Forget maki rolls from Prêt, the best Japanese food is a heart-stopping mix of finesse and flavour – and there are few better places to try it than Umu. Touching the discreet door button allows diners access to a luxurious one-Michelin-starred enclave with a “cool vibe” and hints of Zen-like purity.
There are bento box lunches or diet-friendly sashimi for those wanting a quick fix, but we recommend the full kaiseki menu, a multi-course seasonal tour de force that takes a couple of hours to consume and is worth every minute of your time.
Head chef Yoshinori Ishii is a perfectionist when it comes to ingredients and techniques, even showing his fishermen how to humanely handle line-caught fish (the ancient Japanese method of ‘ike jime’). He also creates his own unique tableware and presents guests with wood-block printed poems.
The kaiseki banquet begins with tantalizing ideas ranging from cured white river fish with ginger, caviar and a ball of grated radish and wasabi to a clear soup brimming with rich umami flavours. To follow, there might be seaweed-stuffed Japanese aubergine, a sashimi course, and a refreshing dish of cold soba noodles with salty bottarga and dashi jelly.
After that, Cornish lobster is dismantled to eat in just three bites with Japanese lemon and coral sauce, while a chunk of Welsh lamb is theatrically cooked over a charcoal grilled at your table and presented in four parts with daring seasoning. Keep going. Next up might be some elegant sushi and, finally, a dessert of roasted barley with raspberry sorbet – plus macarons and chocolates if you’re still hungry.
With “perfect saké pairings” and spectacular wines also on offer, dining at Umu is unashamedly glamorous, but also slightly daunting – although super-helpful staff are on hand to guide even the most tentative guests through this “completely magical experience”.