Living in London means that we spend a lot of time chasing the latest and greatest crazes- Freakshake? Rainbow bagel? Eyeball licking? (nope to all 3, thank you) and sometimes in chasing all those shiny bright lights, the long established places, especially ones who don’t have a massive social media following (or a massive celeb following) gets forgotten. My sister and I were actually recommended Dinings years and years ago, yet we’ve only started visiting a couple years ago when we decided we didn’t need the pomp of Umu and just wanted some decent sushi for sibs dinner.
Dinings, a local Japanese restaurant in the well-to-do part corner Earl’s Court definitely fits the bill if you want decent sushi in London. FYI, if that’s your neighbourhood and you live a few streets away, they do takeout. Incredibly expensive take out, yes, but that’s the type of restaurant you’re visiting (local hole-in-the-wall vs. the grandeur of Umu). If you’d like, you can even send a courier company to pick up your tasty morsels. Because who actually picks up their own take out or use deliveroo?
Next: you’ve decided you’re dining in (the takeout makes sense for spontaneity at a consistently full restaurant, but they also have specific ‘takeout ordering hour’ so it’s not at all that spontaneous); and you’re staring at the online reservations system: you have to choose your dining area. We personally prefer the sushi bar with the furtherest 4 seats being preferable- this review from the FT perfectly describes what happens in seat 106 (by the service counter); I’ve sat in that seat, it’s definitely a crazy adrenaline trip. Downstairs is ok, but it’s pretty noisy and we’ve overheard some really strange conversations (do sit in the restaurant if Made in Chelsea is your type of show)- funnily the bar has a more intimate feel to it.
What about the food? Oh the food. It is perfect for ex-HKers who constantly crave good sushi.* We always start the first round of deliciousness with the tapas 4 ways (which is now a ‘special’); this time it was a delightful 4 bites full of lobster tempura, tuna with truffle (amazing) and some other fishie spoons. This was coupled with some scallops tar tar chips (small and perfectly formed).
For our second round, we had the yellow tail sashimi in ponzu sauce (fresh and piquant), the seared wagyu tataki (more please), the heavenly toro with fois gras mousse (hello, how could you possibly go wrong with 2 of the world’s most divine ingredients??) and the nasu dengaku (possibly one of the best Japanese grilled aubergine I’ve had ever). They were all incredibly tasty but if I had to choose one, then I’d definitely go for 2 pieces of the toro each rather than one (it was mind blowing). I found a picture of the seaweed salad as well- I guess we were feeling particularly healthy that evening!
Finally for our sushi round, we finished with the tuna/truffle special (why oh why, we can’t have truffles all year round at cheap cheap prices?) , some unagi (one of my favourite), ikura/sake gunkan and the crab/soft shell crab open roll. All the sushi were perfectly formed with just the right amount of sushi rice (finally! Perfectly cooked rice that is well seasoned and fresh- I really don’t think I ask for much but apparently it’s difficult) and once again we had a sibs dinner where we ordered wayyy too much and were uncomfortably full and felt ridicously gluttonous.
We washed all our fresh fishy dishes down with a variety of cold sake. We’ve tried a ton of the drinks menu by now and they’re all good. I’m a bit sad that they made the sake descriptions a bit more traditional now, but I suppose change is a good thing…
One thing I really miss about living in Asia (apart from being able to pop to tropical paradises for a weekend break and cheap cheap cleaners) is amazing sushi and it’s great that Dinings is there for (an occasional) pick me up.
22 Harcourt Street
Price: Just under £200 for two, but we are big sake drinkers.
*Let’s backtrack a little- neither of us actually gets to eat sushi very much nowadays. Having been brought up in Hong Kong, both of us are pretty picky about our raw fish and now living in London and Berlin (which is even worse for Japanese food), neither of us actually eat sushi that often- because there is not much worse than bad, grizzly raw fish. And let’s be honest here: London’s raw fish scene is ridiculously overpriced. My advice to everyone who lives in Asia and areas of N. America when visiting London? Just don’t bother. You’ll be SO disappointed. It must be noted that when we talk about ‘fantastic’ sushi in London and great swaths of Europe, we mean ‘above average’. Sure, the fish here is really fresh and tasty, but you’d be getting similar quality for 1/2 the price at home. Dinings might be a 9/10 for London, but taken out of it’s situational context, and compared with similarly priced sushi joints in parts of the world where sushi can be fantastic yet cheap it’d be more a 7.5 or 8 out of 10.