A mere stone’s throw from Gloucester Road Underground Station, nestled within the usual chain eateries, you will find a restaurant with a difference. The essence of Umami, meaning savoury taste in Japanese, is captured in every aspect of the dining experience. The use of natural wood in the walls and tables of the restaurant creates warm accents of colour dotted throughout the space. Shades of orange and gold give a real sense of opulence, and provide a stylish and welcome escape from the wet and rainy streets of London. With strong influences from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, Umami encourages its diners to explore both new flavours and signature dishes in a unique environment influenced by its owners. After a warm welcome from the staff, we were seated at a large table with panoramic views of the restaurant. It quickly became clear that Umami is a popular dining destination for pan-Asian food, with several of the tables taken up by returning customers – always a good sign. The staff, who employ the mantra ‘anything is possible’, are friendly and accommodating. No request is too much trouble.
We opted for the 3-course Umami Taster Menu, consisting of a myriad of both familiar and exotic dishes. To begin our dining experience, we were presented with a selection of appetisers.
Though all enjoyable, the highlight had to be the hand-made chicken tarts with their light pastry and the fusion of savoury chicken with sweet vegetables. To accompany our appetisers, we enjoyed 2 of Umami’s lychee-based cocktails; a Lychee Martini and a Red Lotus. A Chaco mocktail was also available, made up of lychee juice and cranberry juice finished with fresh mint.
These flavoursome, not-too-sweet, drinks complemented the wide array of starters; a sharing-platter consisting of aromatic dishes including succulent chicken satay with a peanut sauce, shredded duck salad, tempura lychee, and delicious handmade roti with a warming lentil-based dahl.
A full-bodied merlot set the scene for the main course, as our table became filled with hugely generous portions of beautifully presented dishes. Rice, steamed to perfection, formed the basis for coconut prawns, Gado Gado stir fry with chicken and prawns, and Gai Yang consisting of grilled chicken flavoured with Asian spices and served with a crunchy Asian style coleslaw. We also enjoyed a portion of beautifully al dente green beans with Sambal; a firm favourite that I would be quick to recommend to anyone dining at Umami.
The pièce de résistance came in the form of a crème brûlée flavoured with pandan.
Served in the bar, (where you can enjoy the sound of live music at the weekend) this bright and colourful end to the meal was the perfect representation of one of Umami’s greatest strengths; creativity. Served by the restaurant’s own innovative chef, Abdul, this dessert was a rich and decadent way to finish this extraordinary dining experience. Though, in true Umami style, that was not all! A selection of delicious cakes and macarons arrived at our table, theatrically presented with dry ice billowing out of the centre of the assortment.
Our evening subsequently ended relaxing in the bar area, enjoying live music, finishing our wine, and indulging in decadent cakes. A sweet end to our savoury and extraordinary Friday night visit to Asia. We will be returning to Umami and hope to see you there!
100 Cromwell Road, London, SW7 4ER