Ginza St James London 2023 - Nic Crilly-Hargrave-2

Review: Ginza St James

Review: Ginza St James

Understated luxury at this Japanese hot spot. By Helen Down

Nestled behind the quintessential Englishness of The Ritz and The Wolsey is some quintessential Japanese cuisine. At Ginza St James, head chef Alex Furusawa-Cadoni serves up delicate, minimalist and Insta-friendly dishes while mastering the art of understated luxury. From North to South Japan, via lobster and wagyu, Ginza’s dishes are so exquisite, you’ll almost cry as you ruin their sumi-e worthy designs with your chopsticks.

We were proffered such delectable dishes that it’s hard to choose which ones to highlight. But the yellow tail carpaccio, served with finger lime beads of citrus, is up there. As was the juicy tempura lobster with tendashi sauce. Then again, it’d be criminal to skip the aubergine in truffle miso and yuzu – a dish where every Japanese flavour you can think of sings in harmony.

But hang on a sec – there’s wagyu tataki too: hypnotically marbled wafer-thin slices with dabs of tomato relish. Or was it the buttery-rich, sweet jumbo shrimp that stole the show? No. That honour goes to the miso yuzu marinated lamb – cameras at the ready as a glass cloche lifts to reveal a volcano of chops gathered in a pyramid around a bed of smoky aubergine puree, all hidden in a cloud of dry ice. #Drama.

Actually, scratch that. The black cod, an anomalous mix of light but rich, something akin to barbecued butter, superseded the lamb. Ultimately, though, the gold medal must go to the poetically presented sashimi platter: roses of precision-sliced salmon, mackerel, seabass, tuna and yellowtail laid out across a tumbling ice rockery garden of palette-cleansing shiso leaves. A work of art.

After being persuaded by Ginza’s attentive maitre d’, Madelina, that we had second stomachs reserved specifically for pudding, we shared the coconut silken tofu. I can’t say the description won me over. But this is Ginza. And so, of course, it was stunning, like a Japanese panna cotta.

If budgetary caution can be thrown to the wind, go for the drinks pairing. We began with Riesling – its lightness was a perfect complement to the food’s delicacy – before moving on to sake. Ginza’s mind-boggling four-page sake menu requires expert navigation. Thankfully, we were in safe hands with a recommendation of Dassai 25; fruity light sake made from the core of rice grains. Testament to its purity and calibre, we didn’t suffer hangovers the next day.

Ginza St James’s, 15 Bury Street, St James’s, London, SW1Y 6AL

Price: tasting menu = £150pp / add wine and sake pairing for £75 to £80

Images: Nic Crilly-Hargrave