The ever-expanding Nobu empire of classy and upmarket Japanese restaurants plants an incongruous outpost in the gritty hipster bricklands of Shoreditch.
A cavernous basement lounge hidden beneath the first Nobu hotel in London, the restaurant exudes the refined early-era Bond-villain aesthetic of Tokyo’s fine dining scene. A giant glass wall allows an adjacent light well to flood the subterranean space with natural light, while the descent from street level is striking, revealing a towering cocktail bar so tall that its busy staff are reduced to tiny Lego people by comparison.
WHERE? 10 Willow Street, London EC2A. Just off Great Eastern Street in beautiful east London, where unwashed creative types ride around on electric skateboards eating cream cheese bagels with their hands. Don’t let the distance from Mayfair fool you. My dining partner – a graphic designer with a beard – rocked up in a pair of his most fashionable shorts under the mistaken belief that dress codes are still outlawed in the borough. It took some careful negotiation before he was welcomed onto the premises.
ORDER THIS… There are few dishes as synonymous with their creators as Nobu’s black cod miso is with him. It is the man’s “Freebird”: a sticky, sweet, melting, warming, piece of glazed fish that would be just as home on the dessert menu. It goes well with the smoky character of the roasted cauliflower, which comes lightly seasoned with jalapeno and soy salt. Other dishes are served with palate-cleansing directions: our server instructed us on the correct way to enjoy the yellowtail sashimi and the surprisingly kicking whitefish tiradito, by taking each piece with a leaf of coriander. The Nobu House Special, a stack of large, five-fish sushi rolls, is a must if you’ve got the appetite.
BUSINESS OR PLEASURE? Nobu is an absolute client-pleaser whichever part of the city it’s in, with ample private dining options for discreet business-doings and lunchtime meetings. As far as I can tell Nobu Shoreditch is unique in offering a breakfast menu, so you can swing by for a leisurely brunch too should the mood take you.
NEED TO BOOK? You can book a table by visiting nobuhotelshoreditch.com
THE VERDICT… The unrivalled czar of sushi further asserts his culinary dominance over London, and Nobu Shoreditch refuses to loosen its tie or soften its edge as its reach extends eastwards. Sophisticated Manhattan-style dining is taking over London’s coolest postcode, it seems.