Pink Interiors & Delish Dishes: We Checked Out Cambridge’s New Japanese Restaurant

Alongside its locations in London, Bristol, and Solihull, the Japanese restaurant chain now occupies our city's neoclassical ‘Pitt Club’ building on Jesus Lane, putting it to good use for the first time since the pandemic. I’d long been hopeful that these iconic doors would open again, and when I heard that KIBOU would be taking over? I had to bag a lunch booking as soon as I could.

KIBOU: Best Japanese Restaurant Cambridge | DesignMyNight

Looking for the best Japanese restaurant in Cambridge? KIBOU is certainly up there.

Before we even reached the table, my mum and I paused to admire the first of many decorative murals (all painted by Martyna Sabadasz). It’s a vibrant, Japanese-inspired landscape of the mathematical bridge stretching across the River Cam and a unique way for KIBOU to embrace the architectural feats of their new location; the Ionic columns just outside of the restaurant paled slightly in comparison. Further in, the restaurant was strikingly opulent: an installed cherry blossom tree canopied our table, forming the botanical centrepiece of a room finished with contemporary illustrations and rich upholstery. Touches of Sabadasz’s brush were everywhere (her ‘Posca pen’, to be specific), boldly and brilliantly rejecting minimalism. 

It was only 2pm, so while the sake flight and the extensive cocktail list looked impressive, we chose drinks from the ‘low & no’ range. In tall, elegant glasses, a Hana-Shinsen (£7.50) arrived for my mum and a Rhubarb & Jasmine Fizz (£6.50) for myself. Both were dressed with edible flowers, in keeping with the restaurant’s interior, and were just as well-matched with our meal: light, fresh, and definitely too sophisticated to call a ‘mocktail’. We awaited our sharing plates, playing a snacking roulette with crunchy, wasabi peas that warmed our tastebuds and stung our sinuses in the meantime.

KIBOU Menu Cambridge | DesignMyNight

We enjoyed all of our orders off of the KIBOU menu, from the cocktails to the indulgent mains.

The pork gyoza (£9.50) arrived first and we got dipping. Crisp on the bottom and juicy inside, the dumplings led to the general consensus that the pan-fried method champions the steamed and the deep-fried: these were the best of both worlds and held onto their dipping sauce well. Our other plate was the Ika furai (£9.90), Japanese seven-spice fried squid with wasabi mayo. This came in a surprisingly lavish stack, all criss-crossed and golden (KIBOU aren’t minimalist when it comes to portions, either).

When we chose the buta don (£15.90) for the main course (a bowl of braised pork belly and colourful accompaniments over steamed rice), our waiter asked cautiously if we minded the high fat content. We enthusiastically reassured her we did not. The donburi arrived with four generous slabs of glazed meat, sprinkled with sesame seeds and nestled alongside sharp kimchi, white cabbage, pak choi, and a tea-stained jammy egg. Our chopsticks pinched through the pork belly strips with delicious ease, owing to the apparently divisive fat. We gathered up the steamed rice, which was slowly steeped in a mystery sticky-sweet sauce, and marvelled at the generous portion. The steamed bulb of pak choi proved a slightly more awkward feat for the unskilled chopstick user and I couldn’t bring myself to ask for a knife and fork to chop it up.

KIBOU Reviews Cambridge | DesignMyNight

Our favourite item from the Kibou Cambridge menu might just have been the nigiri selection.

Because that apparently wasn’t enough rice, and because KIBOU is renowned for its handmade sushi, we also requested the chef’s selection of nigiri (£16.90): seven pieces of raw, fresh fish on ovals of rice. The tuna topped with mango salsa stood out, but the whole selection provided a simple and refreshing insight into the restaurant’s expertise. For dessert, we settled on a trio of mango, orange, and lemon sorbet (£6.50), remarking on how fresh the flavours were - it was a light and perfect end to an indulgent meal.

The DesignMyNight Digest

Our experience at KIBOU was a true feast for the senses. From the incredibly Instagrammable interiors to the complimentary wasabi snacks, the Cambridge team delivered on all fronts. The service was chilled but attentive, and genuinely helpful when it came to navigating a menu bursting with potential combinations and sashimi-related questions. Both my mum and I would love to sample the extensive cocktail list after a day of shopping or venture further into their sushi selection (this was a sophisticated lunchtime treat, though I imagine the restaurant takes on a new vibrance at dinnertime, too). As the newest tenant of Cambridge’s grade II-listed building, KIBOU has certainly earned its place.

  💰 The damage: £72.70 for two, plus service.

  📍  The location: 7a Jesus Lane, Cambridge, CB5 8BA.

  👌 Perfect for: Sophisticated sushi dinners in stunning surrounds.

 ⭐ Need to know: Look out for Martyna Sabadasz's digital animations between courses.


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