Hattie Lloyd 10/06/24

Akira Back

Akira Back was born in South Korea, became a baseball player in Japan, then a pro-snowboarder in the US, and finally decided to put athletics away and settle for an award-studded career running a portfolio of 24 acclaimed restaurants across the globe. And now he’s finally made his way to London, to become an Olympic gymnast open up the flagship restaurant in the all-new Mandarin Oriental in Mayfair.

Anyone who’s been to the group’s first London hotel over in Knightsbridge will know the place as a bastion of old-school glamour, from the stately red-brick Victorian edifice to the glitzy interior, home to the Michelin-starred Dinner by Heston, and the lavishly designed ‘izakaya’, The Aubrey. But the Mandarin Oriental Mayfair has a totally different aesthetic: tucked away quietly on Hanover Square, just off Regent Street, only the signature golden fan (and a pair of smartly-dressed doormen) announce the hotel’s presence behind a demure facade.

Akira Back

Step inside, however, and you’ll be amazed to see what’s hiding behind that unassuming frontage. Akira Back’s restaurant is the heart of the hotel, unfolding in a vast, triple-height, entirely sky-lit space just behind the lobby. It’s been designed with the four elements in mind, with monumental wooden structures erupting from the walls to evoke the wind, waterfall-like fabric cascading into the open kitchen, a Ming green marble staircase to represent earth, and a suave, low-lit cocktail bar beneath that’s inspired by fire. The place has a much fresher, more contemporary take on luxury than its Knightsbridge predecessor.

Akira Back

That goes for the food, too. The service is absolutely flawless – the team will even adjust your napkins to black or white to match what you happen to be wearing – but unlike Dinner, Akira Back doesn’t necessarily demand a special occasion (although yes, you will be paying luxury hotel prices here). The menu is entirely a la carte, a collection of familiar comforts with juuust enough wild cards thrown in to allow you to try something a little different.

Akira Back

Take the tuna and mushroom ‘pizzas’: one of Back’s signature dishes, they see crispy, cracker-like bases slicked with ‘umami aioli’ and layered with impossibly slim slivers of tuna crudo or king oyster mushroom. Or there’s the wagyu bulgogi tacos, a glorious triple-threat fusion of mouth-wateringly tender beef in the classic Korean marinade, and spooned into a crisp taco shell.

But for the most part, Akira Back does the classics – really well. The lunchtime bento box (easily enough for two to share) is loaded with jewel-like sashimi and nigiri, tempura-battered veg, and an exemplary version of miso black cod. There’s tempura popcorn rock shrimp, cloaked in a spicy gochujang mayo. And at dinner, there are hearty mains of turbot in sake butter, and teriyaki-glazed chicken on a bed of potato purée.

akira back

Popcorn tempura shrimp with spicy gochujang mayo

The wine list, meanwhile, is full of new discoveries courtesy of your affable, silk-jacketed sommelier, Maxim. Moving away from Knightsbridge’s list (which leans heavily into Old World wines), Maxim’s picked out some exceptional rare finds. Go off-piste, and you’ll be rewarded with unusual gems like a Cabernet Sauvignon from Ningxia province in Central China, or a lychee-laden white made from red grapes in the Peloponnese. And there are some excellent cocktails on offer too, making use of an extensive sake & shochu collection behind the bar.

Speaking of which… beneath the spiral staircase you’ll find that separate, dedicated bar area, all low lounge seating and dramatic uplighting. You can stop by here for a pre- or post-dinner drink, and on weekends they roll along the concertina doors to totally close off the space, where DJs will play till late.

Like we said… nothing old-school about this place.


NOTE: Akira Back is open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner & drinks. You can find out more, and make a booking, HERE.

Akira Back | Mandarin Oriental Mayfair, 22 Hanover Square, London W1S 1JP

Like knowing about the latest openings? Take a look at our guide to the best London restaurants opening soon

Akira Back

Mandarin Oriental Mayfair, 22 Hanover Square, Mayfair, W1S 1JP

8.5 | Great