What’s in a name? A play on the Japanese term ‘ichiban’, which literally translates as ‘Number One’- Ichibuns confidently enters the London restaurant scene, offering Londoners and tourists alike, a dining experience like no other.
Sitting unassumingly amidst London’s buzzing Chinatown, and with an array of Oriental restaurants around, you may be tempted to dismiss Ichibuns as a contender – but it would be wise not to! Take a step inside the three-story venue and you will be instantly transported to post-war Japan, where the glitz and glamour of 1950’s/60’s Americana comes alive.
Rendered modern by an innovative fast food concept (think Japanese cuisine combined with America’s most exceptional burger joints), complete with an exquisite range of cocktails and a spirited atmosphere to match, which will guarantee your return, again and again.
This completely immersive experience pays homage to Japan’s Shōwa era. Walls have been magnificently adorned with old Japanese fishing flags, newspapers, and manga cartoons. Ichibuns celebrates the Japanese tradition of re-using and recycling, therefore every surface is lined with various pieces of Japanese ephemera. Kimonos have been converted into chair cushions and old wooden boxes which used to transport fish from Japanese markets are now home to plants.
Greeted by welcoming employees who are eager to assist, you immediately know that the masterminds behind this concept come from a hospitality background and are not new to the industry. In fact, Ichibuns is the brainchild of Alan Yau (London-based restaurateur who founded Wagamama’s and the genius behind the London restaurants Hakkasan and Yauatcha, which have each been awarded a Michelin Star), Robin Leigh (Nobu and Busaba Eathai), Kurt Zdesar (Les Bains Douches and PingPong) and Endo Kazutoshi (Zuma).
So, what’s included within each of the three levels of this rockabilly diner I hear you ask? Well, downstairs you will stumble across a dimly lit basement bar, with a visually stunning wall decorated with Pachinko machines, a take on a pin ball machine often found in American diners. The bar serves up a dangerous array of delicious cocktails, from Smoked Whiskey Negroni’s to Coconut and Chili Mojito’s, all drinks come individually packaged and served in take-away slushy cups to go (perfect if you need to rush off to catch the last tube and need a night-cap en route!). Upstairs, amidst the traditional Japanese sunken tables and lustrous leafy greens, is a bright and atmospheric restaurant area. But the piece de resistance is the restaurants open kitchen on the ground floor where patrons can order their meals to take-away.
Inspired by the food culture of Hokkaido, Japan’s Northernmost island, the inciting menu provides all with various delicious treats, from pimped-up ramen with Wagyu beef and king crab to Asian-inspired burgers. You can also order a selection of Maki or Harumaki bites to share amongst you and your friends – be sure to order the Snow Crab, you will not be disappointed. And to finish off, why not indulge in a little dessert? With choices such as Green Tea Profiteroles and Salted Caramel Mochi your taste buds are sure to tingle!
My truly immersive experience (and I call it an experience because that is what it is) was amplified by our waiter Dan, a charming man who knew the menu like the back of his hand. He was warm and welcoming throughout the evening and answered all our questions without hesitation – service with a smile indeed ladies and gentlemen.
Redefining the fast-casual food industry, Ichibuns promises the highest quality food at affordable prices and is set to become a central hot-spot. Whether you want to dine out in an uber-cool location, plague your Instagram feed with visually stunning images, or simply pick up something tasty on your way home, be sure to pay this place a visit.
Open to the public on Friday September 8th, you can find Ichibuns at 24 Wardour St, W1D 6QH.
Operating hours are 11.30 – 12 daily (until 2am Thurs – Sat).