The best sushi restaurants in London run a serious gamut, from the sushi master’s apprentice at The Araki, swanky Nobu and his protégés, to London’s oldest Japanese restaurants and family-run hidden gems. This is the ultimate sushi list to go by in London.Read More
The Best Sushi in London
The city’s finest places to eat nigiri, sashimi and hand-rolls, from great value neighbourhood spots to shrines to omakase
Endo at the Rotunda
London’s highest high-end omakase — on the eighth floor of the Television Centre development in White City. Endo Kazutoshi is one of the U.K.’s most renowned sushi masters, and his dual omakase — one 18 courses, one 15 — is passed over a counter made from 200-year-old hinoki wood. Attention to detail extends to bringing in barrels of water at a certain pH from Kazutoshi’s home village for rice, while the enviable supplier network he has built up during his time at Zuma delivers impeccable fish. A la carte is available, both in the singular edomae tradition and Kazutoshi’s creative personal stylings.
Endo Kazutoshi has opened a more laid-back, still pristinely wood-panellled neighbourhood ode to the craft of sushi in Westbourne Grove. The gorgeous terrace makes eating sushi outside something to be enjoyed, and its menu of best-quality nigiri and sashimi — with the option to have fattier cuts aburi-style — also adds some temaki for further theatre and wagyu and caviar for the heads.
Fancy more Nobu influenced sushi? Well, there’s Yashin too. The restaurant was much talked about for its “Without soy sauce” tagline. Chefs Yasuhiro Mineno and Shinya Ikeda want to have control over how their sushi should be seasoned — or should not be excessively — and introduced somewhat all-in-one, individually seasoned sushi that diners are encouraged to eat without adding more soy sauce. And, instead of soy sauce, the chefs make use of plum, toasted rice, kizami wasabi (wasabi chopped and marinated with soy sauce), jalapeño, soy sauce jelly, and so on. This results in a taste that is both inventive and elegant.
Unlike everywhere else on this map, Atari-Ya is a fish and seafood supplier for high-end Japanese restaurants. Nobu, Zuma, the Araki, included. It also runs three sushi outlets in North Acton, Golders Green, and Swiss Cottage. Each of these outlets serves no-frill sushi at a decent price. (Locations listed here.)
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Like Sushi Tetsu, Wimbledon’s Takahashi is run by a husband and wife, chef and front-of-house team, with the chef both ex-Nobu and named Takahashi. Cornish red mullet and horse mackerel grace a specials card to make anywhere blush. Takahashi-san borrows from the Mediterranean elements of his former employers here, but superlative nigiri and sashimi — served with minute attention to detail to prevent spoilage of the rice at a restaurant with no sushi bar — are the things to come for. If inclined to stray, a clean, delicate seafood tempura and the gelatinous pleasure of sea bream head are worthy tempters.
Chef Tomonari Chibo is London’s best-known Nobu alumnus, and at Dinings, the Nobu factors are unmissable. But, Chibo is one of the few chefs pioneering inventive or “fusion” sushi in London. He serves salmon nigiri with onion and soy sauce jam or with Peruvian-inspired salsa, and yellowtail with tosa soy sauce and Japanese mustard, and scallop with foie gras mousse. And Chibo’s wagyu sushi (spiked with truffle and ponzu jelly) turns Dinings into a destination. The taste profile here is quite strong and goes well with drinks, befitting an izakaya.
Like Nobu, Zuma is another big name that characterises London’s Japanese dining scene. Chef Rainer Becker was the very first to bring the idea of izakaya to London opening Zuma in 2002. It was — and still is — glitzy, moderately fusion-y and wildly popular. The sashimi, sushi and rolls somehow find the right balance between traditional and wacky. Items such as sea urchin and salmon roe observe the tradition but they sit well alongside Dynamite Spider (made from deep-fried soft shell crab and chilli-mayo) and Wagyu Gunkan (otherworldly beef tartare as miniature beef-topped, daikon-wrapped rolls with black truffle). Roka — the sister restaurant brand — is reliable, too.
An unassuming unit steps away from a Pizza Express on a Marylebone side street houses some of the area’s best quality sushi. An extensive a la carte menu of sashimi and nigiri is where to head, with a nod to the seasonal razor clam and abalone if the time is right. The knowing wit of placing “bowl of boiled rice” on “hot, eat-in menu” says everything about Ohisama’s priorities; that said, the selection of vegetarian rolls, including a fine rendition of ume shiso, is a gesture of hospitality in a space so focussed on the quality and preparation of raw fish.
