Time­less clas­sics

Zuma Knights­bridge

Food and Travel (UK) - - Tried & Tasted -

We visit the orig­i­nal con­tem­po­rary Ja­panese restau­rant as it cel­e­brates its 15th birth­day

Our trip to Zuma falls on a sum­mer evening so hot that the as­phalt on the Bromp­ton Road is start­ing to melt and the air be­hind each dou­ble-decker shim­mers with a hazy halo. It’s a day for rhubarb and fen­nel cock­tails, sliv­ers of sashimi on beds of ice and shav­ings of wagyu sir­loin on chilled plates. The dar­ling of Knights­bridge wel­comes us into her cool em­brace with open arms.

Founded in 2002 by Rainer Becker and Ar­jun Waney, Zuma of­fers a so­phis­ti­cated twist on a Ja­panese style of restau­rant called

iza­kaya. Tra­di­tion­ally in­for­mal, they can be any­thing from pubs to din­ing halls, with the com­mon thread that they must serve both small plates and drinks. Zuma takes this one step fur­ther with a sushi counter, des­ti­na­tion sake bar and ro­bata grill, all mood­ily lit and clad in sleek nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als. The brand is now as in­ter­na­tional as its clients, with a fur­ther ten branches across as many coun­tries.

While the prices at Zuma may not be in keep­ing with the av­er­age iza­kaya (the tast­ing menu will set you back £76), the sense of com­mu­nity is. Iza­kayas are de­fined by their reg­u­lars and Zuma has just that vibe. Granted the reg­u­lars may be a lit­tle more glam­orous (Miu Miu, Chanel and Bul­gari sun­glasses abound) but there is the same wel­come by name from the wait­ing staff, the dis­creet po­si­tion at the usual ta­ble and the mur­mured ‘no prob­lem, sir’ when a favourite dish is re­quested that isn’t on the menu that night. In this case, it’s the sliced chu-toro (fatty tuna) with red chilli, co­rian­der and gar­lic, sea­soned with a zingy ponzu dress­ing. It’s a fab­u­lously fresh mouth­ful with a pleas­ing, meaty tex­ture.

No­body could ac­cuse Zuma of trad­ing off its post­code. Ev­ery dish is a study in au­then­tic flavours and artis­tic pre­sen­ta­tion. Pearly sea bass daubed in a de­li­cious com­bi­na­tion of truf­fle oil and yuzu is ac­com­pa­nied by a pile of peachy sal­mon roe perched on a shiso leaf. A charred hoba leaf re­veals black cod mar­i­nated in a syrupy miso glaze. Lime-green wasabi root is grated against ‘shark skin’ (tex­tured plas­tic) at our ta­ble. ‘We can get the real stuff in Ja­pan,’ our waiter says wist­fully. The whole thing is as ex­trav­a­gant as it is fab­u­lous, yet ex­cel­lent food re­mains at the core. Here’s to an­other 15 years. IL. 020 7584 1010, zu­marestau­rant.com

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