Here is our list of the top Japanese restaurants and cafes in London. These are the restaurants and cafes that we recommend to both our Japanese expat buddies and friends seeking real Japanese food. Quite a few offer dishes that cater to the UK or use local ingredients. However they all prepare authentic dishes in the same way as you would find in Japan. Perhaps just as important is that you can expect genuine Omotenashi hospitality at each restaurant and cafe on the list. For those of you who have been, you may even find you feel like you are back in Japan!
Please note we are still in the process of updating this page. In January we will be splitting the list into restaurants and cafes as we have plenty of new reviews coming up. In the meantime please enjoy the list and please feel free to write a comment if you have been to any of these restaurants and cafes. Thank you for reading in advance!
Top 10 Japanese restaurants and cafes
- Kanada-ya Ramen
- Coco Ichibanya
- WA Cafe
- Koya London
1) Kanada-ya Ramen – Best Tonkotsu in London
Where can you eat the best Ramen in London? Well there are many who would say Kanada-ya wins this title and it certainly makes the list for the Top 10 Japanese restaurants in town. It specialises in Tonkotsu ramen and combinations of pork and corn-fed chicken broths along with a truffle ramen! There is also a vegetarian ramen option with a broth made of Shiitake mushroom and porcini-soya milk.
On our visit, we were equally impressed with the excellent presentation of the toppings and the distinctive aroma rising from the bowl. The Tonkotsu ramen comes with generous but not overbearing slices of Chashu (braised pork belly), chopped spring onions and Kikurage (wood ear) mushrooms.
So how was the broth? Kanada-ya simmers the pork bones for 18 hours to produce a unique rich and flavourful broth. For us this broth has the depth to give it that authentic Tonkotsu taste and the kata-men noodles were also on point. They make them on-site using a specific type of wheat flour, and have just the right amount of texture to perfectly complement the broth. It says a lot when you can finish the whole bowl of broth and still want more and that was exactly our experience. Without a doubt, we rate Kanada-ya Ramen as the best Tonkotsu Ramen in London.
2) Jinkichi – Japanese Izakaya with Robata Yakitori
Jinkichi is an authentic family-run Izakaya in Hampstead that sits comfortably in the mid-level range. It’s a place where you can eat incredible Japanese food at reasonable prices and spend an evening with friends that you’ll even reminisce about years later.
Once you step inside, you’ll find a cozy and small interior waiting for you. Jinkichi is extremely popular so it’s unlikely that you can successfully attempt a walk-in even mid-week. Instead be good to yourself, and book seats on the ground floor. You can either get counter seats where you can see the skills of the chefs on show, or get a table behind. We were lucky to get a table next to the Ikebana (arranged flower) alcove. If you are looking for a real Izakaya atmosphere in London, Jinkichi is where you can find it.
Jinkichi’s robata grill means you can enjoy a good variety of Yakitori (BBQ skewer) plates. This includes popular items like Tsukune and Tebasaki and Ox tongue and Chicken Gizzards for the more adventurous. Even Yakitori-ya regulars hoping for grilled chicken skin or liver are accommodated. For the non-meat diners, you’ll be happy to know Shiitake Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Shishito pepper are on the menu too. Full review can be read here.
Where do Japanese expats go to eat Japanese food in London? Cocoro has remained a firm favourite for many since it opened in 2006. You’ll often see groups of Japanese work colleagues or families in any of the 4 restaurants spread across central London. We decided to visit their original Marylebone branch first.
When it comes to their menu, Cocoro has a wide selection of traditional Japanese dishes. I ordered their Tempura Donburi, which is often called “Ten-don” for short. This really was a spectacular dish full of umami flavour which made their prawns, mushrooms and aubergines taste incredible. I’m also picky with tempura and don’t like it if it is even the slightest bit oily. However this was not a problem with Cocoro as their tempura was crispy and had a great aftertaste.
Cocoro certainly delivered the Japanese experience for us. The food was authentic and the service was excellent. I’d go further to say that the low-key interior and the reasonable prices helped seal the deal. We felt completely as if we were back in Japan!
