Whether it’s for new technologies or ideas on what to have for breakfast, we are increasingly looking to Japan for inspiration…
Imagine, for a moment, a cocktail lounge where you don’t even need to speak to the barman, let alone stand in line for your chosen tipple. It’s no dream – in Tokyo, this is a reality by the name of Logbar.
Steering this stylish cocktail venue is savvy computer engineer, Takuro Yoshida, who has developed a social-network-style cocktail ordering service. All drinks are available at the touch of the iPad handed to you on arrival. Not only can you order a cocktail, you can toast other diners and interact with them from a safe distance, and even create your own cocktail concoction and put it up for sale. Could this be the future of the UK’s cocktail bars? Well, if the trends below are anything to go by, we may well be ordering cocktails by the light of an iPad. Just in case you haven’t stumbled upon them yet, we’ve rounded up a few of the Japanese influences and trends taking the London dining scene by storm.
Trend 1: The E-Table
Oriental fusion food is a hit with us Brits. We love it, we rave about it and we can’t get enough of it. But visit Inamo, at one of their London locations, and you won’t find your usual Oriental restaurant experience. Above the tables, and your heads, sit enormous, space-age-looking pods. These will transport you to a whole different realm of dining. It’s from these pods that the menu is beamed onto your table top. Scroll through the dishes, order the most delectable looking, and then choose your favourite tablecloth for the evening.
The concept is brilliantly executed, and, because the food is still number one on the priority agenda, Inamo is promisingly new-age chic rather than gimmicky. The chefs are even screened on the ‘chef cam’, so you watch the live action in a charming take on the theatre kitchen. As well as maintaining an edgy London vibe, Inamo has injected the fun back into dining. Computer game addicts won’t even realise they’ve left the house. In fact, diners can challenge each other to a game of Battleships while waiting for the food to arrive on the screen… I mean table.
Trend 2: Japanese Junk Food
When you think of Japanese cuisine, you imagine clean, healthy dishes: sashimi, sushi and spice. But there’s a new demand in our beloved capital and it’s for Japanese junk food. When it comes to fast food, the Japanese really know how to go all out. Just take a look at this black ‘ninja’ Burger-King burger.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Thankfully, we’re not looking at a trend that’s quite as extreme as this. In fact, it’s more along the lines of familiar fast food, given an elegant Japanese twist. It’s best you see this for yourself. Here, Kurobuta chef Scott Hallsworth whips up a tuna sashimi pizza. Gorgeously inspired by Japanese flavours, such as wasabi, and given an indulgent twist with truffle ponzu, it’s a pizza like no other. With wagyu beef sliders and barbecue ribs with soy-honey glaze also gracing the menu, you’ll soon see why Londoners can’t get enough of the place. I’m sure we’ll be seeing this trend escalate.
Trend 3: Cat Cafés
Lady Dinah’s Cat Café
They may be old news in Japan (make way for the owl cafés) but cat cafés are getting their claws stuck into the shores of Britain. These feline-inspired venues took Japan by storm and there are now over 100 cat cafés in Tokyo alone. The concept is simple: they are normal cafés, serving tea, coffee, cakes and sandwiches; the difference is that flurries of cats are allowed to roam freely.
Is it the puurfect place for a cuppa? It is if you’re a cat lover: cake and kittens is a dream combination and it’s a concept that has clear demand. Take Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium for example: the first London cat café and home to such cats as Petra and Artemis. When Lady Dinah’s first opened in March this year, it already had a two-month waiting list. In fact, it was down to an overwhelming amount of support that the café opened at all as it was financed through crowdfunding. The café not only brings much satisfaction to human visitors, but it seems to be having a positive effect on cats too. All the cats in residence are rescue cats and some of the more timid felines have been reported to be thriving and more confident in their cosy, cat-friendly environment. It’s a cat’s life, eh?
Trend 4: Noodles for Breakfast
Croissants are old news, fry-ups are out and muffins have moved on; the hottest thing to have on your breakfast plate is noodles. Koya Bar in London is leading the way in the breakfast revolution. Here you will find the clean, fresh healthy cuisine that Japan is renowned for, but that you just might not have previously thought to start your day with.
A typical Japanese breakfast is full of energising components, and usually consists of miso soup, rice and protein such as fish or eggs. Fermented food too is a popular breakfast staple and used as a way of seasoning the dishes. Fermented foods have been heralded for their health-giving properties for centuries. At Koya Bar in London you’ll find all of these dishes and more on offer for breakfast from 8.30am. Noodles, pickles, marinated mushrooms, porridge with pickle, tsukudani (seaweed) and egg, and grilled fish with rice are all on the breakfast menu.
Even if you’re not quite ready to give up your fry-up, they’ve got something for you: the Kyon Full English Udon. This consists of your good-old streaky bacon, a fried egg and shiitake mushrooms atop an udon noodle broth. It’s a real hit. As is the kedgeree: porridge with haddock and poached egg. It’s so popular that Koya Bar was among Harper’s Bazaar’s Best Brunch Spots in London this year.