Kozu Restaurant (58 New Kings Road, SW6 4LS)
Last Saturday evening, my partner and I had the pleasure of being invited to dine out at the newest, hottest Japanese restaurant to hit the New Kings Road. Kozu is the result of a brilliant collaboration between husband and wife team Mark and Pat Barnett (proprietors of the celebrated Mao Tai restaurant) and Nobuisha Takahashi, former head chef of Nobu, the internationally acclaimed Japanese restaurant. Mark and Pat are local fixtures in Fulham and most locals recognise their faces from their 30 years in the restaurant business. Pat herself is a dedicated “Barre Chick” at PBB!
When word first spread that Mao Tai was closing and was going to be resurrected as a high end Japanese Sushi/Cocktail Bar, there were mixed reactions in the neighbourhood. Those who were Mao Tai regulars wailed at the change – too often do we see a restaurant “reincarnation” go to pieces, closing within a matter of months. I for one was excited by the idea of having a high-end restaurant of the same calibre as Roka, Zuma and Nobu open in Fulham. No more would we have to travel into town to experience fine dining, it’s here on our doorstep! So many of the restaurants in the area I feel are here for our convenience, and as a mother with three young children, I do understand the appeal of your average chain restaurant. But sometimes it’s important to treat ourselves, and Kozu certainly promised to do just that.
I am a huge fan of Japanese cuisine, particularly sushi, as it is a clean and lean way to eat. Fresh fish is low in saturated fat, and incredibly high in Omega-3 proteins, which aid everything from brain function to reducing the risk of heart disease. The Omega-3 present in fish, particularly oily fish like mackerel, keeps your eyes bright and healthy, improves your circulation, and leaves your skin supple and glowing. Some studies have even shown that eating fish can prevent dementia and memory loss. Tastes delicious AND it’s great for you – I couldn’t wait to order.
When we arrived we were immediately ushered over to our table, a sleek looking set-up with gorgeous place settings. The atmosphere was busy, but not so much so that our little nook didn’t feel intimate and unique. The restaurant is decorated in dark woods, with fantastic modern lighting fixtures, which managed to convey both ‘restaurant’ and ‘cocktail bar’ perfectly. And, oh my. The cocktails. Even if you don’t fancy Japanese food, I urge you to visit Kozu for the cocktail list alone, and order some sushi nibbles at the bar. We sampled Lemongrass and Chilli Martinis – an explosion of fire and flavour – and of course the Japanese staple, Sake, which arrived warm and cloudy, and was delicious. Kozu’s cocktails certainly pack a punch, and their impressively stocked bar ensures the perfect fit for even the most discerning of cocktail aficionados. And with so many combinations to choose from, I felt like a kid in a candy store!
Sipping the second of our drinks, we turned to the most important part of the evening – the food! The menu mixes the modern with the classic and the Nobu influences are obvious. We started with Soft Shell Crab with a Jalapeño sauce and Spicy Hamachi Rolls – both of which are menu must-have’s. The quality and freshness of both the salmon and the tuna sashimi was obvious. Watching the celebrated chef Takahashi work behind the sushi bar was an added bonus – with such skill and delicacy it is easy to understand why he has so many accolades. For our main course, we had the Black Cod (which I felt was every bit as succulent as that served at Zuma) and the Pork Belly on a Pea Puree, which was to die for. Crispy and salty, the fatty pork was complemented perfectly by the sweetness of the pea puree, and served with Asparagus with a Jalapeño Shizo Sauce. This was a meal in a class of its own, and even though I was full to bursting by the end, I wanted to order more. Our evening at Kozu was an elegant, relaxing end to a busy week. The service was fantastic and all I can say to those who pooh-poohed the idea of the “new” Mao Tai is, don’t knock it ’till you try it. Kozu is a fun, vibrant, contemporary restaurant that I am certain is set to become a classic in the years to come. Price per head ranges from £30 – £50 before wine.