Nordic import Sticks’n'Sushi won’t win any prizes for subtlety (the menu is, guess what, made up of sticks – of meat/fish/veg – and sushi), but we’ll forgive it that, because what it does, we like. The moreish sticks are dished out in delicate, bite-sized portions. Careful, you’ll have scoffed multiple portions before you know it. Then there’s the sushi, so beautiful you barely want to eat it and ruining the display. But who are we kidding, something that looks that good must be too tasty to leave. Service is fab and the cocktails are, well, cracking. We visited on a weekday but are told its pumping on a weekend. Don’t leave without trying dessert particularly the lemon and yuzu meringue for a burst of flavour like no other. As a bonus, if you’re not central, there’s a second branch in Wimbledon too.
The foody community in London are going wild for Flesh & Buns–the latest offering from Bone Daddies’ chef and proprietor Ross Shonhan. Set in a loud and buzzy basement (a blink-and-you’d-miss-it kind of affair, adds cachet, y’know). The menu combines Japanese classics with Taiwanese hirata buns – one of the latest Asian crazes to hit London. The format is DIY; choose your protein (pork belly, crispy duck leg, steak, you get the picture), sandwich in soft pillowy buns, add sauces, salad, garnish to taste. A touch gimmicky, a lot of fun, but still not a patch on those offered at street-food favourites Bao or Yum Bun. What can we say, we just don’t got the skillz. Whatever, we’re still having fun making thing – toasting ‘s’mores’ over a bunsen burner for dessert. A touch dangerous after a couple of cocktails, but that wild side is where we roll. Additional warning: the array of small plates and ‘Asian’ cocktails can leave the bill to rack up quickly.
This isn’t the trendiest of the ramen spots to pop up of late, but, what it lacks in “cool” credentials it more than makes up for with giant bowls of steaming ramen. We don’t particularly see that an hour-and-a-half-long wait to eat in a “hot spot” necessarily improves flavours anyway. Shoryu now has two branches, one in Soho and one just off Piccadilly circus, both with pleasant, but functional cantine-style interiors and big menus filled with a huge variety of tasty tonkotsus (a thick pork bone broth with serious flavour) and lighter, cold noodle dishes. There are even gluten-free and veggie options. There are no reservations, but turn-over is fast, so the wait should never be too long and the food is ideal for any of London’s long, cold, rainy evenings. Even better, the Soho branch is open ’til 3am Thursday to Saturday to satisfy any late-night ramen cravings.
London’s holy grail of Sushi, this titchy 7-seater in Clerkenwell run by ex-Nobu chef Toru Takahashi is the closest you’ll get to the cooking of sushi masters without leaving the U.K. That explains why bookings come so hard, and boy should we know. Lines open on the first day of each month and take reservations for the following month. Prospective customers have been known to call hundreds of times before getting through – but don’t let that put you off; this place is a must-go. Guests sit at the sushi bar and watch Takahashi do his stuff, gently crafting each piece of sushi or sashimi before placing it on the banana leaves that act as plates for guests to eat with their hands. There’s no extra soy sauce, no wasabi, no ginger, but the fish – carefully selected for its freshness – never needs more than what Takahashi’s already given it. Order a la carte or go for the omikase set menu for a meticulously-paced sampling of the best seafood of the day. So, put the first of next month in your diary, cancel your plans, take the day off work and make a reservation. Trust us, it’s worth it.
This noodle shop on Dean Street is attempting to bring the ramen revolution to London, and it’s doing rather a good job. The narrow corridor space is filled with izakaya-style wooden benches and tables with a noodle bar dominating one side. Exposed brickworks and birdcage lampshades bring in a little edge. Still, so far so standard. What is standout, however, is the food. There’s not much on the menu at Tonkotsu, but just walking in the door and taking a whiff should tell you that the this ramen joint cooks some seriously flavoursome broth. Add to that piles of perfect home-made ramen and you have the ideal spot to escape the miserable London weather. Non-pork eaters beware, it’s the veggie option or nothing, but we’re sure that also tastes great. We did have one little pet peeve – we think it’s a bit cheeky to charge for a garlic shot, but equally accept that unless like us you like to turbocharge your food with the stuff, you probably won’t be too bothered by that little expense. The sides aren’t half bad either; in fact the chicken karaage is pretty unmissable. You won’t be leaving hungry then.
