London Larder was devised in 2012 to bring you the ultimate eating and drinking guide to London. It was borne out of a need for up-to-date, quantitative and whole-heartedly recommended places to eat and drink.

Friday, February 22, 2013



Eating out in London is an absolute joy. There are restaurants for every occasion and of the highest quality, home to some of the world’s finest dining establishments. But sometimes, on very, very rare occasions, we find places a cut above even the highest standards, a place so outstanding in quality that it raises the game entirely. A restaurant so astonishing that every course improves upon the previous. Wabi, a Japanese restaurant just south of Holborn, is one such restaurant. It is almost impossible to describe Wabi in terms that don't sound pretentious or over the top, but trust us, it is actually that good.

Opened by Scott Hallsworth, former head chef at Nobu, quality runs through the veins of Wabi. The name comes from the Japanese word for ‘modest understated beauty’, a theme that appears in both the d├ęcor of the venue and in the food. A discreet entrance on Kingsway leads downstairs to a long dining room with a kitchen at the rear, which is already cooking up the most delicious smells from the moment we walk in. Dimly lit, the ambience would be perfect for a romantic meal, but is equally suitable for business dinners too. Both groups were certainly present during our visit. First impressions were very positive, but the real joy was yet to come.

In order to sample as many dishes as possible, we opted for the tasting menu, put together by Hallsworth himself. A mixture of his favourite dishes are presented alongside those that have proved universally popular with customers. It delivers ten small courses, each as perfectly laid together and delicious as the last. Kicking off with a selection of starters, we tucked into to roasted edamame, which had a rich, smoky barbecue taste, alongside sweet and sour aubergine and giant homemade pork scratchings with a wasabi dip. Having awoken our taste buds, we then dined on some of the highest quality sushi and sashimi imaginable. Precision-cut slices of sea bass and yellowtail were served-up alongside dehydrated olives and raspberries, atop tiny beds of rice. These were presented in a variety of creative and innovative ways, such as cone-shaped temaki rolls stuffed with toro served alongside a serving of wasabi cream and chargrilled onion powder, leaving us to put together the final article ourselves.

The creativity did not stop with the sushi, as we were introduced to Wabi’s unique take on lobster and chips: moist warm chunks of butter poached lobster were served alongside gossamer-thin strands of potato and wafer thin slices of crisp, fried vegetables and pearls of roe that burst with flavour. Drizzled with Japanese Hollandaise, the overall taste was light and deliciously satisfying. This is the one dish we insist you order when you visit. This was quickly followed by a large portion of baked salmon in miso sauce which flaked and crumbled at the mere suggestion of our chopsticks, and almost dissolved in our mouths.

Another personal favourite was the sticky marinated Wagyu beef, presented on top of a burner bubbling away on the table. Preferring our beef rare, we took it from the platter early, but diners who prefer meat a little more well-done can leave it longer. The sweet, viscous barbecue sauce was fantastic and we thoroughly recommend it to be sold in bottles to take away. The star of the show however, still had to be the beef, and for those who have never tried Wagyu before, a real treat is in store.

Following a sorbet to cleanse the palate, the menu concluded with a rich, dark tiramisu with crunchy cocoa shavings and ice cream. By this point, we were truly full, but we just about made room for the final vault.

The service too, is also certainly worth commenting on. The staff are all charismatic and friendly, willing to engage in conversation, able to comprehensively describe each and every dish they serve, and smiled throughout the whole evening.

The tasting menu came in at £75 per head, and at that price, it is not something we would go for every week, but it is a treat worth saving up for.

So, after such a palate-blowing performance, we ask ourselves ‘Is it too early to decide on our 2013 restaurant of the year?’ Perhaps, but Wabi will really take some beating. This is a very special restaurant, and while not cheap, is still excellent value considering the standard of service and the flawless quality of the food. Wabi really is a restaurant in the very highest bracket which guarantees a special experience and delivers every bit as much as it promises,

36-38 Kingsway WC2B 6EY

Tasting Menu: £75
Average price for glass of wine: £10
Food/Drink: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Value: 5/5

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