Sushi-lover Hannah Talmage finds herself in piscine heaven at the Knightsbridge hangout of the beautiful people
Zuma always has a party atmosphere. Even at lunchtime on a Thursday, the place is filled with a mix of business types, glamorous women and the international super-rich, all no doubt drawn by the hype of being seen at one of the capital’s most stylish hangouts. The restaurant is priced as you would expect in Knightsbridge, but for people-watching Zuma is second to none.
The restaurant is tucked away down a quiet, residential street and is just a stone’s throw from Harvey Nichols and Harrods. Since opening in 2002, it’s been a big favourite of the in-crowd. Chef Rainer Becker has gone on to open Roka, Hakkasan and Oblix at The Shard, but for many the mix of good Japanese cooking and the cool surroundings means Zuma is still the first choice each and every time.
The food and drink
If you can’t decide what to order, I would recommend sharing the tasting menu with your companion. Dishes arrive as they’re ready, and our table is rapidly groaning with delectable little tastes of this and that. Our charming waiter takes time to explain what everything is, but the volume of the music sometimes makes it hard to catch the full details on what we’re about to eat. Tip? Keep the menu close at hand so you can look things up as you go.
The crispy fried squid with a kick of lime and chilli is immediately tempered by the most delicious slices of perfect yellowtail with a hint of pickled garlic. The seared beef with ginger and coriander melts in the mouth, and the fried soft-shell crab are some of the best I’ve had anywhere in London. We happily munch our way through a selection of nigiri sushi and sashimi, spicy beef tenderloin and, of course, the obligatory marinated black cod which comes beautifully wrapped in hobi leaf.
Save room to try the two desserts. Unusually for a Japanese restaurant, they are amazing – not an afterthought merely to refresh the palate. There’s a brilliantly-oozy chocolate fondant (enough said) and chawan mushi – steamed custard – with exotic fruits; like eating mouthfuls of delicious tropical whipped air.
To drink, try one or two of the house cocktails. The Zuma bellini with apricot, Champagne and a dash of Campari is wickedly good. And do ask about a glass of sake to go with your food: the plum version is a revelation.
Pleasing foodies and fashionistas is not always easy, but Zuma pulls it off with great cooking and plenty of style.
5 Raphael Street, London SW7 1DL, 020 7584 1010, zumarestaurant.com