The Japanese pub (or izakaya) has hit the capital and thanks to the likes of Koya and Tonkotsu our taste for Japanese food has far advanced beyond just sushi. Former head chef of Nobu Park Lane, Scott Hallsworth has reinvented the traditional izakaya and given it a high-end makeover to create his own chain of Japanese gastropub’s named Kurobuta. You can now find Kurobuta in three locations; iconic Marble Arch, the designer street of Kings Road, Chelsea and Knightsbridge department store Harvey Nichols.
Zuma it is not – and nor is it trying to be. The casual, unpretentious setting is quite frankly a refreshing change from the wildly glamorous locations of Zuma and Roka. Set back amongst a residential area of Marble Arch, Kurobuta is authentic and real. The staff greet you with a genuine smile, the chef’s wave as you pass by the open kitchen and candles blaze in the dimly lit restaurant. Posters and flyers are pinned up on every wall with japanese writing scrawled over the top, embarrassingly named cocktails are written on the blackboard and a brightly painted fuchsia wall is the backdrop to the corner booths where couples canoodle.
Kurobuta is a casual dining room that manages to maintain a humorous, fun nature – from the embarrassingly named cocktails that you most certainly wouldn’t want to order in front of your mother, to the rock & roll music blaring out of the speakers in the bathroom. Somehow, in the middle of central London, Kurobuta has managed to maintain a bit of un-pretentious fun about it.
The menu is split into sections: Snacks, Raw/Salad, Junk Food Japan, Something Crunchy, Significant Others & Maki/Sushi. There are also two tasting menus (tasty box £18.50 and tastier box £20.50) which are ideal for a quick lunch and an even quicker taste of exactly what Kurobuta has to offer. We begin with the yellowtail sashimi and beef fillet tataki; the yellowtail is expertly prepared, uber thinly cut and comes with a zesty yuzu soy & wasabi salsa that compliments every ounce of the dish. The beef tataki is equally delicious, served with garlic crisps that give the dish an extra texture. Miso grilled baby chicken was delightful, however unfortunately it still takes second place to Zuma. Slices of barbecue pork belly in steamed buns with spicy peanut soy are a nod of the head to the more casual street food of Japan. It’s got a thumbs up from us.
From the ”Junk Food Japan” section, the tuna sashimi pizza – a crisp tostada topped with wafer-thin tuna and clusters of fish roe – delivered both on Instagram appeal and flavour. It’s definitely one for your Instagram roll. Other dishes from this section include miso grilled hot wings and wagyu beef sliders, neither of which we tried but perhaps one for the future. The baby shrimp tempura was sweetly flavoured with a kimchee mayonnaise and put a very happy smile on all of our faces. The ironically named ”Significant Other’s” section was home to an array of tempting dishes such as the kombu roasted chilean sea bass – the Kurobuta alternative to the black cod we so commonly eat – was impressive to all. A highlight was the sticky miso grilled aubergine with it’s deep, mahogany flavours. We’d happily eat that every day for the rest of time.
The dessert menu is sparse with a choice of just five desserts including the much-talked-about IcePOPS in a choice of either classic champagne or bellini flavour. We pick the honey & pistachio cake, served with honey ice-cream and Japanese suntory jelly. A very yummy dessert, light sponge, sweet honey flavour and the perfect ending to a wonderful meal. Kurobuta is by far the coolest Japanese pub in town and we can’t wait until our next visit.
Kurobuta Marble Arch – 17-20 Kendal St, W2 2AW
Kurobuta Kings Rd – 312 Kings Rd, SW3 5UH
Kurobuta Harvey Nichols – Harvey Nichols, SW1X 7RJ