Thursday, February 22, 2007


I’ve been eating quite a lot of sushi recently, ironic given that the general consensus is that London isn’t a great sushi town. Nobu is one of those restaurants that I’ve always meant to go to but never made it. I think I might have thought it was a bit too cool for me. Judging by our table, which was in Siberia, so did the maitre’d.

Nobu Berkeley gathered a lot of press when it opened. There was no booking policy and Chefs Nobu Matsuhisa and Mark Edwards installed a woodfired oven and were offering a much wider menu than in other branches. It took off and I remember reading some really good reviews, especially of the new dishes. Two years on, the no booking policy has been scrapped and reservations are strongly recommended, although they do run a list on the night which we wanted to be on. Which is where things started to go wrong. Emu was running a bit late so I’d asked the Maitre’d to put me on the list, but I was assured that we’d be able to have a table without that because they weren’t that busy. So I tripped off to the very dimly lit bar for a Lillet Blanc and listened to the City boys boasting. Emu duly arrived, we had a drink and went upstairs to our table to be told there would be a wait of at least an hour before we could eat. To cut a long story short, we eventually got a table, next to a Dita Von Teese look alike, but only after Emu told them her life wouldn’t be worth living if we didn’t eat before nine.

Our waiter really pushed the tasting menu but we were happy to go it alone. We started with a sashimi and sushi platter, with sea urchin, salmon eggs, eel, chu-toro, mackerel and bream. There was also some tobiko, which we hadn’t ordered, but which was very, very good. Overall, the quality of the fish was high, but the rice wasn’t quite there for me. Next up was a signature dish, rock shrimp tempura, which is basically KFC popcorn chicken for supermodels. Served with jalapeno, creamy ponzu and another sauce that I can’t quite remember now, it showed a deft hand with the fryer and disappeared fast. Then, after a 25 minute wait, two woodfired dishes; cabbage with black truffles and Gloucester Old Spot belly pork. The cabbage was a disaster; chunks of partially cooked savoy cabbage, burned in a couple spots on the top, allegedly drizzled with truffle oil and served with some dusty black truffles. The old spot was better, rich, unctuous chunks of pork, but it was no more than the sum of its parts. We were a bit bored by now and our ears were hurting from the volume, so we asked for the bill and got ready to leave.

Then there was a first for me. A 15% service charge had been automatically added to the bill. 15% I tell you. We asked for it to be taken off and we tipped a more modest 10%, because our waiter was energetic and knowledgeable and very cute.

So, that’s Nobu out of the way. I don’t think I’ll be going back. Cocktails in the Polo bar in the Westbury hotel afterwards were delicious, and their snack selection one of the best I’ve nibbled in London.

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