After winning a Michelin star four months after opening Taku, a sleek 16-seater in Mayfair, the team have decided to scale down for their sophomore, and open a neighbourhood restaurant.
Of course, when that neighbourhood is Hampstead, it’s leagues ahead of what you’d expect from your local spot.
You’ll find Iné perched on Hampstead High Street, a few minutes’ walk downhill from the tube. Inside, it’s a beautifully minimalist space full of blond wood and sleek grey stone. On the right as you enter is the horseshoe-shaped dining counter circling an open kitchen, while a cluster of booths and a private dining room sit beyond. Thanks to the buzz of activity in the kitchen, and the upbeat soundtrack, the place is full of warmth and atmosphere.
The attention to detail at Iné starts on the menu itself, printed on elegant washi paper. It’s a concertina filled with dainty, beautifully presented dishes, all designed to be mixed and matched – but if the choice is overwhelming, you can let the chef decide, sending over the best ingredients of the day. You can enjoy this up at the counter, where the chefs themselves will introduce each dish, or in the booths – and at £100 for ten courses, it’s one of the more affordable ways to try omakase in London.
The focus on sourcing means that every dish is a hit here, but particular highlights include the octopus karaage, impressively tender on the inside and crisp on the outside, and the uni gunkan maki. Not for the faint-hearted, it’s a generous scoop of Icelandic sea urchin, whose marine flavour hits you right in the nose.
The familiar sushi dishes are all here, of course – don’t miss the trio of nigiri spanning lean, fatty and lightly seared tuna – but there’s some really creative numbers too, like the oyster served with wasabi cream and tosazu (vinegar) jelly. The toro burrata is a particularly daring combination, apparently conceived when the chefs wondered what would happen if you add fat to more fat. And somehow, it really works – the salty, liquid heart of the burrata is a perfect match for fatty tuna. And to finish, there’s a clutch of desserts showcasing Japanese flavours, like the monaka wafers sandwiching red bean paste and matcha cream, or the sublime poached pear with umeshu sorbet.
To go with it all is a fleet of wines and sake spanning different styles and flavour profiles. The Kubota from Niigata prefecture is a great all-rounder; a crisp and floral Junmai Daiginjo (where the rice is polished by at least 50% to produce a lighter end flavour). And for a nightcap, try the umeshu – a syrupy plum liqueur that tastes a bit like an almond-infused dessert wine.
It’s pretty sweet.
NOTE: Iné is open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday – Sunday. You can find out more, and book, HERE.
Iné | 16 Hampstead High Street, London NW3 1PX
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