So I’m continuing my journey around London seeking out exciting eating experiences. This week I’m in swish Mayfair at the legendary Nobu.
“You know how kids dream of being soccer players or actors? Well, my dream was to be a sushi chef.” From the minute he walked into his first sushi restaurant, aged 11, Nobu knew what he wanted to do with his life, this story has to be an inspiration to all of us.
Nobu Matsuhisa started as a dishwasher in a restaurant in Toyko. For three years he cleared and washed dishes, cleaned the restaurant and went to the fish market every morning with his boss. He carried the basketload of fish back to the restaurant and cleaned them – every day.
At 24 he was offered a job as a sushi chef in Lima, Peru, spent time in Buenos Aires and Alaska before settling in LA in the late 1970s. In 1987 he opened Matsuhisa in Beverley Hills which very quickly became an LA hotspot frequented by celebs. Here he met Robert De Niro who became a partner in his business and convinced him to open in Tribeca, NYC (De Niro’s neighbourhood) in 1994.
I met celebrity chef Ken Hom once who told me about eating at Nobu in New York (and he knows Nobu personally) and feeling a bit put out that everyone was staring at him. Until his dining companion pointed out that he was sitting next to Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake and no one had the least bit of interest in him! Let’s just say that Nobus around the world are something of a celebrity magnet. Brad Pitt, Kate Moss and Tom Cruise are regular visitors to the London one and, famously, Boris Becker’s daughter was conceived on Nobu’s stairs one year after he was knocked out of Wimbledon (now that’s another great story!).
So there’s the history – now here’s my Nobu story. When Nobu opened in London in February 1997 it was the most talked about event in London restaurantland for a long time. It was so far off my food radar and outside of my budget it was, in a different way to Nobu obviously, a dream to ever go there. My friend Christa honeymooned in London and went there shortly after it opened. Her memorable night there stayed with her and when she visited recently she suggested we go. Of course I jumped at the chance.
Mayfair on a Saturday night is not a phenomenon I experience frequently. Girls in £1,500 Herve Leger dresses (thanks to Candy the fashion expert among us) with Chanel bags and four-inch heels that they can’t walk in…we witnessed a dramatic trip down the step (yes, one step) with said dress (strapless) heading south. We didn’t spot any celebs but it was certainly buzzing with beautiful people ready for a big night out.
The menu takes some perusing, there’s so much to choose from. You can see the Peruvian influence with dishes like tacos and ceviche, there’s an enormous selection of sashimi and well, just a massive choice of everything. Our waitress told us that food came as it came (we couldn’t specify having the dishes in a particular order) and everything would be put in the middle of the table to share. Felt a bit like we were being given orders by the Food Police and sorry for you if you didn’t want to share your dish! Anyway, it is a lovely way to eat and taste lots of dishes.
You could have pretty much tempura anything – we tried the shrimps, snow crab and zucchini (or courgettes as we call them in England).
The beef “toban” yaki was delightful. Beautifully tender with a silken, flavoursome sauce.
This is shitake Kushiyaki, fabulous fresh wild mushrooms with amazing earthy flavours.
Possibly my favourite dish of the night – amazing scallops. Love the plate, too.
This is a version of Nobu’s signature black cod.
The pork belly was beautiful. Crispy on the top, melt in the mouth underneath with a succulent, sweet sauce.
A night out at Nobu is certainly an invigorating experience. The packed, buzzy restaurant with its amazing cornucopia of dishes and plenty of great tastes to savour, the streets teeming with revellers, girls dressed in skimpy designer frocks (no matter what the weather) and a great energy and spirit in the air. Gotta love London town, it’s all happening here!
Nobu is at 19 Old Park Lane on the first floor of the Metropolitan Hotel.
Nobu has one Michelin star. In May of this year there were 26 Nobus worldwide. Nobu is certainly living his dream!