japanese restaurant

LUX visits one of London’s hidden gems, an atmospheric and authentic Japanese restaurant a mochi ball’s throw from Hyde Park

japanese restaurant

The decor is minimal-chic, the ambience relaxed and buzzy

A row of townhouses in central London is not where you might expect to find Japan, But, turn left from Marble Arch, walk a few paces up the street and up a couple of steps and..abracadabra. Tokyo. Or is it Kyoto?

Tokii is the very authentic-feeling restaurant in the heart of the Prince Akatoki hotel, a boutique-chic five star London sleepery that seems to be the city’s best-kept secret. The hotel lobby, just up those steps, is minimal and Zen, but with authentically switched-on staff and thought-of design detail, just as you would find anywhere self-respecting in Japan (which is everywhere).

Tokii itself is a few steps further on: inside, you are swirled into a world of dark lacquered woods and gentle lighting and intricate design detail. It’s large enough not to feel oppressive, like some high-end Japanese restaurants, and yet has an intimate vibe.

Service is friendly and prompt: our aperitifs of sparkling saké and champagne arrive swiftly. Sparkling saké is an acquired taste, we decide. The champagne is excellent, though we would have liked more choice than just the big brands: Veuve Clicquot, Krug, Dom Perignon. The finesse of Japanese food matches well with champagne, even more so with blanc de blancs, made only from Chardonnay, or precise, small-grower champagne from single plots.

yellowtail sashimi and wine

Sashimi paired with a brut champagne – or sparkling saké, though we preferred the champagne

There is plenty of choice in the menu, We choose starters while nibbling on salted edamame: yellowtail maki rolls, pork belly skewers, yellowtail sashimi. All are super-fresh, richly flavoured, perfectly prepared, not too meagre and not too hefty. Superb. Some good white Burgundy arrives to accompany, although champagne would do even better with a spectrum of colour to match the salt, umami, and hint of sweet and fat in the food.

For mains, we try the shabu shabu, a Japanese broth in which meat and vegetables are cooked at the table, fondue-style. The wagyu version arrives with slices of wagyu beef laid out on a plate alongside, and vegetables already cooking in the bubbling broth. A few seconds of cooking sees these come out as slices of fleshy unctuousness. The vegetables stay crunchy while cooking in the umami, slightly sour broth, a bitter counterpoint on the tongue. Two shabus are enough for three of us.


Cook your own wagyu beef shabu shabu. The broth is delicate and beautifully balanced

The great surprise is the yellowtail shabu shabu. Also thinly sliced, it should be a disappointment after the wagyu but is triumphant. More restrained, a slow release of recognition on the palate, and then joy.

We braced ourselves for disappointment with the dessert of chocolate fondant – this is a Japanese restaurant after all – but the breaking of the fondant led to that slow ooze and a richesse of combined flavours that spoke of a chef pâtissier who loves flavour and experience as much as looks, and isn’t scared of a little opulence.

dark chocolate fondant

Outrageously good chocolate fondant, just in case the rest of the meal was too healthy

We were among the first to arrive at Tokii, and among the last to leave. Why is it such a secret? Let’s get it out of its boudoir: Tokii deserves the limelight.


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