Views and food to dream about at SushiSamba

When summer hits London in all its glory, it’s time to enjoy alfresco drinking and dining opportunities, which means I’m on the hunt for terraces and courtyards across town. And have I got a terrace for you today. We’re in the City of London on the 38th floor of the Heron Tower. A glass lift on the side of the building whisks you up to SushiSamba, a bit too rapidly for my liking, but I manned up and actually enjoyed it on the way down.

SushiSamba is the highest restaurant terrace in Europe with fabulous views across London Town. You’re looking straight at the Gherkin (or the Pickle as my nephew Zak calls it) and the Cheesegrater. Love the food themes in London’s skyline. You can also see beautiful Tower Bridge and the Tower of London down below.

The interior is modern and shiny with fabulous lighting and  floor to ceiling glass to help make the most of the views.

And then there’s the food – a combination of Japanese, Brazilian (hence the Sushi and the Samba) and Peruvian food. Sound exotic enough? The menu is pretty mind boggling with a combo of small and large plates and sushi rolls to choose from. We went for it and ordered a variety of dishes which our waiter managed to serve up in an order that worked. All dishes got put in the middle of the table for sharing.

These crispy taquitos were up first, stuffed with plenty of yellowtail, avocado and roasted corn miso. Light, crunchy and fresh, I could eat a whole plateful of these. Good start!

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Delicious fishy morsels with crunch

Substantial shrimp tempura was served with snap pea julienne, spicy mayo and black truffle vinaigrette. Plump, juicy shrimps smothered in spicy mayo…perfect.

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Deliciously mayo-smothered shrimp tempura

My delight in pork belly continues with this kuromitsu glazed pork belly, palmito, orange and pickled onion. Such a wonderful combo of flavours and textures, beautifully presented and melt-in-the-mouth.

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A beautiful plate of pork belly

Salt and pepper squid was created with dry miso, shichmi, sea salt, crispy garlic and smoked soya. Light and tender with just the right crispiness.

Crispy, flavoursome squid

Chicken doesn’t get much more exotic than this. The poussin teriyaki came with Japanese-style yogurt and yuzu kosho. Packed with flavour and melt-in-the mouth with the creaminess of the mayo to dip into.

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One of the best chicken dishes of the summer

As a somewhat carniverous family we had to tuck into one of the meat platters. We chose the Churrasco Rio Grande, a combination of rib-eye, chorizo and aged picanha, served with a selection of sauces. It was delicious. If you really feel like pushing the boat out you could go for the Kobe beef Ishiyaka, 1kg of steak with a hot stone and dipping sauces – I mean really pushing the boat out, it costs £1,000.

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A meaty choice that’s a carnivore’s delight

There’s also a range of Samba rolls for sushi lovers. We ordered a platter with two varieties: Tokyo Sky Tree spicy big eye tuna tempura crunch, lotus root, aji panca and spicy mayo and the Tiger Maki takawan wasabi tobiko, crab meat, tempura prawn, tiger prawn, wasabi mayo and beetroot yogurt. Sounds like a lot of ingredients – just believe that they work perfectly together and look and taste wonderful.

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A lovely platter of sushi

Here’s a view of the beautifully modern, light-filled interior.

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The floor-to-ceiling glass at SushiSamba really shows the views off

And here’s the view past the Gherkin down towards the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

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A stunning London view

There’s also a fabulous outside bar which gets extremely packed with glamorous Londoners on balmy summer nights. Just perfect!

SushiSamba is at 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2 in the heart of the City of London.

 

Tasty Japanese in St James

So today I’m eating out in genteel St James. This wonderful, quintessentially English area of London is defined by its four corners: Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Green Park and Buckingham Palace. Iconic London.

In the 17th century St James was home to the British aristocracy and it’s where all the gentlemen’s clubs popped up in the 19th century. It’s famous for the very posh shops in Jermyn Street, elegant Pall Mall which still houses the capital’s most venerable gentleman’s clubs, art galleries, world-renowned restaurants and for being home to the Queen’s grocer – Fortnum and Masons (lucky her). Rents are among the highest in London (and therefore the world). Get the picture? St James oozes class, style and old money. And it’s home to fabulous Matsuri.

This stylishly understated Japanese restaurant opened in 1993 and serves the range of authentic Japanese food, including sushi, tempura and Teppan-yaki. Matsuri means ‘festival’ in Japanese, where festivals are used to celebrate the best of produce, and that’s what you’ll get here. Top-quality meat and fish perfectly prepared.

We had to try out things from all sections of the menu (impossible not to, the menu is so diverse and tempting). We started with a prawn and vegetable tempura. The best tempura I’ve ever had, piping hot, flavoursome and wonderfully crisp – and it looks beautiful, too.

