Looking for the best ramen in London? Want to find sushi near you? We’ve found the best Japanese restaurants in London and the UK
Best Japanese restaurants in London
The London Foodie Supper Club, London N1 (Islington)
Luiz Hara is a Japanese-Brazilian, Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef who gave up the world of investment banking and now hosts Japanese supper clubs in his Islington home. Cooking for around 30 people several evenings each week, he serves an eight-course tasting menu, featuring classic Japanese dishes alongside his own nikkei (a fusion of Japanese and South American) creations.
Endo at the Rotunda, London W12 (White City)
Restaurant critic Giles Coren called his meal at Endo “probably the most perfect meal I have eaten in a restaurant in more than 20 years as a critic” – high praise indeed for this Japanese restaurant on the eighth floor of the Helios building, the old BBC television centre in White City. Alongside hot dishes of lobster shabu shabu (hotpot) and grilled wagyu beef, there is first-class tempura (seafood and vegetable) and nigiri such as spider crab with truffle and three types of tuna with ‘signature’ seaweed.
Sho Foo Doh, London N6 (Highgate)
After a successful stint in London Fields, the nomadic and innovative Sho Foo Doh has moved on to the Duke’s Head in Highgate for a two-month residency in October and November (2019) before moving on again to an as yet unconfirmed location. Sho Foo Doh specialises in Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (light and savoury pancakes) such as pork, kimchi and cheddar or jalapeño salsa and black beans. Other menu highlights include Japanese tacos (tuna, avocado, wasabi mayo and coriander on crispy wonton skin), sesame-panko-crusted deep-fried cauliflower with miso tahini dip, and a burger of panko sardines, Worcestershire sauce, yuzu tartare and iceberg lettuce in a bun with lotus crisps. “If it ain’t fun, we ain’t in it” is the motto of Sho Foo Doh owner Fumio Tanga, who learnt how to cook from a master okonomiyaki chef in Hiroshima before moving to London at the age of 18.
Robata, London W1 (Soho)
Located on Old Compton Street in the heart of Soho, Sonny Huang’s Robata restaurant specialises in robata grill cooking, a Japanese tradition that was first introduced by ancient fishermen who took boxes of hot coals with them on their boats to cook the food that they gathered from their day’s catch. The menu is broken down into five sections – small plates, raw and sushi, bao buns, robata skewers and robata large – and diners are encouraged to share dishes. Stand-out plates include miso aubergine topped with pickled shimiji mushroom and red chilli; sweet soy glaze and spring onion pork belly skewers; and Chilean wagyu smoked and cooked over burning hay. Robata also serves an extensive selection of sake and sake-based cocktails including the Umetini (Roku gin, umeshu plum sake and orange bitters). Head chef Charles Lee worked in a number of Michelin-starred restaurants during his career before arriving at Robata, and his menu shows the diversity of Japan’s food, highlighting traditional cooking techniques and contemporary flavours, along with using high-end British produce.
Akira at Japan House, London W8 (Kensington)
The eponymous modern restaurant from acclaimed chef Shimizu Akira is founded on his trinity of essential Japanese cooking principles – food, tableware and presentation. Guests at the restaurant on Kensington High Street are immersed in authentic ‘omotenashi’ hospitality as chefs prepare dishes with seasonal ingredients over blistering robata flames alongside a wide selection of immaculately crafted sashimi and sushi. The dining experience is further enhanced with bespoke ceramics and glassware personally sourced by Akira from artisan makers across Japan.
Tonkotsu, London (various) and Birmingham
With 10 sites across London (and one at Birmingham Selfridges), Tonkotsu’s modern Japanese ramen bars serve homemade noodles, broths, gyoza and sides, as well as a small but high-quality selection of sake, cocktails and craft beer. Using mid-century noodle-making machines imported from Japan, the chefs make three different types of ramen noodle – tokyo, tsukemen and tonkotsu – and each has been developed to enhance different stocks. Diners can watch the noodles being made fresh each day inside the Haggerston restaurant, while in another archway across the canal, chefs make the stocks, gyozas and sides from scratch. Check out dishes such as prawn and baby squid popcorn, miso mushroom ramen and crispy duck hiyashi (noodle salad) with ponzu dressing.