There are at least a hundred restaurants in London where you can eat sushi. The issue is only a handful serve sushi matching the high standards of Japan at prices we consider reasonable. Often you really have to pay for quality raw fish and shari in this city. At Mugen however, you can eat incredible sushi at a cost that you could agree is fair for London restaurants.
On the Saturday evening we went at the end of July, it was busy but not full and it seemed like a hidden gem for Japanese expats. When we walked in the staff spoke to us in fluent Japanese, and we saw each table was taken up by Japanese coworkers, friends and couples. For almost two hours my friend and I could only hear Japanese conversations around us and we couldn’t believe we were in the centre of London. It was almost like a Japanese oasis in the City.
Mugen’s Tokyujo (superior special set) includes 10 pieces of nigiri and 6 tuna maki rolls. The nigiri neta we ate included salmon, salmon roe, sea bream, tuna, grilled eel, mackerel, scallops and prawn. Although the neta we ate was fresh and tasted incredible perhaps the best or most noticeable aspect was the sushi rice. It was perfect! Sushi chefs say sushi is 90% rice and if you want to try some authentically made sushi served the right way you need to head to Mugen.
You can read the full review here.
Tanakatsu is a Japanese restaurant in London that specialises in Tonkatsu. The restaurant co-founders wanted to create a place where Japanese expats wanting to eat katsu in London could feel at home. It’s is located in Angel but makes up for being off the beaten path with a truly Japanese minimalist aesthetic.
On our visit, I ordered the Pork Katsu set which is a very generous set that features Tonkatsu, a large piece of prawn katsu and a pumpkin croquette. As with all the Katsu and Teriyaki sets, this comes with a bowl of steamed white rice, Fujin-zuke pickles, and a good quantity of shredded cabbage.
Their Pork Katsu is the perfect marriage of pork, batter, and evenly applied panko breadcrumbs. The pork is a lean cut that is equally filling without being too heavy, and the soft panko flakes and batter simply melted away in your mouth. The sauce to pour over the Katsu reminded me of a traditional Japanese katsu restaurant too – it was sweet with hints of spices but without being overpowering.
Tanakatsu is an excellent restaurant if you want to experience authentic Japanese food and see the kind of stylish interior you’d expect in a trendy café or contemporary restaurant in Japan.
6) Coco Ichibanya
Coco Ichibanya, or Coco Ichi as it is often called, has two authentic Japanese curry houses located in central London. The restaurant name translates to “here’s the number one” in English, and with over 1400 curry houses across the world, for many fans it’s certainly their number one curry restaurant.
Full review here
7) WA Cafe
If you’re missing those delightful cakes you find in Japan, don’t worry WA Cafe has you covered. They have a fantastic selection of Japanese bakery goods too. This includes Shokupan milk bread, Matcha chocolate croissants, nostalgic Melon pan, and recently fruit sandwiches!
Full review here
If you’ve seen photos of Hello Kitty matcha lattes or Gudetama udon in London, it’s likely they were taken at Tombo Cafe. The collaboration with Sanrio has led to some fantastic dishes and lattes, and they certainly stand out a mile on Instagram. Tombo Cafe are also obsessed with Japanese green tea. You will see matcha powder forms part of several dishes on the menu, including their famous soft serve ice cream.
The above photo is of their Tokio Sundae which is a matcha soft serve with a mini mochi, azuki red beans, and a monaka wafer. It tastes like a traditional Japanese dessert. The monaka wafer in particular is a very nostalgic touch.
Full review here.
9) Koya London
The first Koya restaurant I saw was Koya City right by Cannon Street station although the original restaurant is in Soho. Both boast long queues at lunch, but when we went for mid-week dinner we did not have to wait. Udon is usually a lunchtime dish so you may say this is why, however the restaurant was still busy.
Full review here
If you search for an authentic Japanese Okonomiyaki restaurant in London, Abeno often takes the top spot. It is the world’s first Michelin-listed Okonomiyaki establishment and has been running since 1993. Incidentally the restaurant names comes from Abeno-Ku (ward) in Osaka, where one of the owners hails from.
Full review here
Have you been to any of these top 10 Japanese restaurants?
We would be very interested to hear how your experience was if you have visited any of these restaurants in our list. You can find the comment section below and don’t be afraid to give your honest opinion.