Are you seeking a sushi or sashimi fix? After some matcha tea to accompany your katsu curry? We’ve found a selection of casual Japanese cafés and high-end restaurants in Kensington for your every mood
1 Hare & Tortoise
Hare & Tortoise has much to recommend it aside from its varied menu and consistently good food. Sushi, sashimi, salads, noodle-based and rice-based dishes are all on offer with a pan-Asian offering that extends beyond traditional Japanese fare. Portions and prices are both generous, while the décor is modern and clean, with large windows that allow you to people watch as your slurp down your ramen. The tempura options are light and moorish, while the maki rolls are fresh and enticing. For complex flavours, try the Unagi & Avocado Roll: inside-out seaweed filled with avocado and omelette, topped with grilled eel. Another great option is the Dragon Roll: inside-out seaweed roll with tempura prawns, cucumber and mayonnaise, dressed with tobiko. The Kensington branch gets packed for lunch so be prepared to wait if you haven’t booked in advance.
373 High Street Kensington W14 8QZ; 020 7603 8887; hareandtortoise.co.uk
This innovative French-Japanese restaurant is the place to impress your friends as well as your discerning tastebuds. A seductive interior – think mirrored walls and plush seating – plus attentive staff set the tone for a classy experience. Famed for its wine list, L’Etranger’s fusion dishes are equally inspired and mouth-watering at every turn. Scallops, foie gras and lamb shoulder blend effortlessly with their asian counterparts of shitake mushrooms, miso-grilled aubergine and lemon sole tempura for intoxicating flavour and texture contrasts. This is food that has been thoughtfully constructed, and it is impeccably presented. Keep an eye out for specials including the pre/post menus for Royal Albert Hall goers.
36 Gloucester Road SW7 4QT; 020 7584 1118; etranger.co.uk
Tombo, a family-run Japanese café and matcha bar prides itself on serving authentic cuisine using super-healthy ingredients and there are meat, fish and veggie dishes aplenty. The contemporary setting has warm colour tones and is busy but relaxed – it ticks the café setting brief perfectly for an informal lunch choice. An assured menu balances traditional favourites like katsu curry, sushi rolls and bento boxes – all exemplary – with a tapas-style menu, which offers up delights such as prawn gyoza, miso soup and Onigiri rice cakes. You may fancy a traditional Japanese beer or sake, but don’t miss out on the gorgeous teas and stunning matcha desserts from gateau to brownies – they’re an absolute must!
29 Thurloe Place South Kensington SW7 2HQ; 020 7589 0018; tombocafe.com
4 Yashin Ocean House
Adventurous diners should head to Yashin Ocean House, the sister restaurant to Yashin Sushi and Bar on Argyll Road. Here the ex-Nobu and Ex-Fat Duck chefs specialise in head-to-tail dining that with each dexterous cut uses every part of the fish including the skin, flesh and roe. If the thought of fish heads leaves you squirmish, fear not for the beautifully crafted plates that arrive to your table show that Yashin Ocean House is far from being a gimmicky restaurant. The menu, relaunched in April, is a medley of fusion-style cooking and, although somewhat unusual, there are some brilliant choices so the best way is to experiment. Try the starter of Hone Kawa Senbei – a umami mackerel bone and fish skin – a crisp and flavoursome dish. For mains, the tuna with truffle-infused ponzu jelly and cod cheeks with chilli amazu come highly recommended. Note that there is little in the way of carbs so lunch makes a good option. The interior has stylish Edwardian touches from the tiled floor to a luminous turquoise counter made from volcanic stone. Here you can watch the chefs prepping the food before your very eyes and judge their knife skills for yourself.
117-119 Old Brompton Road South Kensington SW7 3RN; 020 7373 3990; yashinocean.com
Kappa may be a small, unassuming restaurant from the outside – it’s right next to the bus stop by Earl’s Court station – but inside its rewards are great. Its head chef has worked at a plethora of top Japanese restaurants including Zuma and Nobu no less, so this is a definitely a place where you come for the food rather than a fancy dining experience. There is much to admire here and the quality shines through with every dish; it’s authentic Japanese food expertly executed at every turn. Service is polite and the staff are extremely friendly. Order the pork gyozas, the grilled sea bream with wholegrain mustard teriyaki sauce, beef yakiniku (a fruity garlic soy sauce) and tempura udon to see why this is bound to become one of your new ‘swear-by’ places.
139 Earls Court Road SW5 9RH; 020 7244 9196; kapparestaurant.co.uk
6 Bone Daddies
Let us count the ways we love Bone Daddies Kensington. Like a best hits album from your favourite band, the Kensington restaurant combines show-stopping dishes from Ross Shonhan’s sexy sibling restaurants Flesh and Buns (pillowy steamed hirata buns filled with tasty meat and fish fillings) and Bone Daddies (the original restaurant known for its slurp-tastic ramen noodle bowls). Located in Whole Foods on Kensington High Street, the eatery is a good choice for a post-shopping pick-me-up and the menu is pretty fail-safe no matter what your choice. There are are even clever touches at your table to give you an enjoyable experience from the garlic mincer and chili oil to hairbands for your hair. If you’re new to the food, start with the Tonkotsu Ramen, a rich 20-hour pork bone broth filled with ramen, spring onions and chashu pork.
1st Floor, Whole Foods Market, 63-97 Kensington High Street W8 5SE; 020 7368 4575; bonedaddies.com
7 Koi restaurant
An excellent takeaway or quick lunch option with colleagues, Koi has a loyal band of customers who have its number on speed-dial. The sushi is of excellent quality and there are plenty of stand-out dishes including the soft shell crab, chicken yakitori and agedashi tofu that is deep friend with tempura sauce and wasabi prawns. If you’re dining in, you will have to take off your shoes, which lends the interior a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere.
1 Palace Gate W8 5LS; 020 7581 8778; koi-kensington.co.uk
Dozo specialises in high-end Japanese dining and the exquisite plates are mini art masterpieces that will have you madly Instagramming their prettiness before you dare to bit into any piece of sushi. The quality of fish is superb and innovative flair abounds. The volcanic Maki (a house speciality) is sensational: perfectly seared eel matched with leeks, bonito flakes, eel sauce, avocado & mayonnaise, cucumber. Choose anything off the Dozo Chefs Specials – the grilled black cod marinated with saikyomiso is a must –and you will not be disappointed. There are no real desserts to speak off aside from Japanese ice-cream so come primed for a savoury feast and be wowed by what you discover.
68 Old Brompton Road SW7 3LQ; 020 7225 0505; dozosushi.co.uk