Nobu, yes. In London, you can’t talk sushi without Nobu Matsuhisa. He has been the godfather of Japanese restaurant industry here. Most importantly, his sushi (and his “sashimi”) has had impact on what Londoners expect from eating sushi. The fare at Nobu — either at the Metropolitan Hotel on Park Lane, in Shoreditch, in Marylebone, or the original on Berkeley Square — is far from being purists. It is Japanese with South American influences and filtered through an American lens. Complicated? Not at all. Try imagining “sushi” that is not always raw and sushi rolls that contain something spicy, or mayonnaise, or avocado. Matsuhisa is also famed for inventing “New Style Sashimi”, which involves raw fish slices being cooked seared with a pouring of hot oil. Even though both of the Nobu’s in London have lost Michelin stars, they are still buzzy, aspirational venues that many would like to have a taste of — or be seen at.
Ikeda is a family-run Japanese restaurant. The restaurant has been around for 38 years — possibly the oldest Japanese restaurant in the UK. Kenichi Ikeda, the second-generation owner, acts as restaurant manager, with his brother supporting the operation as chef. The menu is wide reaching, traditional but top-notch and full of seasonal wow moments. Icelandic sea urchins are flown in regularly and prepared on the spot. Yellowtail amberjack sashimi (Hiramasa in Japanese) is transformed into a blossoming pink-petal flower and served with piquant daikon-oroshi. Tekka don (tuna rice bowl) is tightly packed with many cuts of high-grade tuna. Once the restaurant served raw tuna bone marrow in ponzu dressing — a rare delicacy even in Japan.
Chef Yoshinori Ishii trained at one of Japan’s most revered kaiseki restaurants Kitcho, went to become the chef-in-residence of Japanese Embassies in Switzerland and USA, and moved to Umu in 2010. Contrary to the belief that chefs should stay and work hard in their own kitchen, Ishii has been spending time profitably outside Umu, mostly in Cornwall, in order to elevate the ways locally caught fish could be treated — he introduced ike jime practice to Cornish fishermen — and to source directly into his restaurant. On the menu, find many world-class fish caught in the Cornish waters: from mackerel and sardine, to red mullet and turbot, to squid and spiny lobster — as well as extraordinary wild eels from Ireland. Ishii also offers a vast selection of vegetable nigiri, inspired by his own kyo-kaiseki training.
London is getting more, better quality affordable Japanese restaurants and outlets. Think, recently, like Jugemu and Mission Sato. Sushi Atelier is the latest and probably the most consistent. A brightly lit bar counter is the best place to sit and watch the masters at work, with its expansive platters of sashimi and nigiri to order.
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There is a saying in Japanese “Issho ni ichido” which broadly translates to ‘once-in-a-lifetime experience.’ It applies to eating at The Araki, a 10-seat Mayfair restaurant by one of Tokyo’s most venerable sushi masters Araki Mitsuhiro. Mitsuhiro has now returned to Japan, but The Araki still serves a “no-choice” £310 menu spotlighting rare and luxurious ingredients: Sea bream sashimi topped with caviar from albino sturgeons or marinated tuna tartare under Alba white truffles. The tuna-focused nigiri here are meticulous. Araki also pays great attention both to the sourcing and the preparation of rice (grown by the chef’s father-in-law in Japan.) This is the most accomplished and ceremonial sushi in Europe.
London’s best sushi restaurants are either impossible to get into or prohibitively expensive. It’s therefore with great relief and thrill that the marvellously mercurial Yuya Kikuchi is back in town. Jugemu is a little more traditional but no less chaotic than his short-lived Kirazu, and the question is: Is there a better value omakase in town?
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Chef Masayuki Kikuchi has been one of the most respected Japanese chefs in London. While the restaurant serves both tasting and à-la-carte menus, it’s possible to ask to be seated at the sushi counter and have nigiri served one piece at a time in an omakase manner. Uni don, a rice bowl adorned with sea urchin, is the highlight but has to be pre-ordered one day in advance.
This 7-seater is home to an endearing husband-and-wife team of Toru (chef) and Harumi Takahashi (manager). When the Kobe-trained chef opened Sushi Tetsu, he wished for no media, hoping to keep the place “hidden” and focusing only on perfecting his supply chain and craft. After an Observer review, it didn’t last. This is an incredible, soul-warming experience. The chef’s flame-kissed fatty tuna nigiri and pickled mackerel roll are the stuff that dreams are made of, and do not cost the earth. To book, follow the restaurant’s new guide to making a reservation.
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