We came to Watatsumi on a Sunday evening in July wanting just a light meal to complement our stay at the Club Quarters Hotel on London’s Northumberland Avenue. There are two entrances – one through the hotel, and one from the street, and we were impressed to note the towers of fire greeting guests at the street entrance. We entered through the hotel, though, and with some trepidation, as most of the other establishments in the hotel (primarily a business destination) appeared to be closed. Nevertheless, even though there were no diners inside, I spied members of staff and laid tables, so went in and asked if they were doing dinner. The waiter I approached was quite sarcastic in his response (something along the lines of “errr….yeeeees, this IS a restaurant *rolleyes*”), which arguably doesn’t give a very good impression of the place. So we went in, took our seats, and started combing the menu for something that would just hit the spot in the evening, having had a gut-busting lunch at L’Autre Pied in Marylebone (more of which another time). Inside, the restaurant is elegantly and opulently decorated without being vulgar, and definitely has a sense of place.
The menu veers between standard British choices with a Japanese twist (such as miso Gressingham duck breast with kumquat compote) to truly traditional Fuji burgers, tempura and kushiyaki. I personally plumped for the tempura prawns, which came in crispy batter to die for, although I was hoping that the tempura sauce would have a little bit more zing. My husband went for sashimi, and having eaten out at Japanese establishments on multiple occasions in Paris (where the cuisine is very popular), I had the impression that he was a little underwhelmed. Nevertheless, there seems to be something to cater to every taste, whether you are part of a large party and want an adventurous tasting menu, or whether you are a conservative type who is inexperienced in the way of Japanese cuisine.
Watatsumi promises to go ‘beyond sushi and sashimi’, but while I certainly saw plenty of things on the menu that I didn’t recognise, the dessert menu was disappointingly entirely recognisable – with its choices of ice cream, chocolate fondant, and cheesecake, the only even remotely Japanese thing hiding in the list was mini mochi (a sticky rice, ice cream and lychee liquor concoction). If I’d wanted dessert that evening, I probably would have tried this, but if you’re hoping for a more extensive range of Japanese desserts, don’t come here. Things fare better on the beverage front, with more traditional Japanese teas being offered alongside more familiar coffees, which we did sample. The Japanese teas offered a nutty, rice-like flavour that was a little strange at first, but strangely did seem to round off the meal nicely, acting as a sort of cleanser.
We did not sample any alcoholic beverages, but it seems that the mix is about right, with sake and rice wine sitting on the menu alongside champagne and rosé. Japanese beers and whiskies are available, too, as is a string of exotic fruit juices.
While arguably a little on the expensive side (£9.50 for 5 tempura prawns), the restaurant’s beautiful Zen-like setting and premium central London location certainly go some way to making up for it. A great place to go where all of the family – whether Volcano virgins (a Volcano, to you and me, is a salmon, avocado and tempura mix) or sure about sashimi – can definitely find something to like.
7 Northumberland Avenue, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5BY
020 7036 8520
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