Nobu, Shoreditch: The Lowdown

By Lydia Manch Last edited 19 months ago
Nobu, Shoreditch: The Lowdown
Nobu: back after a two-year hiatus. Image by Claire Menary.

What's the story?

The year: 1994. The cast: a young(er) De Niro, hot off the heels of Goodfellas and A Bronx Tale; chef Nobu Matsuhisa, with a critically-lauded Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles to his name, and a scattering of other heavyweights from Hollywood and the US restaurant scene. After becoming a regular at Matsuhisa's LA site, and a half-decade of persuasion, De Niro coaxed the chef into packing up and moving to New York. And Nobu was born.

Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch. Image by Lydia Manch.

The brand's been a juggernaut since its first Tribeca site, spiderwebbing new restaurants and hotels across the US and Europe, at an average rate of more than three new openings a year. But despite the snowball-gathering-mass trajectory to Nobu's rise and rise, their Shoreditch outpost — 50th of its name — had an erratic start, opening after years of construction in spring 2020, and then for obvious reasons promptly closing. It stayed shuttered for more than two years, the empty hotel looking like a big, sexy ship that's run ashore. Reopened in summer 2022, the building's finally getting the traffic its weird, wired architecture deserves.

What's the vibe?

I haven't explored many of the global tentacles of the Nobu brand, but strongly suspect the vibe — and look, menu offering, clientele — is similar across all of them. The design's simple in a Japanese, stripped-back-wooden way, and spacious in a high-ceilinged, big-boothed American way. Service is relaxed, music's background buzz rather than heavy beatz, and the punters look like a mix of came-into-London-for-a-special-occasion group glitz and chucked-on-my-polo-shirt-to-come-down-to-dinner nonchalant wealth.

NAMI bar, at Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch. Image by Lydia Manch.

What's on the menu?

All of the Nobu greatest hits. The black cod miso — though tbh we'd skip that in favour of the black cod butter lettuce, the desserty stickiness of the fish counterpointed a bit by the crunch and greenery. Outstanding sashimi, incredibly tender tempura in a batter shell so crisp and thin it could be a fried insect wing. Wagyu and lobster scattering the menu in a number of dishes, and a lean towards luxe ingredients with a light touch — delicate, brothy slicks of ponzu, barely-there kisses of jalapeño studding the tiraditos and ceviche.

Pricing? Steep. But maybe less steep than its reputation. Like a lot of high-fame high-end places, you could spend a staggering amount if you clamber around the summits of their wine list, and eat exclusively sashimi and wagyu in amounts big enough to make a substantial dinner. Unlike a lot of high-fame high-end places, there are, actually, more affordable paths through the menu: several sakes — including the sharp, peppery Hokusetsu Onigoroshi 'Devil Killer' — at £10-£15 a glass, £36 a carafe. Glasses of wine start at a similar place, tempura dishes are £5-£15, and the omakase menu's £110 a head for a sprawling, curated journey through the greatest hits.

That means a relatively lavish dinner for two — with sake, wine, cocktails, service — could come in at sub-£300, which is, okay, big money, but also less than the four-figure, Vegas-high-roller spend that the image of Nobu might summon up.

Al fresco, delivery, takeaway?

Al fresco's a strong suit here, with one of the better Shoreditch terraces — secluded feel thanks to being below street level, and doors opening out from NAMI, with the DJs in the bar soundtracking the courtyard experience. If you throw in a heatwave, it wouldn't be out of place dropped into Nobu Ibiza.

No delivery or takeaway, currently.

Pre-game and post-game?

NAMI Bar. Image by Nobu Shoreditch.

No shortage of options on Great Eastern Street (just round the corner) for pre-drinking — including the miniature, ornate-cocktail-slinging Swift Shoreditch, and the laid-back café-meets-margarita-bar Santo Remedio. But you'd probably do best to start the night at Nobu's in-house cocktail bar, NAMI — a basement bar with DJs most evenings, doors open onto the sunken courtyard, roughly 1,000 gins (number not factchecked), an alluring signature cocktail list, and a liberal approach to just how dirty a dirty martini should be.

Nobu's an early closer (10-10.30pm, though NAMI stays open a bit later), but you can move on for a nightcap at Satan's Whiskers (1am on weekends) or the Sun Tavern in Bethnal Green (2am on weekends), or The Hoxton Shoreditch (1am on Thursday, 2am on weekends).

Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch.

Londonist were hosted by Nobu.

Last Updated 28 September 2022