It would be easy to walk past Kirin, a Japanese restaurant and bar which is tucked away down a side street just a few minutes’ walk from Tower Hill tube.
Once you’ve come up the stairs and reached the first floor dining room though, there’s no mistaking the restaurant’s big personality. Kirin courts the Instagram crowd with walls and a ceiling that is covered in bright green (faux) foliage, while waiters are gussied up in brightly coloured kimonos. For the most part though, Kirin is a sleek and sophisticated proposition, featuring dark wood tables, heavy gold drapes and floor-to-ceiling windows which look out on to neighbouring skyscrapers. There’s a large central bar too, where you can sample all of the usual cocktails, wines and spirits.
Kirin’s menu is a pages-long affair of Japanese classics, taking in hot and cold appetisers, sushi rolls and tempura, as well as set meals which are served in traditional wooden trays. The best thing we ate was the duck teriyaki – tender strips of duck with a smoky flavour profile, contrasted well with a bundle of crunchy and slightly bitter pak choi.
Elsewhere, tightly-packed California rolls are stuffed with sweet crab meat, avocado and a slick of mayonnaise, while from the tempura section of the menu, prawns come wrapped in a crisp, golden batter. We were satisfied with our selection of smaller dishes, but hungrier visitors can opt for one of the large sushi or sashimi platters, which feature the likes of salmon and tuna.
Come dessert, the obvious thing to order is the mochi (balls of ice cream wrapped in a shell made from glutinous rice), with flavours here including mango, vanilla and salted caramel. Kirin’s location means it’s well placed for lunchtime business meetings, while there’s a more romantic vibe in the evening thanks to a makeshift stage in the corner of the room which regularly plays host to live musicians singing chilled-out tunes from the charts.