Funky little sister of much-appraised 108 Garage, one of my standout restaurants of last year, Southam Street is just a short tootle along from the pastel-flushed frontages of Portobello Road. Bringing tropical boho vibes to this vintage-inspired pocket of Portobello in London, the surrounding influences have clearly imbued the bohemian setting of Southam Street, gloriously wallpapered in tropical palms to within a glamorous inch of its life.
Swishing upstairs, we head to the exotic den that comprises the Southam bar and lounge, adjacent to the raw bar where the sushi masters prep their immaculate offerings. We reach the top floor, home to the velveteen-clad tequila and mezcal parlour that leads to a shady terrace where we are seated.
Trying a few dishes from the raw, robata grill and sushi sections of the menu was a great way to experience the Asian-meets-West-meets-south-America fusion concept. The steamed bao bun with Korean fried chicken was a rather gourmet take on your humble high street KFC. Adding a spicy edge, the crunch of the double-fried chicken contrasted against the soft, steamed bao bun for added texture.
Reminiscent of the fantastically fresh summer rolls we found in Vietnam, soft shell crab harumaki had all the right fresh and sour notes. With an accompanying hot, sour nuoc cham dipping sauce, these were moreish morsels on the small plates assortment of the menu.
Sae-woo pops definitely lived up to their name and popped out of the menu as an intriguing signature dish. These hot little pops were king prawn and lobster cakes, with fiery ochujang mayonnaise and shredded seaweed, alongside some expertly mixed cocktails fresh from the bar.
Dirty fries in general would not be my first choice on the order if I’m being honest, however these fulfilled the husband’s hunger pangs more than adequately. A Southam Street favourite, so we were told, these indulgent fries were topped with curry sauce and of lashings of melted cheese. Dirty fries indeed. Likewise, the wagyu beef slider burger with melted emmental was another crowd pleaser, with tangy pickled onion taking off the edge.
Perched on seaweed crisps, the yellowtail tuna from the tartare fusion raw section was perfection with the citrusy yuzu truffle sauce.
Chef’s choice on the grill section came as a charred sirloin with a smorgasbord of delightful sauces. I could detect shiso leaf in the herby chimichurri sauce, adding a Japanese edge to the flavourful cuts of sirloin, while yakiniki had caramelised teriyaki richness.
Recommended to us for its theatrical leanings, the smoked churo-toro tuna from the raw section of the menu had our neighbours drooling with envy! Being the kind sports we are, we happily shared with our neighbouring diners – which seemed typical of the friendly, local feel of this neighbourhood venue. Smoky embers lingered long after the cloche had lifted. The drizzle of panca soy, and the Nikkei fusion of this Peruvian-Japanese dish really worked, with the smokiness of the spicy chimichurri salsa fusing.
Sushi rolls were another foray into fusion territory. Being a truffle maniac, I was most enamoured by this creation, with the achingly fresh yellowtail sushi topped with addictive yuzu truffle sauce. Alongside, we tried some of the mellow sake which was the ideal accompanying palate-cleanser.
Looking like a botanical celebration strewn with pansies and fresh summer berries, the fresh strawberry chawan mushi was a sight to behold. Underneath lay a rich and creamy riff on a Japanese-style panna cotta, recommended by knowledgeable host Marco.
Molten and bursting with cocoa, the chocolate mouelleux was the epitome of fondant-oozing perfection. Cooling house-made matcha green tea ice cream perfected the combination with an Asian touch.
Inspired by the sprawling culinary influences of Asia and South America, Southam Street is clearly a distinctive execution in comparison to 108 Garage, making its own mark already with locals swooning over the unique, sharing-style theatrical fusion concept. And those from further afield should be more than willing to visit this destination restaurant to keep the locals company.
36 Golborne Road, London, W10 5PR