In search of an alternative hen do experience? Maxine Briggs experiences the very best of Japanese fine dining at Ginza Onodera, St James’s, London
Ginza Onodera is located in an upmarket part of London in St James’s, but the signage is discreet and you’d miss the entrance if you were not looking. But it is definitely worthwhile seeking out this export from the bustling stress of Tokyo.
The bar area is glamorously lit, with low-slung lampshades and slick Japanese-style stools complete with a friendly and very knowledgeable barman Gergo, who can mix a mean cocktail. I tried the Panacea; sake, elderflower, gin and apricot palinka, it’s exquisite and unusual – THE perfect combo for a cocktail!
After enjoying several Panacea, (my friend was running late, so why not?) we descended the stairs to the restaurant. Again, this was a beautifully lit, intimate space, with wooden partitions and a polished concrete floor, creating a modern take on traditional Japanese minimalism.
There was a party sat at the sashimi bar enjoying the culinary artistry of the chefs with everything sliced, diced and wrapped in front of the guests. This would make a fun experience for a glamorous hen or stag party perhaps or if you want to ramp up the glam a notch there are private dining rooms with a dedicated chef.
But, we dined in the main part of the restaurant and indulged in the whole menu, trying dishes from sashimi, to delicious teppan-yaki to the Robata (similar to barbecue). The stand-out faves were the black cod, creamy and unctuous, marbled tuna that was so fresh it tasted of the sea and the lightest tempura, so light it just melted in the mouth.
You can travel the length and breadth of Japan via Ginza’s extensive Sake list with a 450-strong menu. Head sommelier Jamie is on hand to guide you through delicious pairings with your food, from chilled sake to warmed sake that tasted nutty and had depth like a light whiskey, but the star of the night was definitely the sparkling Sake – something I had tried, which was perfect to round off an indulgent evening.
Japanese fine dining is renowned for ingredients of exceptional quality and exquisite attention-to-detail but you don’t need to go to Tokyo.
Average spend per head, £150
Extra pecking for hens…
Recently launched is Onodera Ochakai, an afternoon tea inspired by a traditional Japanese tea party. A delectable table laden with sweet and savoury petit fours and Japanese small plates such as sushi spider rolls, Wagyu beef mini sliders, Kinako blancmange and chocolate gateau served with matcha sauce.
Prices start from £35 per person for tea with cocktails or £38 with fizz (bottomless fizz, £70 per person).