Umu sets the tone before you even get into the building.
Turning onto a small Mayfair backstreet, you’ll likely encounter a flicker of doubt as to whether you’re even in the right place. But the sense of tranquility, and escape from the bustling city a few yards away is already beginning to seep in.
Then you’ll see the pale, wooden, windowless facade with a large illuminated Japanese character. In it, there’s a recessed door that has no handle – the only way to open it is by waving your hand over the sensor next to it. It slides open, and you walk in, and that sense of tranquility washes over you fully.
The space itself is elegant, simple, and feels like a small chunk of Kyoto has been lifted out of Japan and delicately placed into West London. Everything from floor to ceiling seems to be made of wood, and the sushi bar has a delicately scalloped edge; just one of the many little details that round out the experience. Even the tableware is made in-house.
And on that tableware, they’re serving Kyoto style food – note, not merely Japanese style, which is far too broad a net for a specialist place like Umu. The chef hails from Kyoto (the former capital city of Japan, steeped in temple & tradition), and the head chef trained for nine years at Kyoto’s own three Michelin Star Kyoto Kitcho.
The a la carte changes regularly, but you can expect extremely high-end ingredients, and extremely high-end preparation. Under the starters, tuna tartare comes in a perfect rectangle with real wasabi (it’s rarer than you think), and the Cornish lobster is lightly seared and served in a coral sauce.
The vegetable tempura is cooked by a chef who brings the vegetable seeds with her from Japan, then grows them in a small garden in Kent. They’re then treated with the reverence that only someone who’d grown the vegetables themselves would give; crisped in the lightest batter that the laws of physics seem to allow. The wagyu beef is grade 11 (the scale measures marbling, and overall quality – it only goes to 12) and is kissed with heat before being served with a miso nut sauce.
The sushi is split between the classics (toro tuna belly, seabass, mackerel, yellowtail, razor clam, etc.) and some novel rolls invented by the chef (prawn & mango, langoustine & ginger, eel & caviar, etc.). You can even get a trio of smoked sashimi, chosen by the chef based on what you’ve already ordered.
And washing all this down? They’ve got one of the biggest sake lists in Europe. It includes a couple of sweet, Champagne-like sparkling sakes, and enough others to match with virtually anything you order. Just make sure you ask the very well versed sommelier to give you a recommendation.
For your own sake.
NOTE: Umu is open for lunch and dinner, Monday-Saturday. You can find out more and make a booking at their website right HERE.
Umu | 14-16 Bruton Place, W1J 6LX
Speaking of sushi….have you read our guide to the best sushi restaurants in London yet?
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