It is a brave person who ventures into the heart of Covent Garden at the height of summer. Between the heat and noise of the crowds and the cobbles slick with spilled pints, you’d do well to keep your wits about you. But hidden down the back, next door to The Duchess Theatre, sits a tiny Japanese yakitori restaurant called Jidori that is well-deserving of a little extra bravery.
Having originally set up shop down Kingsland High Street, this second venue from the Japanese small plate purveyors has found a home far more centrally. Decked out in pale wood, doors thrown open on the warm Wednesday night we visit, Jidori Covent Garden is not the over-packed hell house you’d expect from this part of town. In fact, aside from the brief incoming for the neighbouring theatre, it’s deliciously quiet throughout our meal.
Named for a breed of bougie chickens, it’s safe to assume that poultry dominates much of the menu, but Jidori’s small plate offering brings a whole lot more to the table. Our first plate of colourful sashimi (£14) slings vibrant slabs of salmon, yellowtail and tuna so fresh they all but disintegrate between your chopsticks. Near-raw tataki (£10) offers soft and salty seared beef that will send anyone with a savoury palette into paroxysms of umami-laced delight. However, it’s the Katsu Scotch Egg (£6) that steals the limelight from the off. The very picture of a perfect scotch egg, the chicken mince coat cupping a molten, marigold yolk, which, when dunked in the accompanying curry sauce, will be wolfed down in approximately T-minus two mouthfuls.
Thirsty diners need not worry either, because Jidori have cocktails too. The delicate Akita (£10) is all sweetness and light with Kokoro gin, Misty Mountain sake and elderflower cordial, while the Taspo (£8) hits a little heavier with umeshu, orange bitters, green tea syrup and powerful bite of bourbon in every sip.
We nab a sizeable round of plates from the kushiyaki and yakitori menus. Slipping gooey miso glazed aubergine (£4.50) onto our plates next to chunks of skin-on chicken thighs (£5.50), duck breast (£6.50), and little mounds of rice whipped through with nori and sticky egg yolk (£3.50). The restaurant certainly aren’t wasteful about their chickens either, with offal skewers making the cut as well. We take a crack at the hearts (£4.20), and certainly reap the rewards as the tiny morsels of rich meat, flanked by salty pancetta could entice even the most squeamish of eaters.
Jidori do have a small selection of desserts on offer, but there is really only one choice: the ginger ice cream with miso caramel and sweet potato crisps (£6). Sounds a bit off piste? Honestly just put it in your mouth and it all makes sense. By the time the ice cream has started to melt and the sweet potato crisps are coated in that gorgeous miso caramel, what you’re left with is something that tastes alarmingly like Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, with the same all-consuming appeal.
A restaurant well-worth elbowing your way through the Covent Garden crowds for, Jidori is serving up some of the most eclectic and delicious yakitori skewers in the capital. With a menu that speaks as much to conservative palates as it does to more adventurous eaters, they've mixed authentic Japanese cooking with a little European flavour and the combination clearly works.