free. Most do not provide any allergen information online or on their printed menus. You may find a restaurant is willing and able to cater once you are seated and ask. You also might not. I have more than once entered a restaurant and only after an extended exchange determine I cannot eat there safely, or don’t want to because of limited choice. Phoning in advance helps but only if you have sufficient time to discuss requirements with someone that understands. Email can work better but exchanges take time and advance planning.
Oker for the gluten free diner
One of the Oker virtues is that it clearly marks dishes that contain gluten and dairy within their Dutch and English menu. It is a shame this is not also true for their online menu. It would be great to see them make that improvement. Until then, take a look at an Oker menu photo. Do be aware that the menu is updated frequently so treat this as a sample.
Before deciding to eat at Oker I quizzed the servers on duty about the risk of cross-contamination. I was encouraged to find that all the people I spoke to were keen to understand and help. Servers were familiar with the meaning of ‘coeliac’. They did not guess or speculate answers to my questions and instead checked with the chef if in doubt. I was properly advised that given the nature of the kitchen environment there was a low level of risk present for all dishes but that this risk was carefully managed. This is as good as it gets in almost all restaurants that are not 100% Gluten Free and I ate here in comfort and confidence.
In addition to the naturally gluten free dishes servers also confirmed that several other dishes can be modified to be available gluten free. This is a common practice for Oker and indeed the servers were able to quickly and confidently point out the options available.
Oker’s delightful gluten free dishes
I love having tough choices to make when eating out. Oker certainly offers that for the gluten free diner. You could eat there daily for a week and have new things each day. So here are the things that appealed most my first visit.
I was told that the Thai Coconut Lime Soup has been on the menu for 10 years and regulars have warned that should it be removed they will stop visiting. I empathize with this and volunteer to join the pressure group. The soup offers a real flavour journey. Initial sweetness followed swiftly by a punchy zesty lime flavour gives way to a gentle but building and long-lasting heat from the thai chillies and spices. Balanced, complex and utterly worth savouring slowly, spoonful by spoonful.
Do you also love Umami? Order the Truffle Risotto. The creamy rice combined with mushrooms, parmesan and rocket delivers deep umami taste with a vibrant grassy, vegetal contrast. Another dish for savouring every bite.
The most photogenic of my dishes was Lebanese Eggplant Salad with Goat Cheese, Harissa & Walnuts. The caramelised walnuts offered a wonderful sweet and crunchy contrast to spicy harissa and soft cheese and vegetables. Tamarind contributed a background of juicy citrus flavour. The only off note for me was somewhat mushy eggplant. Still very enjoyable overall but not quite equal to the Soup or Risotto.
Oker’s deficit of gluten free Desserts!
In addition to adding allergen information to the online menu Oker could certainly improve their gluten free dessert offering. There was only ice cream. Several of the desserts could be adjusted to be naturally gluten free. This is of course a suggestion I made whilst dining . I jokingly suggested there should at least be a gluten free brownie available since gluten free brownies are so very, very common. This provoked a slightly scandalized response. A brownie is not the kind of dish that Oker would serve! Fair & true Oker, but please, add a gluten free Layer Cake, Pannacotta, Cheesecake or something that is in keeping with the Oker style. If you add it, I will sample it!
Oker Restaurant Recommendation
Oker offers dining in style with a menu thoroughly worth exploring. I strongly recommend it to any visiting foodies. I doubly recommend it for gluten and dairy free diners. The combination of outdoor seating, a very charming bar, tables of varying sizes and a few booths offers great versatility for singles, couples and groups. Oker offers a great experience for dining alone, or for a romantic meal, or for upscale dining with friends, family or colleagues. I will definitely return as trips to the Hague allow me the opportunity.