All Day Japanese Dining in London | Machiya Restaurant

Kanada-ya is one of my favourite ramen shops in London, of those I’ve tasted so far. Since they launched near Tottenham Court Road in 2014, they’ve gained a loyal following, opened a second shop in Piccadilly Circus and are on the brink of opening their third in Angel. So ramen, so good.

Last year, Aaron Burgess-Smith and Tony Lam, the people behind Kanada-Ya, opened a different style of Japanese restaurant, just two doors from the location of their Piccadilly Circus branch of Kanada-ya. Machiya is named for the traditional wooden townhouses typical of Kyoto in times gone past – these have experienced a renewal of interest during the last couple of decades such that most surviving machiya have been eagerly renovated and re-purposed as cafes, restaurants, shops and tourist accommodation.

 Cocktail at Machiya Japanese Restaurant in London, a review on Kavey Eats

It’s coming up to one year since Machiya opened its doors, so I was way overdue for a visit to check out the menu. Following an increasingly popular trend in London restaurants, Machiya offers all day dining with separate breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. There’s also a basement bar offering cocktails, Japanese whisky and more. We went for dinner on a Monday evening in February, and the place was packed; a table was no sooner cleared away than it was taken within minutes by new arrivals.

For drinks we started with a homemade ginger soda (£3.5) and a cocktail from the downstairs bar menu, a kawaii ne (£10). The soda was a fiery and refreshing drink, all the better for not being overly sweetened. The cocktail, a mix of junmai sake, lychee & peach liqueur, yuzu juice and sakeyuzu foam, was utterly delicious, sweet and light and very easy-drinking!

Tofu Custard at Machiya Japanese Restaurant in London, a review on Kavey Eats Miso Aubergine at Machiya Japanese Restaurant in London, a review on Kavey Eats

The dinner menu is divided into Small Dishes, Donburi (rice bowls), Noodles, Curry and Grilled & Fried, plus Sides and Desserts. Keen to try a variety of dishes, we ordered a whopping four small dishes, but one per person would be fine as a starter unless you’re really hungry!

First to arrive was the tofu custard (£4.5), silky, light homemade tofu garnished with dashi (seaweed and dried tuna broth), ginger and itogaki (dried, salted and finely shredded tuna), this was hugely refreshing and delicious.

Next, the miso aubergine (£5.5), cooked till meltingly soft, and garnished with walnuts, shichimi (a Japanese spice blend) and sweet miso paste. I enjoyed this but found the miso flavour a little too subtle for my tastes.

Wagyu Gyoza and Miso Aubergine at Machiya Japanese Restaurant in London, a review on Kavey Eats

The wagyu gyoza (£8) were fabulously moist dumplings, full of juice and lots of flavour, with a lovely light chew to the wrapper. While the use of Australian wagyu (see below) no doubt contributed to the tenderness, I’d prefer to pay less for regular beef here, as £2 per gyoza is a little steep.

Tsukune at Machiya Japanese Restaurant in London, a review on Kavey Eats

I love food on sticks, and tsukune (£4) is one of my favourites when it comes to Japanese skewers. The minced chicken balls had wonderful flavour and texture, with a lovely subtle crunch from finely diced veg, and I loved the addition of teriyaki sauce to the usual raw egg yolk (a Clarence Court egg, by the way) served alongside. Break and mix the yolk to create a deliciously gloopy sauce for your chicken meatballs. There’s also a little pile of shichimi on the plate so you can dip again if you’d like a little warming spice.

Wagyu Katsu at Machiya Japanese Restaurant in London, a review on Kavey Eats Wagyu Katsu at Machiya Japanese Restaurant in London, a review on Kavey Eats
Wagyu Katsu at Machiya Japanese Restaurant in London, a review on Kavey Eats

Last time I visited Japan (in spring 2016) the latest trend on the Tokyo dining scene was beef katsu (as opposed to the ubiquitous pork). So I absolutely had to order the wagyu katsu (£19), even though it’s the most expensive dish on the menu.

Wagyu, if you’ve not tried it, translates as Japanese beef, but what it’s come to mean internationally is beef raised to similar standards, and which has the same very high levels of marbling that are typical of wagyu from Japan.

