I don’t want to recommend this restaurant.
It’s lovely, tasty, friendly and authentic: the perfect Izakaya in a London setting.
But when I visited, it was rather quiet. And I loved it.
Located in the heart of London’s theatre district, I expected it to be mobbed on a Saturday evening, but there were no other diners when we arrived. We had the undivided attention of the friendly, helpful and funny staff.
I think that once word gets out about this new bar it will almost certainly have a queue. Which, in my opinion, is the worst sort of dining experience in a busy city.
If you’re unfamiliar with izakaya culture you have a treat coming your way. It’s comparable to Spanish tapas, but with a pub feel.
Imagine a traditional British pub, but where everyone sits, rather than stands. The purpose is to drink and relax, but delectable snacks are served to sustain your drinking and relax your pace as you go. It’s not like a British Sunday lunch pub, nor is it a post-work rapid pint guzzler. It’s somewhere gently in-between and it’s my favourite way to spend an evening out. I’ve blogged about it before here.
When I asked for a martini I received all the reassuring feedback: what gin would I like? Lemon or olive?
The gin and glasses hadn’t been kept in the freezer – I would recommend perhaps keeping one brand of gin (beefeater seems to be the house gin) permanently on ice.
The martini that I was given also had a fairly large “cap ribbon” (ie the gap between the top of the drink and the rim of the glass) so I would also recommend serving them in smaller glasses just so future customers don’t feel short-changed. Izakayas are supposed to have a reputation for ‘over-filling’ glasses for their customers – part of the intimate and generous hospitality of these venues. But at least this martini was in an actual martini glass, not the coupe glasses I am so often disappointed with in this city.
Otherwise the drink was nicely chilled and it went down very quickly. It certainly wasn’t small either, despite the aforementioned gap. At £8 it was also very reasonably priced by central London standards. I will definitely be going back for more.
The atmosphere in Yumi is relaxed and trendy, with lots of soft wooden fixtures and mellow lighting. The music was also modern, fast and ambient. Not über-pretentious or over-imposing.
But now I want to talk about the food. Or rather, just post photos of it and salivate for a moment.
Hot edamame with salt is standard izakaya fare – and for good reason. It goes exceptionally well with cold, crisp lager.
These sweet corn fritter balls were like sex in the mouth. They went really nicely with a soy/vinegar dipping sauce.
The gyoza were simple and delicious. The bar also does several types of yakitori skewers.
Their okonomiyaki was very tasty! This savoury pancake-type dish is made with cabbage, meat and a range of other ingredients. It’s a real comfort dish. And just look at that katsuobushi (dried, matured tuna shavings) dancing on the top. It’s a thin of tasty beauty, although the concept might initially appear somewhat alien to European diners unfamiliar with Japanese food.
The staff also kindly let us try some of their Bloody Mary (part of their bottomless brunch deal). It was sharp, refreshing and hot, with ginger and wasabi added to the mix. Kanpai!
So head on down to Shaftesbury Avenue for a relaxed eating and drinking adventure. For now it’s a haven of taste and tranquility in the middle of one of the largest tourist hubs on earth but it might end up getting very popular – and busy!
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