Takahashi, London SW1 (Wimbledon)
Ex-Nobu chef Nobuhisa Takahashi’s eponymous Wimbledon restaurant can only accommodate five tables, which he says is “to ensure that our customers enjoy the peak temperatures, flavours and textures of our food”. The food at Takahashi marries Japanese tradition with the Mediterranean diet to create modern and healthy dishes high on flavour. “In each dish, we look to achieve a harmonious balance of healthy values, beautiful presentations and clean flavours,” says co-owner Yuko Takahashi, who points to the super-fresh sashimi and sushi selections as well as signature dishes like scallop carpaccio with yuzu salsa, and crispy pork belly with aubergine miso.
Best Japanese restaurants in the UK
Izakaya-style grazing dishes are served in the intimate dining room at Koj, the Cheltenham restaurant run by 2012 MasterChef finalist Andrew Kojima. Signature favourites on the concise menu include crispy shiitake; steamed buns filled with tempura soft-shell crab, pickled fennel and yuzu mayonnaise; ‘Koj’ fried chicken with sesame mayo; and burned white chocolate with miso ice cream. Upstairs, in Bandana Monkey bar, the drinks list includes Japanese beers, sake, shōchū and whisky, and a unique list of Japanese-inspired cocktails including Kojinori (Kojin gin with lime, tonic and nori syrup) and Okinawa Old Fashioned with bourbon, pedro ximénez sherry and shiso vinegar. Andrew has also collaborated with Bristol microdistillery Pyschopomp to create a Japanese-inspired gin and with Hillside Brewery to create two beers, Bandana Monkey and Topknot Fatboy.
Hana Matsuri, Leeds
Described by Vice magazine as “Britain’s best sushi restaurant”, this modest, bookings-only outfit on Meanwood Road in Leeds showcases the exemplary knife skills of sushi chef Kaoru Nakamura. Although there is an à la carte menu and a set-lunch option, most people go for the omakase menu, where the diners leave it up to the chef to cook for them depending on that day’s ingredients. Hana Matsuri only uses fresh fish sourced mainly from Cornwall and the menu changes daily depending on availability.
What started out as a street-food stall in Bristol is now a permanent space in the city’s bustling St Nicks market. Run by husband and wife Guy and Victoria Siddall, Eatchu specialises in gyoza, or “happy little dumplings” as they refer to them. The gyoza are made on the premises using seasonal ingredients and free-range meat from a local butcher. Meaty versions include pork with Kenko mayo, tonkatsu sauce and furikake or chicken with rayu oil and spicy sea salt. Veggie options include triple mushroom with mustard dressing, nori and pickled radish. Guy and Victoria also run gyoza masterclasses and have a mobile gazebo that pops up at weddings, corporate catering events and craft-beer festivals.
You wouldn’t expect to find this zen little space hiding down an alley near Manchester’s Victoria Station. Blonde wood benches, panelled walls and a spotless counter help to create a calm ambience in which to enjoy some sushi.
All the Japanese classics are there – neat little nigiri rice piles topped with wagyu sirloin or freshwater eel, sashimi slices (pickled mackerel, sea bream, scallop) cut with precision, and tightly-rolled maki cylinders filled with salmon and avocado, hand-picked crab or pickled veg.
There’s a whole section dedicated to cuts of tuna, ranging from lean akami to fatty otoro. Daily specials include salmon head, lamb rack and pork belly on springy sushi rice. Book in advance, as this tiny room gets rammed.
Chefs Simon Carlin and Tom Clay started Kushi-ya (which translates to ‘skewer shop’) as monthly supper clubs around Nottingham but the concept turned into a bricks-and-mortar restaurant in October 2018. Kushi-ya is all about Japanese-inspired skewers, small plates and snacks, with most of the menu featuring dishes cooked over charcoal on a yakitori grill. All the meat is free-range and ethically sourced and regional, where possible. Order local favourites such as beef with black garlic mustard and tsukune (chicken meatball) with egg yolk and tare sauce or ‘tiramiso’, a Japanese twist on the classic Italian dessert. Wash it all down with sake, whisky or Japanese-influenced cocktails such as the yuzu margarita or miso dark and stormy.
