It takes a pretty special restaurant these days to tempt me to travel into central London. Ginza St James’s, a contemporary Japanese restaurant in Mayfair, definitely fits the bill! Their multiple mouth-watering menus had me drooling. With sushi, teppanyaki and robata counters, there’s something to tempt all Japanese food lovers.
A short walk from Green Park station, the entrance is framed by colourful autumn foliage that made me think of Kyoto's temple gardens from my first (but not last!) visit to Japan. On the ground floor is the bar area with an impressive display of beautiful sake bottles in chiller cabinets. We began with some wonderful cocktails by their resident mixologist. My friend raved about the signature Ginza Sour, made with Roku gin, yellow Chartreuse, bitters, lemon, mango and sparkling sake. It was a multi-layered drink with different flavours emerging with each sip. I enjoyed my Geisha cocktail which was a delicious and exotic concoction of vodka, butterfly pea flower, lemongrass syrup, bergamot liqueur, lime and soda water. A perfect start to the evening! We then headed downstairs into the main dining area, which has been thoughtfully laid out so that it feels spacious but intimate at the same time. The sushi, teppanyaki and robata counters are down one side. The teppanyaki counter was very popular, with lovely sizzling noises and the occasional whoosh of golden flames that I was never quick enough to capture on video. In fact, one of their 3 private dining rooms has its own teppanyaki counter - what a fantastic experience that would be! A feast of wonderful dishes from their à la carte menu followed. We began with spicy tuna tartare mixed with pine nuts, sesame oil, gochujang and red miso. Topped with edible flowers and some lovely crunchy ribbons, this was almost too pretty to eat. This came with some yellowtail carpaccio dressed with yuzu juice and light soy sauce, then sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. Both were a treat for the eyes and palate. Next came a chef’s choice 8 piece sushi platter. Our friendly server explained the different types of nigiri - ikura (salmon roe), yellowtail, sea bass, salmon, turbot, tuna, sea bream and otoro (tuna belly). I love ikura and otoro so was very happy to see these included. The nigiri that surprised us both the most was the sea bream, which had a firmer than expected texture and tasted of the sea. Perfectly crisp and crunchy tempura prawns appeared, still piping hot even after I’d finished taking photos. We enjoyed these with the tentsuyu dipping sauce - fun and delicious finger food! Then came the taste sensation that was the Wagyu beef. Super tender and bursting with flavour, we took our time to savour this wonderful meat. It was served with grilled vegetables and 2 sauces - garlic & ginger and black pepper. Our preference was for the garlic & ginger, which might have been influenced by the oh so moreish garlic chip accompaniments! The meal was brought to a close by a duo of desserts. The first was a Japanese take on crème brûlée, which was soya custard with black sugar syrup, and the second was mango mochi ice cream. The custard was wonderfully smooth and perfectly sweetened - I wouldn’t have guessed it was made from soya. Mochi ice cream is always fun to eat with the contrast between the sticky, stretchy mochi coating and the cold, dense centre. Both were light but satisfying, with just the right level of sweetness. As you can tell, we really enjoyed our evening at Ginza St James's. Service from the friendly and professional staff was excellent, and we could see all other diners receiving the same treatment. I'll definitely be making a return trip, as there’s still so much to try out such as their afternoon tea with a Japanese twist, omakase, more of those wonderful cocktails and all the other items on the teppanyaki and robata menus. I’m sad that my office isn’t nearby otherwise I’d be angling for some working lunches in those private dining rooms. Highly recommended - I hope that you all have as memorable a visit as we did! Instagram: @ginzastjames