With establishments worldwide and a reputation stretching just as far, any trip to a Nobu eatery comes with a set of expectations… besides stumbling across a celeb. So it’s safe to say that hopes were high as I headed to Nobu Café, found on the ground floor of their Shoreditch hotel.
One thing I didn’t expect was how enticingly tricky it would be to find my way inside, thanks to the tinted glass and ambiguous sliding doorway, which I originally thought was part of the wall. Did this result in me doing a lap of the whole building to eventually find the entrance in the exact spot I started? Maybe. Was it worth it? What do you think...
The doors parted to reveal a dramatic lobby, boasting an industrial feel with dark natural materials surrounding the opulent black marble front desk. The design perfectly blends the urban cool of East London with the grandeur and Japanese aesthetic of the brand.
With an appetite well and truly worked up from unnecessarily circling the building, I took a seat in the café adjacent to the reception area. I think it’s a great idea to have the café within the open plan lobby; it means the interiors of the space don’t go to waste by being able to spend more time there post check-in. The bustle of guests flowing in and out of the main entrance also added to the vibe and lax atmosphere of the café without ever being distracting or disrupting the peaceful ambience.
The carpet, comfy chairs and sofa seating alongside the window added to the loungy feel, making it the perfect place for a casual yet quality lunch or a spot for hybrid working as you make your way through the thoughtfully curated tea menu.
I began by perusing the menu and chose their most popular green tea, the Green Pearl Gyokuro Ichibancha (£8), which was silky smooth with a dense savoury flavour. It was served on a gold platter donning a teapot with hot water, a strainer-topped bowl which contained the tea leaves, and a glass.
This clever set-up meant you could personalise the strength of the tea to your liking with the help of that middleman brewing vessel, and the glass meant you could admire the pretty tea leaf flecks as you sipped. Long story short: tea is taken seriously in this joint. You’ll also find a selection of black, oolong and herbal teas on the hot drinks menu.
The theatrical presentation continued with the arrival of the Pure Green juice (£5.50). If you never thought you could be shocked by a smoothie, think again. The addictively refreshing, texture-perfect drink was served in a little bento box filled with crushed ice and decorative leaves. Extra or entirely necessary? You decide.
For the food, we chose a dish from both the salad and sandwich menus. The Field Green Salad (£15) was a simple plate made up of mixed leaves, tuna tataki and jalapeno dressing. What it lacked in extravagant ingredients, it made up for in execution; the tuna was super soft and plentiful, which meant you could have a piece with every forkful of the crisp leaves. The acidic dressing complemented the other components and made for a light-yet-filling salad.
I’m always a fan of reimagined classics when it comes to food, so the showstopper of the day for me had to be the NOBU Club (£14). They turned the humble club sandwich into a masterpiece with Japanese influences: the dish resembled a sushi platter, with the slices cut into cubes, placed upright on the plate and topped with a fried quail egg. Although I would have favoured a filling ratio with more chicken and less of the jam-like sauce, the rest of the plate was on point. I loved the thin toasted exterior of the soft bread and how the rich egg balanced out the sweetness of the sauce. We finished things off with a dark chocolate mousse (£6) presented in a pretty martini glass and topped with brownie chunks, with the mousse itself flaunting an airy texture and a not-too-dark-chocolatey richness.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Nobu has merged Japanese and British lunch cultures to create a daytime hangout that has it all. By doing away with cold café-esque interiors and serving dishes that don’t break the bank or require a refined palate, they’ve made their luxury space extremely inviting and accessible to the Shoreditch-dwelling public.
💰 The damage: A tea-fuelled lunch plus a dessert to share came to around £48.50.
📍 The location: 10-50 Willow St, London EC2A 4BH.
👌 Perfect for: Lunch break escapes, treat-yourself team meetings and remote working done right.
⭐ Need to know: Grab a miso cookie for the road (and try not to scoff it before you’ve at least left the building).
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