Peter Galpin and his Japanese wife, Mieko, set up Edamame in 1998 with the intention of creating an inviting, hole-in-the-wall eatery for guests to enjoy authentic Japanese home cooking. The couple offers three different menus that rotate according to a fixed weekly schedule so that they can serve a wide variety of dishes using the freshest ingredients. There are no reservations and tables are shared to help keep the prices low and the seating efficient in what is a tiny restaurant. Edamame offers a lunch-only menu Wednesday to Sunday lunchtimes, a sushi-only menu on Thursday early evenings, and a dinner-only menu on Friday and Saturday early evenings. Peter says: “We are delighted that for the last three years the Japanese government has awarded us with exclusive recognition as being Oxford’s only truly authentic Japanese eatery.”
Seven Lucky Gods, Bristol
The latest Bristol venture for local restaurant group Hyde & Co (who also own The Milk Thistle, Pata Negra, Hyde & Co, Bambalan and The Ox), the aptly named Seven Lucky Gods has exploded onto Bristol’s food scene since opening at Wapping Wharf in May 2019. Taking inspiration from the izakaya bars of Tokyo, Seven Lucky Gods serves up sushi, fusion-style small plates and cocktails in a series of converted shipping containers. Menu favourites include the iberico pork katsu sando, chicken katsu curry arancini and the signature Korean fried chicken.
Yui Nagami of Manchester’s Yuzu restaurant says the reason it stands out from the crowd is the freshness and the fact everything is made from scratch. “The uniqueness of our food is that we make everything on site, including the soy sauce-based sauce that comes with all the sashimi dishes, the teriyaki sauce and the ponzu that accompanies the karaage. The fish is delivered every day and meat is marinated at least several hours before serving – the prep is the most important part of our operation.” As well as claiming to serve the freshest sashimi in the city, dishes such as teriyaki salmon served over Japanese rice in a donburi bowl and traditional chicken katsu has helped Yuzu retain its place in the 2020 edition of The Good Food Guide.
Japan Street Food, Paisley
Recently expanded from 12 to 50 covers due to its growing popularity, this Japanese restaurant and sushi centre in Paisley town centre concentrates on the sort of staple hot dishes traditionally served by street-food vendors in Japan, as well as wide selection of sushi and sashimi. Try the beef garlic teriyaki and pumpkin katsu.
Kyoto Kitchen, Winchester
This Michelin-rated restaurant is run by experienced chef Shunji Irokawa, who qualified as a cook in 1972. Opened in 2012, Kyoto Kitchen is an intimate family-run restaurant that has received wide recognition for its high-level, diverse Japanese cooking. There is a focus on sushi and sashimi, but the broad menu covers both traditional and modern bases in its delivery of little plates, tempuras and grills. The Winchester Roll includes locally smoked local trout wrapped in wasabi leaf and served with fresh wasabi grown locally in the first wasabi farm in Europe.
Harajuku Kitchen, Edinburgh
In the heart of Edinburgh – but named after a district of Tokyo – Harajuku Kitchen specialises in traditional family recipes cooked by owner-chef Kaori Simpson, who has been shortlisted in the ‘best street-food chef’ in the 2019 olive Chef Awards. This compact modern Japanese bistro serves tempura, noodle dishes, sushi and sashimi, as well as main courses such as tempura aubergine curry; tofu teriyaki and pork gyoza dumplings.
Bincho Yakitori, Brighton
Based on the back-street bars and izakayas of late-night Tokyo, Brighton’s Bincho Yakitori is a no-frills Japanese yakitori joint serving an ever-changing menu. Dishes include sea bream tempura served with a sauce made of wasabi and local seaweed, and grilled iberico pork kushiyaki skewers. Leave room for the miso chocolate tart with houjicha (roasted green tea) ice cream.
From the spectacular spiral staircase at the entrance to the statement bar adorned with cherry blossom, this contemporary bar and restaurant is an ode to Japanese design. The open-plan kitchen adds atmosphere to the sleek dining room, with chefs preparing mounds of sushi, and vegetables charring over coals on the robata grill.
The large menu is designed for sharing – crunchy squid karaage is served with a rich, sweet black garlic aïoli, while mixed tempura (giant prawns, asparagus, courgette sticks) comes with a delicate shisho dashi dipping sauce. Neat lies of grilled unagi (eel), yellowfin tuna and salmon are served atop still-warm mounds of sushi rice.
Head chef Joe Grant has a magic touch with the robata grill, the highlight being sesame-crusted lamb chops slathered in an umami-rich miso and gochujang sauce.
Words by Mark Taylor and Alex Crossley