London’s omakase restaurant boom

The Japanese tradition of omakase – which means 'I'll leave it up to you' – is taking the capital by storm. We explore the best spots to try the restaurant trend in London

Words by Fiona Sims

mayha omakase restaurant london
Mayha is one of the latest wave of London omakase restaurants that are riding high (Photo: Steven Joyce)

We are instructed to be there five minutes early, and not to be late. The reservation is for one of just two dinner sittings at the newly opened Taku in Mayfair – at 5.30 pm and 8.30 pm. Each sitting has a maximum of 16 diners, who are seated in a line on wooden chairs facing a long counter. The room is quiet, phones are set to silent, there’s only the rhythmic sound of steel hitting wood as a razor-sharp knife slide through glistening pieces of perfectly filleted fish as the sushi master prepares the first of 20 courses in front of us. 

Diners are murmuring, or not speaking at all, marvelling at the chefs’ cutting technique, mesmerised by the rocking motion used to press the nigiri into shape. We don’t know what we will be eating, that’s up to the chef, only the eye-watering cost – £280 per person. Welcome to omakase, the ultimate Japanese form of dining, where the kitchen is the stage and the diners the audience.

The direct translation is ‘I leave it up to you’ and it’s taking London by storm, with a flurry of omakase restaurant openings in the last few months alone. Though this is no ancient Japanese tradition – it was born out of the financial boom in the ‘90s, when newly minted diners were embarrassed about their lack of menu knowledge and left it up to the chef to choose the dishes. 

Taku omakase dish

You can see the appeal, for the restauranteur at least. It offers guaranteed reservations, with payment often made in advance, fewer chefs in the kitchen and less waste. For the diner, it’s about the pursuit of perfection, eating the best ingredients, served in peak condition, expertly prepared right in front of you. Service is inspired by the Japanese spirit of omotenashi – the art of hospitality rooted in the guest’s happiness.

One of the most revered omakase restaurants in London is the 10-seater Endo at the Rotunda, which has a Michelin star. Opened in 2019 on the top floor of The Helios Building in the old Television Centre in White City, it’s named after Yokohama-born chef Endo Kazutoshi, a third-generation sushi master who imports water and rice from a particular farm in the Fukuoka Prefecture to make sure the cooked rice has the perfect PH and consistency – yes, really.

The art of omakase has in turn inspired another fine dining phenomenon – The Chef’s Table, which have been popping up all over London – and beyond – in recent years. James Knappett at Kitchen Table was at the forefront of applying this style of dining to contemporary cuisine, with Leo Carreira at The Sea, The Sea, under the railway arches in Haggerston, the latest to embrace the concept.

Like baby birds, we take the freshly rolled nigiri straight from the sushi master’s hands and stuff it in our mouths, savouring the umami explosion and fresh-from-the-sea flavours. It’s intimate stuff and aficionados love it – no wonder seats are snapped up weeks ahead. Here are six of the latest omakase restaurants currently making waves in the capital.

Six of the latest wave of London omakase restaurants

sushi preparation at Taku


The stark simplicity of the wood and stone interior makes the perfect frame for the intricate food at Taku, Mayfair. Chef Takuya Watanabe is turning heads with his dishes prepared in the Edomae style, the most traditional form of sushi-making. It involves curing fish, and a particular way with rice. But then he did win a Michelin star and held on to it for 10 years while at Jin in Paris, the first sushi omakase to achieve that status. Standouts include the tuna sashimi marinated in soy and the squid nigiri. Collar engaging sommelier Bowie Tsang for the best pairings to pick from the classy list.
£280 for 20 courses, takumayfair.com

omakase Dish at Mayha restaurant
Mayha/Steven Joyce


As Elton John belts out Rocket Man, a line-up of superior nigiri is handed over the stylish curved counter from chefs Jurek Wasio and Yuichi Nakaya, including salmon with lemon balm and tuna belly with caviar. The 11-seat restaurant first opened in Beirut, then closed following the 2020 explosion, but it rose from the ashes, decamping here on Chiltern Street. Changed daily, the omakase menu combines traditional Japanese cuisine with more contemporary elements, to a grin-inducing soundtrack. The slightly pared-back lunchtime offer, at £100 per head (the evening tasting menu is £220), rounds off with a heart-stopping donburi studded with slow-cooked wagyu cheek, all matched with a sake or wine flight.

bento at Roketsu in London


Chef Daisuke Hayashi serves up a traditional (ish) kaiseki meal for 10 diners over two nightly sittings at the Kyoto-chic wooden counter of this Marylebone newcomer. Like omakase, but with a fixed seasonal menu that changes monthly rather than daily, kaiseki is based on dashi, that mystical Japanese dried fish-based broth. The scallop brûlée with tomato water and caviar will stay with you, while the Miyazaki wagyu grilled over coals then served with an egg yolk soy sauce topped with shaved black truffle is the stuff of dreams, along with an impressive 500-bin wine and sake list.
£190 for 10 courses, £95 for the sake and wine pairing, roketsu.co.uk

Maru London restaurant


Aged fish is the focus of this Shepherd’s Market omakase that was opened a year ago by third-generation sushi chef Taiji Maruyama. It might taste strange to Western palates, but ageing fish is a long-established tradition in Japan, the technique used to heighten umami flavours and add a buttery texture to the fish. Chef Maruyama dry ages his fish, such as tuna belly, in a custom-made fridge for up to 15 days, while shellfish, such as scallops, might spend four days in an ice bath to ramp up the flavours. Vegetables, meanwhile, come from Namayasai Japanese Farm in Sussex. To match? There are pairings with wine, sake, and even tea.
The 21-course menu costs £210 per person, marulondon.com

chef working at Sushi on Jones
Sushi on Jones/Ben Bentley

Sushi on Jones

It took New York by storm when it opened in Lower Manhattan in 2016 and since then Sushi on Jones has opened five more, with the sixth appearing in London’s King’s Cross just before lockdown. After months of enforced closure, it found its stride – and its fans. They come for the bargain (£48 for 12 pieces), high-quality sushi, which is prepared omakase-style at eight seats grouped around a tiny wooden counter in a hidden corner of the food and drink court, Good’s Way. Each sitting is just 45 minutes, yet in that time head sushi chef, Rome-born Mattia Aranini, manages to deliver beautifully prepared, umami-rich morsels – some simply brushed with soy sauce, others blow-torched.

The Aubrey's omakase restaurant

The Aubrey

A secret door leads from The Aubrey’s Knightsbridge dining room to a bijoux bar playing smoochy jazz with six seats grouped around an ornate counter. Behind it stands bar director Pietro Rizzo and savvy sidekick Adrian Choy at what is the world’s first cocktail omakase. It’s a blast – and educational. The two-hour experience stretches to three, as we get down and dirty with six different tailor-made cocktails, many made with sake or shochu (or both). And yes, there’s food too – from chef Miho Sato, the world’s only female sushi master, such as sea bass on milk bread with miso sauce (think ultimate fish finger sandwich), served with Rizzo’s Japanese twist on cocktail classic Adonis.
£198 per person, mandarinoriental.com 

@cluboenologique Come with us to an ‘appointment only’ Omakase cocktail experience… The secret bar is hidden away at The Aubrey restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hyde Park, and serves six specially crafted cocktails to just six guests in each sitting. Follow us for more destination drinking inspiration 🍸 #drinks #londonbars #londonhotels #london #cocktails #londonlife #cocktailbar #londonrestaurants #cocktaillovers #bartender ♬ original sound – T in Techno