From dreamy sashimi to maki that’ll make you happy, the West End has a glut of restaurants to please sushi seekers.
Sake no Hana
Sake no Hana is all about traditional sushi and the rituals that go with it, only taken up a peg. Like the eclecticism of Umai Sushi Saturdays, involving a seven-course lunch of dishes such as sukiyaki with yuzu candy floss and sea bass sashimi with chili ponzu.
If you’ve been to Kyoto, Umu may well remind you of its classier districts. The chef spent nine years under intensive tutelage there. Still, in preparing his sushi, he makes a point of using what’s much closer, like live Icelandic sea urchin, and northern Irish pollan.
Each branch of Roka – five at last count – is built around its robata, a type of wood-fired grill popular among Japanese fishermen back in the day. Sushi, however, is just as good as what comes off the grill – turn your attention to the concentrated menu of maki, from yellowfin tuna to Wagyu tempura. There are three West End branches, in Mayfair, Fitzrovia and Aldwych.
Araki, London’s ultimate sushi experience, weighs in at a mere £300. And that’s before drinks and service. This place is named after sushi master Mitsuhiro Araki, who moved his esteemed restaurant from Tokyo to Mayfair in 2014. With only 10 covers, few can claim to have eaten here. This is a place for very special occasions.
One of the relatively few establishments to do Kobe beef on British shores, don’t necessarily let this be a guide, as the sushi and sashimi – presented in wooden bento boxes – at this bijou Piccadilly restaurant is top notch.
At the other end of the spectrum we have Kulu Kulu, hanging its operation on conveyor belt convenience. Which is the way we, especially when in a hurry, like it. The queues at lunchtimes can test one’s endurance, but the food is worth the wait.
Only round the corner from the infinitely more modern Japanese restaurants Inamo and Roka, while Kikuchi shares common ground in its cuisine, it’s in another world entirely. Immaculate service, and with a traditional approach but not stuck in its ways, it’s perhaps not surprising it’s still going strong two decades after opening.
Fans of izakaya – drinking dens synonymous with Tokyo – should like it here. Japanese ideas are crossed with European ingredients, while each facet of the operation is headed up by execs who’ve worked at some of London’s most recognisable Japanese restaurants.
As far as concepts go, ‘untraditional’ would be putting it lightly here – maki is crossed with nigiri to form its own hybrid, and Italian veg is grilled over the robata. If you’re after something a bit different, Inko Nito’s the one for you.
Jugemu is true to its roots. So much so you might as well be in a local haunt down an alley in Kyoto. If you don’t have – or aren’t in the mind for spending – triple figures at Araki, this place serves the kind of sushi among the most likely to match it.
This is a guest post from freelance food journalist Hugh Thomas. He’s contributed to Foodism, Time Out, Great British Chefs, and is part of British Street Food’s small team of vigilant writers. Find him on twitter @hughwrites.