Koya, London’s peerless udon noodle bar, feels like a neighbourhood restaurant. It’s in the middle of Soho, one of the city’s fastest-moving areas, but it never bustles. It’s diminutive and often full, but it never rushes. It is precisely its unerring serenity, allied with quality, inventive cooking, that makes it one of London’s essential restaurants. So it’s perhaps a little surprising that for their fully fledged neighbourhood debut, on East London’s Broadway Market, co-founders Shuko Oda and John Devitt actually want to speed things up.
Koya Ko, the literal and translated “little sister” to Koya Soho and its City restaurant, where lunchtime speed is the MO, will open on 13 September. Inspired by Japanese train station dining, it will feature a tachi-gui standing counter, with significant concessions to pandemic-era dining that Devitt said made the group “as resilient and flexible as possible” in an interview just over a year ago. A new pre-ordering system will, they hope, embed takeaway into a restaurant that will build its regular cadence by not taking reservations, while imposing menu boards will both eliminate paper menus and provide a fond memory for acolytes of the Soho original. As before, so now.
A similar philosophy runs through the menu, which iterates upon classic Koya dishes rather than running roughshod. The English breakfast udon, which encapsulates Oda’s cooking philosophy better than any words, has been tweaked into the kamatama style, in which the heat of the noodles “cooks” a raw egg yolk into sauce. Yes, the bacon is there. No, it is not a Japanese carbonara.
But some things are new, guided by the area’s local population. A kids’ menu — complete with nifty smaller chopsticks — is in play; breakfast will kick in from 8:30 a.m., an hour-and-a-half before it begins on Frith Street; there will be plenty of tables outside. And there’s a new playfulness to some of the menu, including the Ko Meaty!, a beef shin and chilli oil bowl, whose exclamation mark will hopefully presage its kick. Take a scroll through the new menu below, and then take a look inside the restaurant at 12 Broadway Market Mews.