London’s Mayfair district is home to many highly sought-after restaurants. In fact, the Evening Standard’s feature on the capital’s Michelin-starred restaurants lists 16 establishments with one, two, or three stars in this affluent neighbourhood. Among these esteemed places is Umu, the city’s only known Kyoto-inspired restaurant. Having opened its doors in 2004, Umu received its two Michelin stars not long after.
Umu’s dining experience is in the style of kaiseki. This is essentially a multi-course dinner — at least six courses — wherein the chef decides what to serve and what order to serve it in. The ingredients are in season, which means the menu changes regularly. Thus, no two dining experiences are the same.
This is a completely different way of eating from our unforgettable culinary experience at Sushi Samba or casual market vibes at HyperJapan. Historically, it catered to the Japanese nobility. This explains why modern kaiseki dining can be quite expensive — and even a bit exclusive. For the Japanese, being hospitable means serving guests with the most delicious options. Even if the ingredients and preparation come at a hefty price and a lot of effort.
All of Japan
Though Tokyo has a plethora of street eats, it does not fully represent the different culinary traditions of Japan. Indeed, Expat Bets’ guide to Japan points out that there are 8 different regions in the country — each with their own attractions, cultural practices, and, of course, culinary delights. Kyoto, from which kaiseki hails, is found in the Kansai region. It is well-known for ryokans, or Japanese inns that serve food in a similar fashion.
Stepping into the Mayfair establishment, you’ll be welcomed by elegant wooden interiors, reminiscent of the architecture of Kyoto. Even the crockery is specifically made for Umu. You might even feel like you’re in the depths of Asia, instead of a busy district in London. As mentioned, the menu is seasonal, but CNN notes that there are standard courses to this tradition. At the very least, expect to be served an appetiser, simmered dish, sashimi dish, seasonal dish, grilled dish, and a rice dish.
Some examples of the food you might have in Umu are tuna tartare, vegetable tempura with freshly picked ingredients, and grade 11 wagyu beef with a miso nut dressing. Grilled lobster, sashimi, and mango rice puffs are also very satisfying on the palate. Then, consult the sommelier for the perfect sake to finish your meal.
Chef Yoshinori Ishii
Admittedly, the servings are small. But people come to fine dining restaurants like Umu for the explosion of flavours, not to ease an empty stomach. What makes the Umu experience even more special, however, is the person behind the amazing cooking. The restaurant is in good hands with Chef Yoshinori Ishii, a highly trained chef who was previously given the prestigious ‘Rising Star Chef’ award.
Apart from cooking, he is also a potter, calligrapher, and a fisherman. In fact, the Japanese chef introduced his own method of catching and preparing fish to local fishermen so that it meets his own meticulous standards. In all of these skills, he displays great attention to detail and creativity like no other. It certainly shows in the food he prepares for Umu’s patrons. And for that, we would be very glad to come back.
Address: 14-16 Bruton Place, W1J 6LX
Call: +44 207 499 8881
Article Date: January 2020
MISSED OUR LAST ARTICLE? IT’S ON 20 WAYS TO LIVE A BETTER 2020.
All information correct at time of publication. We do not accept any liability caused by errors, including, but not limited to, changes in price, menu, opening times, address, or other contact details.