18a Ebury Street London SW1W 0LU restaurantuni.com
Slightly suspicious of the concept but bowled over by the execution, Giles tells us why, whatever age we are, we should still go to Uni.
As Londoners we’re constantly on the hunt for something different, eager to catch a new food trend before it slips into mundanity. You only have to wander through the small streets of Soho to realise we’re open to pretty much any type of cuisine. In such a dynamic marketplace, it’s usually the ones that carry something different that survive.
This makes sense of course. Personally, I’m far more inclined to eat out somewhere that inspires intrigue and when I’m parting with hard earned cash, burger bars and pizza chains will usually pass me by.
That’s not to say there’s no risk involved. There’s always the chance of finding that restaurant with waiters on roller skates but awful food, or a clandestine bar behind a bookcase but with crumby cocktails. Instead, rather than looking for those that set themselves apart through appearances, I look to the menus for inspiration.
Last week while scrolling through an ominous amount of unread email, words jumped across the screen to catch my attention Ã¢â‚¬â€œ’UNI, a restaurant serving Japanese and Peruvian fusion cuisine’. Upon further investigation, I found an exciting menu and one I had to try.
Arriving at UNI you’re immediately confronted by darkened glass, which means you still don’t quite know what you’re walking into. Travel upwards and you’ll see a white marble sushi bar bathed in a soft light, descending from numerous lobster-red chandeliers. White leather bar stools stand to attention around the perimeter, aligned to perfection and ready to oblige hungry customers. This area appears to be for more solo and one-on-one dining.
Downstairs, which is where we were sat on this particular evening, you’ll find things are much more comforting. Dark brown benches with subtle red trim, line the surrounding walls making it easy for guests to slip in and out of their table. Opposing them are similarly dressed chairs, thickly cushioned and covered in satisfying svelte-like material.
Food for the evening included a selection from the whole menu. First up were ceviche tacos, packed full of either sweet crab or juicy prawn, both fillings were served very cold, just how I like my ceviche. It was supplemented with salty edamame and a sweet chilli sauce, similar to Sriracha. Both dishes were eaten in quick succession.
Next, was a yuzu tuna ceviche on guacamole, topped with crispy deep-fried noodles. This was much subtler than the tacos, the flavour of the tuna perhaps losing out to the yuzu. The noodles worked well however, providing an adequate crunch amongst the fluffy textures of avocado and finely diced fish.
Coming in quickly afterward was a delicious prawn and eel maki, it was partnered with the more familiar pickled ginger and wasabi. This dish was full of contrasts: the eel and prawn interior was served hot, the sushi rice cold, saltiness from the maki roll balanced with a sweet unagi sauce and the crispy prawn and eel tempura were in stark contrast to the encasing of sushi rice. This dish had all the hallmarks of thought, care and attention and up until this point, I never knew Maki could taste so good.
The penultimate dish came in the form of miso black cod with steamed rice and an anticucho salsa. The cod was cooked to perfection, flaking off in satisfyingly large and juicy pieces. The miso tinged edges carried with it a charred, bitter-sweetness that helped bring out some of the darker flavours in the fish. This was the best dish of the evening, I could have had two.
Pudding made for a strange and pleasant end to the meal. On the recommendation of our waitress we were given an assortment of Mochi Moriawase. Mochi is a type of Japanese rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain glutinous rice. In a twist, these Mochi were each respectively filled with yuzu, green tea and raspberry ice cream. The combination of a slightly warm and chewy Mochi exterior with a cold, soft ice cream centre was slightly mind bending. More than anything though it brought a childlike grin to my face.
UNI represents the very best of London and its ability to house some of the most exciting restaurants in the world. This is different, and perhaps more importantly, tasty food at its best.