Izakaya (居酒屋): a type of informal Japanese gastropub. What with London being such a hubbub of international culture, it's no wonder that one of Japan's most 'old school cool' types of venues has a home in the city. Informal spots for after-work Japanese drinkers and diners to eat snacks such as yakitori (skewers), and enjoy 'grown-up booze', the London izakaya is as equally casual, rounding up teams of diners for robata grill goodies, and promising that no small plate gets left behind. Here are our favourite izakayas in London.
Situated in Shoreditch, Apothecary East is a laidback Japanese bar and restaurant that's ideal for enjoying small plates, sake and handcrafted cocktails with friends. Think sushi rolls filled with smoked yasai, green chilli tuna or wagyu beef, alongside umami cauliflower stir fries, seared tuna and barbecue chicken thighs. Wash it down with the Roku gin Zen Garden or a matcha pisco sour, while listening to DJs playing an eclectic mix of retro disco, funk and soul on weekends.
The ideal blend of Japanese drinking traditions with modern cuisine, 8 At The Londoner will transport you to a world of fine Japanese spirits, innovative cocktails and sleek sharing plates. Boasting three stunning spaces for a luxurious evening out, one of which is an elegant sky-high terrace beautiful skylights offering a peek at the city's silhouette, this Leicester Square gem serves delicacies like lobster tempura with ama ponzu and signature cocktails such as the Yuzu Margarita. Head over for a taste of Japan in a luxe setting overlooking the city lights.
Another location in London whose singular aim is to give yakitori the ultimate dining platform, Jidori is a fresh, fun and casual eatery in East London that gets its name from a breed of free-range chickens renowned in Japan for their flavour. Head on down for small plates that tow the line between spinach ohitashi, katsu curry scotch eggs and yakitori of wing, shisho and grilled lemon. Get a beer too, this is izakaya dining after all.
Flesh & Buns
When it comes to one of the coolest izakayas in London, Flesh & Buns are up there. Not only promising the cool of Tokyo, their venue interiors hail to the traditional izakaya with moody tones, wooden tables and small plates for an informal but fun meal. I've eaten at Flesh & Buns more times than I can count, I can absolutely vouch for vibes and flavour combined, with restaurants in Oxford Circus and Covent Garden. We recommend trying their yellowtail ceviche, seabass sashimi and chilli miso brisket.