I am always seeking for great Japanese restaurants in London, and recently I was chatting about Ikeda with someone at the gym (yes, I would balloon with all the food I eat if I didn’t work out.) who works in PR at UMU Restaurant, and she was telling me that their fish is the freshest of any restaurants in London as it comes from the Cornish coast. I have been keeping that in my mental archives, and when someone invited me to lunch this week, I immediately suggested UMU. (I guess she is good at PR then!) I went incognito as always, as I wanted the true experience.
What we ate:
They have several well-priced lunch options in the form of bento boxes. They all come with a salad, miso soup and dessert. I was extremely torn between options. Normally I would go for the sashimi but I got FOMO from my two lunch companions who went for the Shokado box.
Sushi: we had to order some of the White fish of the day from Cornwall. They had three options and we chose turbot. They served it nigari style and the rice was perfect, as was the fish. So good. I also couldn’t resist and ordered one piece of unagi (eel) sushi, and my dining companions followed my lead. All of their pieces of sushi were perfectly sized and shaped and very good. I would do the nigari or sashimi bentos on a future lunch to test.
Spring vegetable salad: this mixed spring greens salad with the most gorgeous asparagus, beets and other surprises blew me away, not just visually but also in flavour. Most restaurants tend to over dress the greens to hide their flavour but UMU’s greens were very fresh and crisp and just gently tossed in a very light dressing. A perfect start to our meal.
Shokado bento: this option included sashimi, a cooked protein, cured seafood and a wagyu dish. The sashimi comprised four different fishes including mackerel and fatty tuna and it was served with wasabi from Dorset. At UMU they try to merge local produce with Japanese techniques, so a lot of the seafood is British, and so was the wasabi. I chose a delicate arctic char as my protein, served with mushrooms. We also got some cured seafood including langoustine, scallops and abalone, the latter which was the only nibble I left behind, as not even my extensive time in China taught me to appreciate what is considered a delicacy over there. The last jewel box included a thin and perfect slice of British beef simmered with vegetables. This box is priced at £35 if you chose the grilled fish or poultry option, and £45 with wagyu beef.
Miso: I chose white miso but they also offer red miso and a clear soup.
Dessert: option of several ice cream flavours (green tea, caramel, chocolate yuzu) or sorbets, including rhubarb. I went for the unusual chocolate yuzu and it was light and delicate and served with rhubarb and strawberries and a sprinkle of matcha crumble/dust.
With our coffees we got some amazing financiers which they bake in-house, as well as a miso caramel chocolate from their bakery at Selfridges. (I must hit that soon.) I am usually a chocolate girl and I liked the combo a lot, but the financier blew me away despite being made with a mystery green plant that we could not really identify by its name. If they sold this in Mayfair I would be very tempted to pop in quite often.
I later found out that the mystery plant is called Mugwort and is a bitter herb which helps aid digestion (in Japan they eat it in the spring to help cleanse the body after the winter when the body is less active). I would be happy to eat mugwork financiers any season
In sum: very good value and an amazing lunch option in Mayfair. I bet it is lovely for dinner too, but à la carte prices are much steeper. Our server was Japanese and has spent eight years in London. He still retains a strong accent and even though at times I was challenged understanding his detailed descriptions of the various fish and their preparations, his smile and passion for the food mattered a lot more and I just trusted him! I would definitely go back!