And just to clear up an odd little debate on terminology that’s exercised some corners of the internet, katsu does not mean Japanese curry! Katsu refers to bread-crumbed and fried meat or fish, and is simply a shortening of Japanese modified pronunciation of the word cutlet (katsuretsu). In Japan Katsu is commonly served plain, with shredded cabbage, ground sesame seeds and tonkatsu sauce (much like a British brown sauce). It’s also popular in katsu kare (curry), where the breaded and fried item is served with a Japanese curry sauce and rice.

At Machiya, the wagyu katsu comes with a gas burner and pan so you can cook the almost-raw beef to your liking and enjoy it sizzling hot. A small dish contains some fat in which to fry the pieces of katsu – use it or your beef will stick to the pan like glue – plus a range of condiments; a fabulous wasabi mayonnaise, tonkatsu sauce and a fiery yuzu koshu (a condiment made from yuzu peel, salt and chilli).

Oh and it was bloody delicious, by the way! The combination of crisp, bread-crumbed exterior with melt-in-the-mouth beef (clichés because they fit, damn it!) and that wasabi mayonnaise made me weak at the knees, gustatorily speaking!

Chicken, pork and salmon katsu are priced far more affordably at £8, £9 and £10 respectively, and served with shredded cabbage. I’d have appreciated some shredded cabbage with the wagyu version too, to make more of a main dish out of it.

Eel and Rice Bowl at Machiya Japanese Restaurant in London, a review on Kavey Eats Eel and Rice Bowl at Machiya Japanese Restaurant in London, a review on Kavey Eats

OK, so I’m not a cheap date! The other item on the menu that I absolutely had to try was the second most expensive dish, the unajyu (£17) grilled Japanese-style eel. In this dish, eel is glazed with a sweet unagi sauce (usually made from soy sauce, mirin, sugar and sake). Served in a gorgeous multi-faceted wooden bowl and lid, a generous portion of soft and moist eel sat on steamed rice; a little extra of the sauce had been allowed to soak down into the rice; it was heavenly!

Machiya Japanese Restaurant in London, a review on Kavey Eats

On the side, we ordered seasonal pickles (£3) and a market salad (£3). The pickles were a little disappointing, with none of the finesse of presentation I’d expect, and surprisingly insipid flavours too. I love the intensity of flavour I’ve found in the huge array of pickles I’ve tasted in Japan, so these were quite a let down. The market salad of mixed leaves in a sesame and ponzu dressing was fresh and tasty.

Warabi Mochi and Matcha Crepe Cake at Machiya Japanese Restaurant in London, a review on Kavey Eats Matcha Crepe Cake at Machiya Japanese Restaurant in London, a review on Kavey Eats
Matcha Crepe Cake and Warabi Mochi at Machiya Japanese Restaurant in London, a review on Kavey Eats

I first tasted warabimochi (£3.5) in Kyoto, on our first visit to Japan in 2012. We visited a wonderfully eclectic cafe near Kyoto’s Yasaka Shrine, and there I ordered my first amazake, with the sweet mochi as a side. Mochi is a chewy paste usually made from rice flour, and used in many traditional Japanese sweets. In these unusual mochiwarabiko (bracken fern starch) is used instead of rice flour, and the individual bite-sized dumplings are coated in kinako (toasted soybean flour). They are often drizzled with mitsu, a sticky black sugar syrup.

Machiya’s warabimochi were excellent, though I’d prefer the syrup to be drizzled over the dumplings rather than around the plate – it’s so thick and sticky that it’s impossible to get much of it on the dumplings by dragging them across it!

My friend chose our second dessert, a matcha mille crepe (£5). Here, matcha-flavoured crepes were layered with matcha pastry cream, to create a decadent matcha overload! Super intense and very smooth in texture, this had just the right level of sweetness to balance the mild grassy bitterness of powdered green tea.

We also shared some hot tea with dessert, genmaicha (£2.7 for a pot) is a blend of green tea and roasted brown – rice the rice expands just like popcorn.

Machiya don’t take bookings, so you may need to wait for a table – perhaps down in the bar if there’s space. But turnaround seems pretty quick; not all customers order as much food as we did!

With our decadent over-ordering of starters, and choice of the two most expensive mains, the bill for our meal came to £90 plus service for two of us. However, you can enjoy a great meal here for far less; main dishes start at £7, most sit around £9-11 and only a few are higher, with our two choices at the top end of the range, at £17 and £19 respectively. Drinks, cocktails and desserts are also reasonably priced.

Save for later:

Machiya Japanese Restaurant in London, a review on Kavey Eats

Kavey Eats dined as review guests of Machiya Restaurant.

Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!
25 Comments to "All Day Japanese Dining in London | Machiya Restaurant"

  1. Mamta Gupta

    This sounds like a delicious meal, though I don’t know much about Japanese food. Loved reading your description of each dish and the pleasure they gave you :).

    Reply
  2. noel

    Wow, what an exceptional meal and splurge, I love everything presented and that wagyu looks amazing. But I think the dessert is definitely the winner for the evening meal!

    Reply
  3. Doreen Pendgracs

    I find it so amazing when you can get truly terrific food of an ethnic culture in a country that is so different than its origin. Japanese cuisine in London! It’s so great to see how the London food scene has progressed from our first visit in the 90’s.

    Reply
  4. Shweta

    Your photos and description make it sound like you really enjoyed the meal. Will keep this restaurant in mind since my husband and daughter love Japanese.

    Reply
  5. Carol Colborn

    Wagyu katsu and unajyu would also be my favorites! US$110 isn’t that bad for the heart of London! I am envious.

    Reply
  6. Emma @ Supper in the Suburbs

    I am definitely going to have to pay a visit. The food sounds delicious – the katsu in particular! I’m also a big fan of mochi. Shame about the pickles though… whats the vegetarian situation like? Are things clearly marked? Is there plenty of choice or will I want to visit without Jon in tow 😛

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    They mark veggie dishes on the menu with a (v). There were quite a few starters but not quite as many mains I think. The menu is on their website if you want to check? ❤️

    Reply
  7. Punita Malhotra

    I have to admit this post has been an eye-opener for me. I was not aware that Japanese cuisine has so much variety. I would love to try all of these dishes!

    Reply
  8. Indrani

    Excellent food photography. You have made those delicious dishes look even more tempting.
    I like places where food scene is so good. Will definitely look out for this place if ever I am in London.

    Reply
  9. Lucy Parissi

    I love Japanese food and I needed a recommendation for a new restaurant to try! Never had katsu made with beef but it looks and sounds amazing. All the dishes look very tempting though so I think I need to order pretty much the entire menu

    Reply
  10. Renata Green

    I’m going to Japan in September and besides Sushi I don’t know much about Japanese cuisine, so this is very interesting. I’m mostly impressed by the pancakes – the color and the texture are very…appetizing.

    Reply
  11. Megan Jerrard

    Mmmmmm ramen! I’m a big fan of all day dining with separate menus – Machiya sounds fabulous, and I would love to try some of those wagyu gyoza.and some matcha mille crepes! You definitely sampled a large cross section of the menu – so yum! Good to know that they don’t take bookings in advance – thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

    Reply
  12. Choclette

    Ooh wow, that matcha pancake stack looks absolutely fabulous. I wouldn’t need to look at anything else if I saw that on offer. I’m missing the Japanese restaurant we used to like so much since I moved. But luckily London and Machiya is now a little closer than it was 🙂

    Reply
  13. Gingey Bites

    Your photos are making my mouth water. I am headed to London later this month and will suggest this place to my sister as an option! I particularly like the look of the aubergine miso!

    Reply
  14. Suruchi

    Loved the way you have described the place as well each dish and your experience here. Your pictures are making me drool over each of them. Everything looks so tempting. Thanks for sharing

    Reply
  15. Nathan

    I’m a huge fan of Japanese cuisine since young, so I absolutely am willing to splurge to savour some of the scrumptious delicacies. I thought prices here in Singapore were expensive, but never expected it to be so much higher there in London – I guess I’m better off satiating my cravings here. I absolutely enjoy sukiyaki and chawanmushi!

    Reply
  16. Sandy N Vyjay

    I knew that Indian food and curries were very popular in London. Of course, Japanese cuisine is getting more and more popular across the globe and London must be no exception. An all-day dining experience restaurant like the Machiya is definitely a boon for people who fancy Japanese cuisine. We do not know much about Japanese cuisine and have been exposed only to Sushi of the vegetarian kind. I like the look of warabimochi , our sweet tooths would revel in the excitement of savouring the delicacy.

    Reply
  17. Denny George

    I love Japanese food, and ramen shops are a personal favorite. You, however, seem to have sampled a much wider variety in just one jaunt! Kudos!! I really like the way your photographs capture the essence of the food. I particularly liked the one of the Matcha Crepe and that of the Tofu custard.

    Reply

Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *