Kurobuta at Harvey Nichols means you can now eat ‘Japanese junk food’ with a little Knightsbridge flair…
One of the least predictable areas of restaurant growth in the last few years is in what can be glibly described as ‘the Japanese junk food market’. Ramen bars are ten-a-penny, with some good and some dreadful, but ex-Nobu head chef Scott Hallsworth has altogether grander ambitions with his mini-empire, which now includes three Kurobuta restaurants (in Marble Arch, Chelsea and, the latest, in Harvey Nichols) and his East London pop-up, Joe’s Oriental Diner. The consistent acclaim for all his endeavours is deserved – but how does he fare within London’s smartest department store?
Kurobuta is now snugly situated in the space that Harvey Nicks’s never-quite-working Fifth Floor Restaurant used to occupy, and does a remarkable job of bringing a buzzy atmosphere to the traditionally tricky space within a big shop. All the trademarks of the other restaurants are here; a great selection of alt-rock, heavy on Arcade Fire and Jane’s Addiction, top-notch cocktails (the Green Bastard remains the iconic one, but many of the new additions are splendid too, not least the Kuromama), friendly but never stiff service, and a sense of things being done exactly the way they ought to be. On a Thursday night a couple of weeks into operations it was already packed, suggesting that word of mouth has been highly effective.
The comprehensive menu offers ‘classical’ Japanese dishes such as salmon and avocado maki and high-quality junk food like ‘Colonel Kurobuta’s fried chicken’
The food is very similar to the other Kurobutas, which is to say excellent. Everyone who visits ought to try the BBQ pork belly in steamed buns, which is pricy at £13.50 for two, but very, very good indeed, and probably the signature dish. But then carnivores and pescatarians alike are well catered for by the comprehensive menu that offers ‘classical’ Japanese dishes such as salmon and avocado maki and unashamed high-quality junk food like the wittily named ‘Colonel Kurobuta’s fried chicken’. Any comparison between this and another colonel-led purveyor of chicken is purely (and legally) coincidental.
We didn’t even have room for dessert, thanks to attempting to order a decent range of dishes; two per person is the recommended amount, with a third for the greedy. There’s a thorough sake list, although we stuck to the wines, which included a very fine New Zealand Pinot Noir and, perhaps in homage to where we were, a selection of Harvey Nichols’s signature bottles. Some might have worried that, by going upmarket, Hallsworth might have toned down or even sacrificed altogether the quixotic rock ‘n’ roll spirit that has defined his brand, but judging by this they’ve got nothing to fear.
WORDS Alexander Larman
109-125 Knightsbridge SW1X 7RK; 020 7920 6443; kurobuta-london.com