For me travel is all about creating memories and then subsequently evoking those memories in any way big or small. Whether that’s looking at photos and videos again, admiring souvenirs or remembering a special meal. For Mr S’s birthday I decided to bring our trip to Japan back to life with a special Kyoto-style dinner at two-Michelin starred UMU restaurant in Mayfair.
Before dinner it was time to relive another memory by revisiting the ‘scene of the crime’ as it were and heading for a drink at The Dorchester where we had our wedding reception.
I chose one of the special cocktails on the menu, the Champagne Shimmer is made with vodka, cranberry juice, vanilla, elderflower and champagne sprinkled with glitter. It even comes with a light up lip gloss custom made for The Dorchester.
From there it was on to UMU restaurant in Bruton Place, not far from London’s luxurious Bond Street but tucked away in a quiet mews. I detailed the formal traditions of a kaiseki banquet on my post on Kikunoi, a three-Michelin starred restaurant in Kyoto and UMU is probably the London restaurant that comes closest to replicating that type of meal. A set menu is offered, perfectly worked out so that the food balances and harmonises perfectly…
But as I believe on your birthday you should order whatever you want (it is the only day when calories really don’t count) we decided to order a la carte and pair our choices with a bottle of Billecart-Salmon champagne. Actually the atmosphere of the restaurant was very different to the zen environment of a Japanese restaurant, UMU is definitely more like your buzzy, trendy London restaurant.
Sashimi came first, and we ordered a chef’s selection which included the very best tuna, varying in sweet, unctious fat content. A sea bass cut so finely, it was like a feather on the platter and an utterly delicious red mullet. With the name UMU meaning ‘born of nature’ the key to this place is allowing the perfect simplicity of the ingredients to be enjoyed unadulterated by too much flavour.
The sushi course is always my favourite and once again we went for our favourite toro and yellowtail, the perfect little jewels of sushi were just like the expertly made pieces we loved at Sushi Sora in Japan. The smallest amount of rice topped with fish and simply dotted with any other flavour.
Actually head chef Yoshinori Ishii spent eight years training at Kitcho, the other three Michelin star restaurant in Kyoto, where he honed his skills in preparing the perfect Kaiseki banquet.
Japanese fish and chips was a more hearty option with a delicious crunch from the tempura and a mixture of prawns and squid. Personally I would have preferred a touch of acid from a good squeeze of lemon but Mr S insisted that we didn’t change the perfect balance of the dish and should eat it as it was intended. I absolutely loved the use of fried artichokes rather than actual potato chips.
I always insist that anyone can enjoy Japanese food even if they’re put off by the idea of raw fish. A dish of Cornish Dover sole with a perfectly crisp skin shows just that. Beautifully cooked and bite-sized pieces paired with bonito flakes were just delicious. Actually a significant amount of fish on the menu is sourced from Cornwall and I love the way that the chefs use Japanese techniques and flavours with local ingredients. Even the wasabi is sourced in Hampshire from Britain’s first wasabi growers.
Our final savoury course was Wagyu beef sushi, and regular readers will know how much Mr S and I love this fine quality beef. It’s a cliche to say food is melt-in-the-mouth but Wagyu beef truly is and at UMU it was prepared beautifully. Once again, perfect in its simplicity.
Finally, a birthday calls for chocolate and there’s really nothing better than a chocolate melting pudding cooked well and topped with a dollop of ice cream. Also note the beautiful plate because for Chef Ishii, it’s not just the food but the plate itself that goes into the overall experience and he actually makes his own ceramics believing pottery and cookery are intrinsically linked.
It’s safe to say Mr Silver and I absolutely loved UMU Restaurant and spending his birthday there was the perfect way to relive our happy memories of Kyoto.
PIN FOR LATER:
14 – 16 Bruton Place
020 7499 8881