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The tempura tasted delightful…a real winner

More modern-style sushi came in the shape of spicy Matsuri rolls. Packed with salmon, topped with a scallop and served with delectable chilli mayo. We asked our charming waitress how they made the mayo, and now I know the secret I’ll certainly be making it and eating it regularly at home!

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Wonderfully colourful sushi and a mayo with a bite

And then on to the more traditional  yellowtail, mackerel and tuna sushi. Wonderful fish that melted in the mouth.

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Sushi doesn’t get fresher than this, wonderfully tender and tasty

For main courses the Teppan-yaki section of the menu comes into play. The Alaskan black cod with ginger had been marinated to a wonderful tenderness and sweetness. Cooked in front of us on hottest of plates, it was rich and beautifully flavoursome. Cod doesn’t get better than this.

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Fresh cod and veg cooked in front of you. Love the little pot which is home to the oil for frying

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The cooked Alaskan cod and vegetables is dished up.Great plate, too

The Scottish Angus steak, again cooked in front of us, was delightful, tender and tasty and cooked to perfection. One of the other parties on our table also had foie gras (which you can also see being cooked here) and raved about it!

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Time for some steak

We also had delicious garlic fried rice, which our chef cooked up in front of us. And we couldn’t resist a couple of desserts – the Fire Ball Ice Cream with Mango, which was set alight on the hot plate causing brief billowing flames. Very theatrical. My dessert was actually a drink – Sparkling sake with baby peaches and lychee sorbet. Now that’s my kind of dessert. The peaches were seriously baby, about the size of cherries, and super-sweet and the lychee sorbet was added to the sake for some extra fizz and drama. Wonderful.

Matsuri is a great place for a special occasion dinner, a mix of style, ceremony and lovely food made using only the best of ingredients. Just what you’d expect in this wonderfully sophisticated part of London Town.

Matsuri is at 16 Bury Street SW1
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Happy 50th birthday Benihana

So Benihana is 50 years old and we went along to their swish Chelsea establishment to celebrate.

Things have seriously boomed since Benihana founder Hirokai “Rocky” Aoki opened his first restaurant  in NYC in 1964. Then he had four tables, now there are 120 global locations. Rocky’s ethos was to create a fun eating experience, and Benihana certainly gives you that that. He was the pioneer of teppan-yaki where your dinner is cooked in front of you on a hot, hot plate while your chef performs all sorts of dazzling tricks.

Ours made volcanoes and spelled I love you with onions; set [controlled] fire to various vegetables, flipped eggs into his chef’s hat with his spatula and cut all manner of ingredients up with impressive speed and dexterity, all while juggling with the sharpest of cleavers and knifes. He swore he had never injured himself in the name of Teppan!

As well as a fun night out, the food’s certainly up to scratch. The restaurant uses quality ingredients and as it’s all cooked quickly in front of your eyes, you’re sure to have crunchy veg, hot pancakes and tender steak done just the way you like it. They are famous for their ginger and mustard sauces, made to secret recipes and totally delicious. Of course, no Japanese restaurant would be complete without a comprehensive sushi range and Benihana doesn’t disappoint.

The good news is that for the 50th birthday year, there are special offers to tempt you in. The Keiko menu is named after CEO Keiko Ono Aoki (Rocky’s widow who took over when he died). You’ll get nine courses for £30 including a plum wine cocktail and a glass of wine.

You can also tuck into a tasty Beni platter lunch for a mere £5 or a £50 eight course dinner for two.

Here’s a selection of what’s on offer.

The beautiful starter on the Keiko menu

The beautiful starter on the Keiko men

Tuck into crunchy spider rolls

Tuck into crunchy spider rolls

Benihana's famous onion soup

Benihana’s famous onion soup

Delicious Hibachi salmon with noodles and asparagus

Delicious Hibachi salmon with noodles and asparagus

Wonderfully flavoursome steak cooked to perfection in front of you

Wonderfully flavoursome steak cooked to perfection in front of you

Plenty of fire and smoke to entertain

Plenty of fire and smoke to entertain

Say it with onions and feel the love

Say it with onions and feel the love

Benihana Chelsea is a class act. It’s stylishly decorated, offers great entertainment and tasty food. Oh, and it’s supposedly frequented by Prince Harry, David Beckham and Brad Pitt when they are in town. Brad’s happy to make an entrance like everyone else but Harry and DB get smuggled down the back stairs! Well, if it’s good enough for them…and gives me a reason to put a picture of DB on my blog, too…enjoy!

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Yummy!

You’ll find Benihana at 77 Kings Road, Chelsea and 37 Sackville Street, Piccadilly
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