Given the slew of new burger joints busting out all over, all the ramen enthusiasts may have jumped the gun a bit heralding London’s ramen revolution. But even if the burger still reigns supreme on the London food scene, we’re willing to make room for a little ramen in our lives. And judging by the queue snaking out the door of Bone Daddies on a recent visit, we’re not the only ones. Yes, this is a no reservation place (what do you expect these days?) and yes, it’s cold outside, but it’s worth the wait, and the great, steaming-hot bowls of ramen will have you warmed up in no time. Don’t go expecting intimacy, you’ll get packed onto long sharing tables or squeezed round the bar that snakes the outside of the room. It’s a cosy, down-and-dirty, elbows out kinda a place, with loud music, slurpy comfort food and very happy clientele. Get the soft shell crab to start and crush a shed-load of garlic into your noodles when they come. Not great if you’re on a date, but good for the soul.
Sexy, sleek and sassy, this underground lounge bar beneath Roka’s Charlotte Street outpost buzzes nightly. Packed with media, fashion and advertising types from nearby offices, the crowd is young, fun and classy. Then there’s the added draw of the food, which elevates bar snacks to a whole new level. Robata grills, perfectly crafted sushi and uber-fresh sashimi from Roka’s kitchen upstairs are the perfect complement to this place’s killer cocktails (you’ve been warned). Try a drink with a Sochu base (a vodka-esque spirit made of sweet potato alcohol) or opt for a Japanese beer to remain in keeping with the theme.
Imagine if you could just sit down at your fishmonger, point at some fish and within 5 minutes have a freshly prepared plate of sushi staring back at you. Oh wait, you can, at famed London fishmonger Atari-Ya. Ok, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, you have to actually order off a menu, but eating at Atari-Ya does feel a bit like the end of a trip to Tokyo’s Tsukiji market; the good bit where you tuck into a giant plate of raw fish. Since Atari-Ya supplies fish to all the top sushi joints in London, you know you’re getting the good stuff. But eating here couldn’t be further from the experience at one of London’s fancier Japanese joints. Squeeze into the little shop and perch on plastic chairs around small metal tables before choosing from the wide selection of fish. The sushi won’t have fancy ponzu dressings, or delicate truffle overlays, but you won’t miss those things either, especially when you catch sight of the low prices.
Still one of London’s most exclusive restaurants, this second London branch of Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s international chain has turbo-charged glam on lock-down. No, it’s not the one where you-know-who had sex in the broom closet (that’s the Park Lane branch and we like to keep things clean thank you very much!), but the food is plenty sexy, and don’t even get us started on the clientele. Famed for the best black cod this side of Japan, the fancy food can’t be faulted, though the prices may make you lose your appetite. Still, dishes like rock shrimp tempura with a tangy ponzu and creamy spicy mayo sauce or yellowtail sashimi with jalepeno and the renowned ‘chocolate bento box’ might tempt it to rear its head again. London’s A-listers are a nightly fixture; as are the paps waiting outside, which just makes the whole thing more fun. Pop on your Louboutins, smile for the cameras and come on down.
Everything about this discreet sushi bar tucked off Ken High screams style, from the elaborate presentation of the omakase tasting menus to the artistic neon statement on soy sauce that hangs above the sushi bar (‘without soy sauce – but if you want to’). The ethos of the place is based on traditional Edo-style sushi, which eschews the intense saltiness of soy sauce to allow the natural flavours of the fresh seafood to speak for itself. The owners know what they’re doing so trust them on this one. Nab a seat at the sushi bar to keep an eye on the careful craftsmanship that produces such gorgeous and delicious little bites. Bigger groups will miss the spectacle, but will still be comfortably ensconced in the big velvety chairs in the downstairs dining room. Of course, this kind of high quality sushi comes at a high price point, though with the omakase menus starting at £30 for 8 pieces of sushi, it’s not unaffordable. The salmon sushi lunch at £12.50 is reasonable, even.