What do we need to know about Engawa?
It's the latest restaurant to be associated with a Firmdale hotel - this time in Soho's Ham Yard - but it's quite unlike any Firmdale restaurant that has gone before it. Set across the courtyard from the main hotel it's entirely separate, for a start. As for the food, that's also a new direction for the hotel group. Engawa is a Japanese restaurant specialising in Japanese Kobe beef.
Where is it?
It's in the main courtyard for the Ham Yard Hotel. just a couple of minutes from Piccadilly Circus tube.
Where should we go for a drink first?
As it's just around the corner from last week's Test Drive, Blacklock, the options we pointed out then are all just as good - Zedel, Hix and, of course, the outside bar at Ham Yard too - when the weather improves.
And where should we sit?
It's a tiny dining room, seating about 30-40 in total. There are some great counter stools in front of the kitchen if you want to get close to the action. If not, one of the tables just beside it are the ones to grab - you'll need to space for what's to come.
And how about the food?
So it's a complete Kobe Beef fest - a large portion of the menu revolves around that at the kaiseki style dinner (with more options to pick and choose from the menu at lunchtime). There were two prix fixe options on the night we went - the five course for £80 and the eight course for £100. So it's not on the cheap side (it is Kobe beef after all). Since we visited, a third three course option for £60 was added.
Having chosen which menu, your decisions are far from over. Next, you'll be shown and asked which cut of the beef you want for your main. Then you'll be invited to choose which two vegetables you'd like to accompany it, from a selection of seasonal veg all beautifully displayed (they'd storm the board at a county show). After that you'll need to decide which of the three options you want from each course (there's a vegetarian option on all courses too, if Kobe beef isn't your thing). In our mind it meant for the best kind of tasting menu - where dishes of the same type are brought out at the same time (appetisers etc) but each of you still have the chance to be trying something different.
And the food - well it's as delicious as it is eye poppingly beautiful. Of the whole menu, the most impressive is the huge sashimi platter, which you can see in the picture above. That epitomises the rest of the meal, beautifully laid out dishes where you get more for your money than you might be expecting. The scallops and sea urchin dishes alone are worth coming here for. The main Kobe beef plate was another standout - proving that yes, Kobe beef really is quite special.
It worth noting that things are different at lunch, where the emphasis is on bento boxes - with 11 dishes costing £30 and 14 costing £40 (and a seven course menu for £70 is also available).
Is there dessert?
Yes - and it's impressive too: tofu cheesecake and fruits with a extraordinarily moreish matcha tea-infused chocolate dip. Again, it's exquisitely presented
And how about the drinks?
There's obviously a strong focus on sake, and although we admit to knowing very little about the drink, a glass of the Ginrei Gassan (£11 a glass, but £84 a bottle) went down very well. But it was the plum sake (£10 a glass, £76 a bottle) that was the real winner of the evening - we'll be on the look out for a bottle of this. As for cocktails, they're all around the £12 mark and wine starts at £27 a bottle.
Engawa is a fine addition to the London Japanese dining scene. A compact restaurant with beautiful food just on the outskirts of Soho that deserves to do well.
Engawa is at Unit 4, 2 Ham Yard London W1D 7DT. Find out more about Engawa
Hot Dinners ate as guests of Engawa. Prices were correct at the time of writing.