Murakami – Japanese in West End, WC2

Creative. Stylish. Comfortable. Downright tasty.

If you want to get straight down to it, these are the words that describe Murakami appropriately.

I arrived early and was immediately excited by the Japanese themed cocktail menu. A Lost in Translation (a tiki of El Dorado rum, Kraken spiced rum, quiquiriqui mezcal, pineapple, elderflower, cardamon for a subtle spicy flavour and fresh lime) @ £9.00 slipped down far too easily. I ended up recommending it to the couple who sat down at the neighbouring table – the restaurant was empty and tables closely spaced (private conversation could be a downside here, if you’re after some privacy).


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Black cod – ‘stand out’ dish from the robata grill menu

J ordered a Japanese whisky sour (so good, made of Nikka from the barrel Japanese whiskey, shichimi spices, pineapple syrup, lemon juice and whites) and then we moved on to beer from the main drinks menu, which offers a load of sake, Japanese whisky and wine too.

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Cocktail – Lost in Translation

We chose a selection of food, from the varying menu sections with a little help from our waiter: salted edamame @ £4.00 from the starter menu; volcano roll @ £12.50 from the signature rolls menu; crispy baby squid @ £9.00 from the hot plates; grilled cauliflower @ £4.50 and black cod saikyo @ £25.00 both from the robata Japanese grill menu.


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Volcano roll – deep fried in tempura with salmon, tuna, yellowtail, tobiko, avocado and spring onion


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Grilled cauliflower – from the robata Japanese grill menu served with peanut and goma dressing (highly recommend this)


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Black cod saikyo – marinated black cod on saikyo lemongrass miso with mango salad (the two robata dishes stood out as the highlight of the meal)


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Crispy baby squid – large portion of baby squid with chilli, coriander and lime @ £9.00 (definitely for sharing)


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new Gyoza Bar next door – next time…


The verdict: Creative, interesting and very tasty Japanese food; the robata grilled dishes were the highlight for me. Comfy restaurant despite the tables being so close together. Service was a bit hit and miss. Our total bill for two came to £112.84 including service (and a cocktail and couple of beers each).

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Japanese
– Address: 63-66 St Martin’s Lane, London
– Postcode: WC2N 4JS
– Nearest station: Leicester Square, Covent Garden
– Website + menus: Murakami website
– Photos on flickr: Murakami images
– Location: Murakami map

Murakami Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Asia de Cuba at St Martin’s Lane Hotel

Hearing people rave about Asia de Cuba had given me high expectations. We finally went this week to celebrate my birthday. It didn’t live up to the eulogising.

It would be easy to walk straight past, if you didn’t know that Asia de Cuba was inside the inconspicuously sign-posted St Martin’s Lane Hotel (a grey block).

Unsigned hotel + restaurant from St Martin’s Lane

You go through the soulless hotel reception to get to Asia de Cuba at the back. If you can get over the hotelish, impersonal atmosphere you might like the cylindrical towers positioned throughout the restaurant, covered in book shelves and pictures that add an element of style and homeliness.


We had a couple of rum cocktails while we read the menu, one served creatively in a chunky jar.

Rum cocktails

Concentrating on design and style Asia de Cuba seems to be attempting to be swanky, and while the wooden chairs may match the book shelves they’re extremely uncomfortable to sit in.

The pre-theatre prix fixe menu is currently £27.00 for three courses (check the website for various menus including the a la carte dinner menu).

Sample prix fixe menu

For appetizers K had crab coquetas: jicama (a root vegetable that looks like a turnip), mango and mirin infused slaw with roasted red pepper rémoulade (or, as LardButty might’ve described it: a bite-size sample of deep-fried crab in breadcrumbs on a whisper of shredded fruit/veg – if you’d like more than a quarter of a plate of food, don’t order this) and I had calamari salad Asia de Cuba: crispy calamari, chayote, hearts of palm, banana (??) cashews, chicory and radicchio with sesame orange dressing (an unusual mix of flavours, particularly banana which didn’t go) served in oddly sized portions (K’s was tiny and he wanted more, while mine was generous and I was full after the starter).

Crab croquetas appetizer

Calamari salad Asia de Cuba

For entrées K had seared tuna and I had Cuban BBQ chicken (slightly dry, bland and disappointing), with a side order of wok sautéed Asian and Caribbean vegetables (all distinctly average, dishes weren’t quite as exciting to eat as they were to read on the menu. And bear in mind that the prix fixe ‘deal’ only includes a component of the main course; you have to order veg and any accompaniments as separate side orders). The tuna was more of a side dish portion than a main course so K still had an appetite – on the plus side we had enough room for desserts.

BBQ chicken, seared tuna and sautéed vegetables

Neither of us have an especially sweet tooth and don’t often eat dessert but thoroughly enjoyed this break from normality. K had Cuban Opera (rich chocolate cake layered with milk chocolate butter cream, coffee mousse and coffee brittle ice cream) while I had Coconut Invasion (coconut, white chocolate grenache and rum flavoured banana layer cake with dulce de leche ice cream).

Cuban Opera

Coconut Invasion

Asia de Cuba had been on my (mental) list of restaurants to try for years. Tick. It’s more about style than substance. I won’t hurry back.

After so many recommendations for this place and for so long, I can only assume I missed the party.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Asian fusion
~ Address: St Martin’s Lane Hotel, 45 St Martins Lane, London
~ Postcode: WC2N 4HX
~ Tel: 020 7300 5588
~ Nearest station: Leicester Square
~ Website: St Martin’s Lane Hotel website – has details of Asia de Cuba restaurant
~ Location: Hotel + Asia de Cuba restaurant map

Asia de Cuba on Urbanspoon